Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Witches Of Oz

I didn't post over Christmas and New Year, which is probably just as well because had I done so I almost certainly would have been talking about Doctor Who, which would have led me to a mention of Sherlock (which doesn't really qualify for the Quest otherwise) and that would have resulted in me getting dragged into the whole 'is Steven Moffat filled with a burning hatred of all things woman?' debate. Which wouldn't have been good for any of us.

Of course, once the New Year was over with, I still didn't post. Why? Because I'm lazy, basically; lazy, unmotivated and hard to get moving again once I've stopped. I did try, honest guv; this post was originally going to go up last week, but I didn't finish it in time. Not to fear though, it's here now. And what a post it is! (Actually, scrap that, it'll only give you false expectations. It's pretty much the same as all the other posts.)

So, what shall I talk about for my first (belated) post back after the break? Surely, even if I weren't posting, I must have watched shedloads of stuff while I was gone? Well, there are a couple of things that I watched on DVD, but I'm kind of determined to find something in the terrestrial schedules. Luckily, Channel 5 came through big style over the break, with its screening of Baum based mini-series The Witches Of Oz.

I say Baum based, but it's pretty loose, to be fair. What little we see of Oz is, and I really don't want to be mean here, utterly atrocious. The special effects are fake and cheap looking, the performances are hammy and Christopher Lloyd (Christopher Lloyd, for heavens sake!) is obviously extracting the urine with his performance as the Wizard; I mean, he's always been known for his, shall we say, eccentric, performances but this is just... I haven't the words.

Luckily then, if we can call it luck, the Oz based action is relegated to a few flashbacks (and a deeply unnecessary coda that seems, chillingly, to hint at a sequel) and what we end up with is one of those stories where the writer wants to do a big epic fantasy, but is hamstrung by a failure either of budget or imagination (or possibly both) and so all the major events take place in the 'real' world. Because why would the kids want magic and wonder when they can have skyscrapers and cocktail bars?

We spend much of the first episode following our heroine, Dorothy Gale.

As an adult, Dorothy has achieved a level of success writing children's books based on her childhood 'dreams', which explore the weird fantasy land of Oz. She is lured to the big city by a literary agent, under the pretense of selling the movie rights to her stories, when in fact the real goal is to discover how the final book ends; this ending, you see, will reveal the whereabouts of a magical mcguffin that the baddies need, in order to go about their conquery business.

Yes, it's a thrill-a-minute as she attempts to fit in with the glamorous city types (which mainly seems to involve wearing too much make-up and making incredibly risky passes at total strangers in nightclubs); and you'll be on the edge of your seat as she meets up with her old friends, all 'cunningly disguised' as real people. One of them even has the line "Oh, and your little dog, too" which, I'm sorry, but come on!

Although, and I must give credit where it's due, the show does actually pull off something of a blinder in this regard, with one of the characters being so obviously set up in this fashion, to the extent that when the big reveal happens and he heads into the final battle on the strength of it, the audience is all, "well, duh!" And then it turns out he's just an innocent bystander and the real (???) is someone else entirely. It's a clever deception, paid off well, and results in one of the few genuinely amusing moments in the show.

Which is handy, because the designated comic relief characters, who so far as I can tell are barely relevant to the plot, if at all (and if this thing can be said to have a plot), are just utterly, utterly, atrocious.

Frick and Frack (Sean Astin and Ethan Embry) are, actually I can't remember what race they're meant to be, but they're little gnome type creatures, and they spend the duration causing mischief in Dorothy's flat. Yes, yes, they are there to dope her up with some kind of dream inducing drug, but that aspect is dispensed with early and from that point on they just bumble around her flat looking for all the world like a couple of slumming actors prancing about in front of a green screen so they can be superimposed over a kitchen counter in the fakest looking example of the technique since the technique was invented. And it's an old technique.

Of course, there are shining beacons of hope in the whole thing. Jeffrey Combs is always good value and so he proves here, playing Dorothy's Father. It's not a huge role, but it's a fairly pivotal one, and his scenes allow brief periods of respite from the unrelenting Am-Dram awfulness of the main plot. Lance Henriksen meanwhile, seems to be under the impression that he's in a completely different production, and it's to this productions benefit, giving us at least one genuinely warm and likable character.

It's in Henriksen's Uncle Henry that we see our only real glimpse of the heart that should be coursing through any Oz show worthy of the name.

All in all then, something of a failure all round, with cardboard characters played by wooden actors, bringing to life a story so riddled with plot holes as to be borderline unwatchable. But wait, what's this? A genuinely clever twist on an iconic Oz moment? One that the viewer (or perhaps just this viewer) didn't see coming and is, though loathe to admit it, properly impressed by? Yes, it is!

It goes a little something like this; The villain of the piece is defeated, her plans in ruin around her. The heroine refuses to finish her off, choosing instead to appeal to her better nature and bring her to the side of the angels. The villain is receptive (and to be fair, she is fairly sympathetic at points, so this isn't totally out of the blue). In an emotional bonding moment, heroine and villain share a tear. So far so saccharine. It's here that the clever twist comes in. Tears are water, yes? And we all remember what happens when the Witch gets wet, yes? That's right, by bringing her in touch with her softer side, and making her cry, Dorothy has killed the Witch! Ha! You didn't think it through, love!

Don't get excited though; they only go and ruin it. I don't know if it was scripted, or if someone got cold feet and added it in ADR, but there's a line added at the end of the scene that just robs it of any bite it may have had. Cop-Out central, so it is, and we're back to slating them again. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

And that's The Witches Of Oz. I hope that if you had any intention of ever watching it, I've gone some way toward changing your mind. And if you've already watched it, you have my sympathies, you poor poor person. Join me again next week (possibly maybe) when I shall discuss some other show which I haven't decided on yet. I think I'll pick something I can be nice about though. Bit of positivity; does wonders for the soul. See you then.

No comments:

Post a Comment