Something Weird Video // 1970 // 132 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // January 25th, 2003
You'll be ozified...whatever that means.
Figures that as soon as Dorothy and Toto travel somewhere back over the rainbow to Kansas, Oz is overrun by exploitation filmmakers looking to make incredibly low budget kiddie fare. And Tiperarious, that off-key cretin, is ready to give them a hand in bastardizing L. Frank Baum's beatitudes. Apparently, "Tip" is a metaphysical princess trapped in a talentless male child star's body, enslaved to a wax-chinned witch. Typical of your enchanted land manservant, little Lord Boredleroy carves a pumpkinhead and calls him Jack. (Somewhere in the great beyond, the future imagination of Timothy Burton smiles.) Mombi, his magical "massa," sprinkles her broth of vigor all over the squash and he turns into a walking, talking gourd with no ass and Jackie Vernon's voice. Overhearing that his hag housemother plans on turning him into a marble garden gnome, Tip takes Jack to the Emerald City to visit the Scarecrow. Along the way, the dumb duo runs into General Ginjur and her all-female marching band. They are set to overthrow the forward-thinking Oz government for granting them suffrage. Seems our young ladies would rather sleep late and money grub after all (screw the ERA!). In a desperate attempt to breathe life into this tired child's chestnut, they introduce the timeless, treasured literary characters of the flying sofa Gump and the walleyed Cuddlebug/Pollywog/Wiggleworm/Wogglebug/Whatever. It doesn't work. So then everyone sings!
Meanwhile, in another far more single warehouse set fantasy world, Jack and his fiduciarily strapped family lament their late father. Or a better explanation would be that they sing pathetic show tunes about how stupid he was at not being able to recreate his famed, money making inventions or how many of their now malnourished ribs they can count. Mom decides that instead of slaughtering the cow and serving flank steak for a month, she'd rather turn over the wise financial decisions to her wispy loafered son Jack. He immediately trades the potential ground round for a handful of lentils, then tosses them into the backyard, thereby avoiding the alimentary middleman. A huge beanstalk grows, Jack traverses it, and runs into the sloppiest giant (with the loveliest castrati voice) in all of Cloud City. Our light fingered fig climber commits acts of larceny while the crumb laden colossus eats his weight in skunk soup and then falls into incredibly well timed cases of narcolepsy. Eventually, Jack discovers he is stealing to supply his sister with a dowry. Seems a hard-up mutt ugly 16-year old miss has a difficult time getting hitched to swarthy suitors without cash on the salt pork barrel head, or at least a harp that plays by itself. Eventually there is some manner of "happily ever after" since the movie ends.
For those who find the Rankin-Bass school of brat bewilderment jerky and unnerving, or Sid and Marty Krofft's sebaceous cartoons on crack like kissing Billy Hayes, just wait until you get a load of what nudie entrepreneur Barry Mahon thought wee ones would be willing to sit through on a hot Saturday afternoon. Unless your name was K. Gordon Murray and you set about importing all manner of Mexican merriment to fuel your moneymaking matinees, you had to grow some junk of your own. And films like The Wonderful Land of Oz and Jack and the Beanstalk were the homemade horse hockey result. These movies share a great deal with the entire R-B/ S&MK school of juvenilia with their Puffnstuff/Bugaloos/Lidsville weirdness; awkward, in puberty flux teen boys with bad Beatle hair and even worse singing voices cooing about magic wands and enchanted pixies; overly bright and oddly angled sets attempting to pass for far-out imaginary locations, and charmless adults in ill-fitting costumes and pounds of pancake makeup prancing and posing, passing time until happy hour. Oddly enough, Oz is rather faithful to the original book upon which it is based (The Magical Land of Oz), even using some of the same dialogue and scenes. And that's good, because when left to his own devices, Mahon gives us action, actors, and musical numbers that take the whole notion of nonchalance to a new, near comatose level. Even when they're singing the saccharine, silly songs inserted into the show, everyone in the cast seems barely awake. You start to wonder how something this outrageously awful could be made. And fret it could get worse.
And then it does. Jack and the Beanstalk starts to play. So stagy and talky that David Mamet watches it annually just to remember how best to cram the maximum amount of dialogue within the minimal amount of scene changes, this vexingly verbal version of the classic Fe-Fi-Fo-Fooey should be called Jack Beany / Jackstalk. You half expect Kevin Spacey to show up three-quarters of the way through (in a wizard's hat of course) and yell at the cast to "go to lunch." Anything to enliven this by the fast food franchise coloring book rendition of the bedtime standby. Every time the hairy, seemingly hung-over giant goes into his high pitched "Fe-Fi" aria, you actually feel your individual skin cells quivering in nucleic failure. Jack's mother sounds like she just came over on the boat (from where? Perhaps...Lithuania?) and his sister is so obsessed with that damn dowry that you'd swear she was Indira Gandhi in another life. The direction subdivides the film into three separate, bowel challenging movements, each one starting and ending with Jack climbing his green leafed rope ladder and shuffling along the dry ice stage setting like he's tripping the cumulus fantastic. Then, via the magic of atrocious rear projection, he steals cardboard items while we witness the gross gob of our elephantine enemy in all his mouth corner salt sickness. It's just too bad that even with his lack of musculature, Jack never once stumbles and tumbles to his upper atmospheric death. Nothing or no one so deserves to burn up in the earth's atmosphere more than this grimy Grimm's flimsy tale.
Here is an unintentionally classic double feature from Something Weird that proves you can exploit children and their parents' hard-earned cash and not be an Asian electronics manufacturer or named after your mouse-drawing founder. Both Oz and Jack are presented in rather good, full screen images. There are plenty of green emulsion scratches, but watching the accompanying advertisements will indicate just how cleaned up these prints are. Each of the dozens of trailers offered here provides untold moments of imagined mayhem (especially the frighteningly Freudian Puss and Boots promos and the sublime, all live animal cast of The Secret of Magic Island, featuring an evil monkey villain!). For added childhood traumatizing, SWV cuts gorefather Herschell Gordon Lewis' (yep, that H.G. Lewis) memento The Magic Land of Mother Goose down from 60 minutes to 32, while barely spoiling the static, manic quality. One viewing and you'll prefer that your children re-watch the tongue-pulling scene from Blood Feast a few hundred times. Add a simple, sorted little short about two four-year-olds going on a date to a local parking lot county fair (unchaperoned!) and three foreign cartoons ugly Americanized with bad English soundtracks, and you have one of the most bizarre, original, and truly keepsake worthy DVDs SWV has ever released. There is an untold treasure trove of abysmal kid flicks just waiting for the digital dust-off. Anyone who's seen Lewis' Jimmy, the Boy Wonder can attest to the fact that, when it comes to something truly weird, children's exploitation movies are unbeatable. So grab a quarter and get in line. The mad matinee is about to begin...
Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Kiddie Matinee Trailers
* Short Subject
* Cartoon Shorts
* 32-Minute Kiddie Film Featurette from Director Herschell Gordon Lewis
* "The Magic Land of Mother Goose"
* Gallery of Kiddie Matinee Klassics
* IMDb: The Wonderful Land of Oz
* IMDb: Jack and the Beanstalk
* IMDb: The Magic Land of Mother Goose