JOURNEY BACK TO OZ (1972)
Article 5033 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Featuring the voices of Liza Minnelli, Milton Berle, Margaret Hamilton
What it is: Animated sequel to a classic
Another cyclone whisks Dorothy back to Oz, where she discovers a plot by the wicked witch Mombi to dethrone the Scarecrow at the Emerald City.
No, I didn’t expect this animated sequel to THE WIZARD OF OZ to match the quality of the original. It does, however, surpass the other musical animated sequel to the original that I’ve encountered, RETURN TO OZ from 1964, which serves as a better yardstick for comparison. For one thing, it chooses to base its story on another of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books (“The Marvelous Land of Oz”) rather than jury-rigging a plot that does little more than rehash the original. It also has better songs than that one does; in fact, a few of these songs recall the spirit and jauntiness of those of the original movie, which means they got much closer than I thought they would. The movie does have a few direct associations with the original movie. Dorothy is voiced by Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, and former wicked witch Margaret Hamilton provides a voice as well, cast against type as Aunt Em here. The movie is not great, but it’s not too bad overall, and it even achieves a memorable sense of weirdness with a scene involve ambulatory trees in a haunted forest chopping at each other with a golden axe, which for some reason transforms them into giggling tree matrons. There’s quite a bit of star power in the voices here; along with those listed above, we have Mickey Rooney, Danny Thomas, Herschel Bernardi, Paul Lynde, Ethel Merman, and (to round out things a bit) Mel Blanc and Larry Storch.