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The Wiz (1978)

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An adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that tries to capture the essence of the African-American experience.

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Writers:

L. Frank Baum (novel), William F. Brown (book) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Diana Ross ... Dorothy
Michael Jackson ... Scarecrow
Nipsey Russell ... Tinman
Ted Ross ... Lion / Fleetwood Coupe de Ville
Mabel King ... Evillene
Theresa Merritt ... Aunt Em
Thelma Carpenter Thelma Carpenter ... Miss One
Lena Horne ... Glinda the Good
Richard Pryor ... The Wiz (Herman Smith)
Stanley Greene Stanley Greene ... Uncle Henry
Clyde J. Barrett Clyde J. Barrett ... Subway Peddler
Derrick Bell Derrick Bell ... The Four Crows
Roderick-Spencer Sibert Roderick-Spencer Sibert ... The Four Crows
Kashka Banjoko Kashka Banjoko ... The Four Crows
Ronald 'Smokey' Stevens Ronald 'Smokey' Stevens ... The Four Crows
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Storyline

Dorothy, a twenty-four-year-old kindergarten teacher, born; raised; and still working in Harlem, is celebrating Thanksgiving with her extended family, but she doesn't seem to be thankful for much in life. She lives a self-imposed sheltered life; she is shy and unfulfilled. Things change for her when she is caught in a snowstorm while chasing after her dog, Toto. They are transported to the mysterious Land of Oz, where she is informed that the only possible way to find her way back home is through the assistance of the powerful wizard in Emerald City. As she goes searching for him, she befriends some creatures who are facing problems in life just as she is. In their quest to find and get help from the wizard, they also face Evillene, the equally evil sister of Evermean, the wicked witch, whom Dorothy inadvertently killed when she arrived in Oz, and who may be their biggest obstacle in achieving their goals. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

From the book that's an American tradition...from the smash-hit Broadway show...the entertainment of the year! See more »


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 October 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Wiz See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$24,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$21,049,053
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (uncut) | (cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Original Director John Badham was fired when he objected to 33-year-old Diana Ross being cast as 14-year-old Dorothy. The character was changed to a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher. See more »

Goofs

In the subway scene, the Peddler has on white tennis shoes in the close up, but in the wide shot, he has on dark-colored boots. See more »

Quotes

Lion: [Strung up by his tail in Evilene's lair] Don't give her the slippers, Dorothy!
Evillene: Is this enough for you? No? Well, how about your metal friend over there?
Tinman: [a giant piledriver begins to flatten him] Don't worry, Dorothy! I'm just an empty shell! This doesn't hurt me!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Fitzstephens, Jack ... Music Editor & Guru See more »


Soundtracks

If You Believe In Yourself (Reprise)
Written by Charlie Smalls
Performed by Lena Horne
See more »

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User Reviews

OK Kids, get ready for a weird one.
17 November 2002 | by bsswebSee all my reviews

This film remake of the outstanding 1970s Broadway musical of the same name both shines and clunks on the big screen. Coming off somewhere between "Thank God It's Friday" and "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (and in Diana Ross' case, "Sybil"), the film version of The Wiz is not good, not bad -- just plain weird.

One of the main problems of the film (everyone's said it before and I'll say it again), is the casting of Ross as Dorothy. While I found her singing numbers to be wonderful and full of emotion, Diana just plays the role too dark and brooding. She cries so much that she winds up looking like a neurotic mental case on the verge of suicide. (Reviewer Leonard Maltin said she "weeps and whines" her way through this.) And no makeup job in the world could make the mature Ross look like a young, innoncent girl (even though, in the film, she's supposed to be a 24-yr old teacher). Diana is just a depressing, unbelievable Dorothy, despite what a wonderful singer she is.

Another problem is the look and feel of the film. For a movie that was rated G and based on the family fare of The Wizard of Oz, it sure wasn't that childlike. An overall depressing tone, low lighting, and freaky costumes and set design drag this film down. It freaked me out when I saw it as a kid, and now seeing it again as an adult, I now understand why. Don't get me wrong, I think the sets are outstanding, but kids movies should not look like a horror flick.

(And speaking of horror flicks, one scene even looks like one as attacking trash cans with teeth recall "Jaws.")

There are many positives of this film, however. The excellent score that was perfected in the Broadway run is enhanced by soaring arrangements by Quincy Jones. (A guilty pleasure is the funky disco Emerald City numbers.) Also, every member of the supporting cast is outstanding and well-cast.

But overall, the screenplay is just too weird for any adult, much less kid, to enjoy. At 133 minutes, it seems to drag on forever and ever. The Wiz is not a total failure, and everyone involved should have felt proud to be a part. But without the entertaining musical/dance numbers and a few comic-relief moments (delivered by the Scarecrow, Tin Man & Lion), The Wiz would just be a bad memory of Diana Ross' career. Anyone's who's really interested in the magic and promise of The Wiz should hope that the Broadway play is revived in its original glory (as it was sometime in the 1990s).


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