“The Something of the Something”

2 Apr

Well, I won’t be going to watch the mammoth box office smash Oz the Great and Powerful (200 million + domestically…and counting) anytime soon, and not just because I’m hooked, almost as much as anybody can be, on the 1939 musical adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s original, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (simply retitled The Wizard of Oz for film) though there’s always that, of course. Furthermore, I hate to say it because I’m generally a fan of James Franco, as the new film’s titular wizard, but after repeated viewings of the trailer, I just think he looks miscast. Woefully miscast. Still, that’s not my main issue. Now, I want to be perfectly clear about something. I well understand that I should not criticize a movie I have not seen, so, okay, I cannot criticize it per se; however, I do have one major issue with this new film, and it’s a biggie.

To clarify, this new Oz film is set many years before either Baum’s original novel, published in 1900, or the classic 1939 adaptation. Reportedly, and I’m referring to various articles I read during the pre-opening publicity blitz, the movie borrows bits and pieces from Baum’s initial book as well as its many sequels. Okay, so far, so good. Additionally, it includes multiple allusions unique to the 1939 film (obvious to anyone who has seen the trailer), and that’s the crux of the problem to me. Specifically, in Baum’s original, Dorothy’s magical journey and the land of Oz itself are absolutely presented as real events and places. She does not wake up two hours later to discover it was all only a dream, yet that is exactly what happens in the famous film version starring the incomparable Judy Garland.  Her version of Oz, which sometimes varies from Baum’s, is just a way for her subconscious mind to deal with some of her anxieties, and many of the major players in her dreamworld have clear correlations to the people in her waking life. Done!  In that case, it makes no sense to me that that so much of the new Oz movie, which is NOT presented as a dream, in keeping with Baum’s original, should look so much like the dream of girl for whom Oz only existed as an imaginary place. What’s up with that? Why, for example, does the new film even ape the earlier offering’s style choice of opening with an extended sequence in sepia tones before switching to breathtaking color once the action shifts to the magical land of Oz?

Is it simply a misguided attempt to pay homage to classic Americana, a rip-off, or  just more evidence of Disney’s greed? To clarify, I sometimes think the people who run the Disney conglomerate won’t be happy till they own pretty much the whole worldwide entertainment industry. To clarify, the 1939 film was an MGM production, but that didn’t stop Disney from trying its hand at a sequel in 1985. Now, by being careful in what it chose to “borrow” from the previous movie, Disney has its own Oz franchise–to go along with its recently acquired Star Wars franchise. See what I mean? Isn’t it enough that Disney has decades and decades worth of classic animated films and theme parks to generate revenue? Why does there always have to be more–especially when “more” often means “somebody else’s”?

Oh well, hey, remember a number of years ago when there was much ado about striking similarities or coincidences between the 1939 Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album (from 1973)? I read all about it at the time, but I never sought the experience myself. I mean, it was interesting…but not THAT interesting.  Well, along those same lines, probably going back as far as 1994, maybe 1996, I have long seen an almost eerie connection between The Wizard of Oz, a 1939 Best Picture nominee, and, oh yes, The Silence of the Lambs, the 1991 Best Picture winner. Go head, laugh;  snicker if you must. I have. Indeed, I have even joked that they were actually  the same movie.  Before you read any further, I want to add that I never read another article on this subject, and that these ideas are all uniquely mine as far as I know. I have shared some of this with friends off and on for lo these many years, but this is the first time I have ever attempted to commit them to some kind of text.

I think you will find this quite amusing if you’re willing to just go with it….

Shall we begin?

The first time the audience sees Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz (1939), she is running--outdoors.

The first time the audience sees Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz (1939), she is running–outdoors.

Silence 2 Stalk

The first time audiences see Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), she is running–outdoors.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is all a big coincidence, right? Well, consider the following:

  • In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale is an orphan being raised by relatives (Aunt Em and Uncle Henry) on a farm.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling, now grown, was orphaned as a child and  briefly lived with relatives (cousins) on, yes, a farm. Okay, maybe it was a ranch. Whatever.

Oh, and since it’s hard for me to write about movies without referring to the Oscars, please, don’t forget that Judy Garland won a special “juvenile performance” Oscar for The Wizard of Oz (and making cinematic history with her glorious rendition of “Over the Rainbow”) while Foster likewise captured the 1991 Best Actress Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs.

Now, where were we? Want more?

  • Significantly, Dorothy Gale runs away from her aunt and uncle’s farm  just as Clarice ran away from the farm where she lived.
  • Additionally, animals figure in both characters’ plans to run away. Dorothy’s dog, Toto, is seized by meanie Elmira Gulch as punishment for what she believes is an outright attack by the little dog. When Toto gets away from Miss Gulch, he returns to Dorothy who believes she has no other choice but to save Toto (from being seized yet again) and herself by running away from the farm forever. In Clarice’s case, her attempt to run away is thwarted when she tries to save just one lamb from the ranch’s springtime slaughter.

Here’s where it gets a little more interesting:

  • In the dream sequence that forms the basis for most of action in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy revisits the trauma of her dog being taken away from her. In her dream, a witch, who looks a lot like Elmira Gulch (both played by brilliant character actress Margaret Hamilton), snatches Dorothy’s dog away from her–and threatens to kill it.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling revisits the trauma of trying to save one helpless lamb’s life as she fights to save one particular young woman’s life from a stark raving serial killer (masterfully played by Ted Levine); there’s also a little dog involved too.

Still intrigued? Consider some of the other parallel structure of the stories.

  • After being transported via tornado to Oz’s Munchkinland, Dorothy incurs the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West (note the alliteration) by first inadvertently killing the witch’s sister, and then finding herself in possession of the dead witch’s magical ruby slippers. In order to both get back home and escape the Wicked Witch of the West’s treachery, Dorothy seeks the counsel of a mysterious, powerful, shady, and brilliant wizard; eventually, Dorothy comes face-to-face with the witch in her spooky lair and destroys the witch herself.
  • As an FBI trainee, Clarice Starling is given an opportunity to help advance her career by helping a senior agent in the bureau.  In short: Clarice is asked to help put an end to a treacherous serial killer named Buffalo Bill (note the alliteration) by first seeking the counsel of a mysterious, powerful, shady, and brilliant–and deadly–doctor, Hannibal Lecter; eventually, Clarice comes face-to-face with Buffalo Bill in his spooky lair and kills him herself.
While in Munchkinland, Dorothy interacts with the offical Munchkin coroner who pronounces the Wicked Witch of the East, "not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead."

While in Munchkinland, Dorothy interacts with the official Munchkin coroner who pronounces the Wicked Witch of the East, “not only merely dead,” but also “really most sincerely dead.” Similarly, in The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling interacts with the staff of a funeral home and FBI officials to conduct an autopsy on a recently discovered body that is also most sincerely dead.

How about this?

Remember how in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, accompanied by her three companions (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion) must proceed down a dramatic corridor, accompanied by equally forceful music,

^ Remember how in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, along with her three companions (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion), slowly proceeds down a long dark  corridor, accompanied by emotionally stirring music, as she prepares to meet the Wizard??  Now, in the clip (below)  from The Silence of the Lambs, notice how Dorothy, I mean, Clarice, proceeds down a long dark corridor as she prepares to meet Dr. Lecter. Notice how even though Clarice is technically alone, she passes three–three–of Dr. Lecter’s fellow inmates in the corridor before reaching his cell.

Now, here’s the best part…

Ozhead

When Dorothy finally sees the wizard, he’s represented as, well, a dramatically lit giant talking head, consistent with at least one of the wizard character’s manifestations in Baum’s original text.

In a most intriguing directorial choice by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, is most often framed in tight, tight, closeups, thereby rendering him barely more than a giant talking head with dramatic lighting.

In a most intriguing directorial choice by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, yet another Oscar winner, is most often framed in tight, tight, closeups, thereby rendering him barely more than a dramatically lit giant talking head. Coincidence?

Oh, and what about this tidbit?

In The Wizard of Oz, the villain of the piece (the Wicked Witch of the West), surrounds herself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it's those creepy winged monkeys.

In The Wizard of Oz, the villain of the piece (the Wicked Witch of the West), surrounds herself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it’s those creepy winged monkeys.

In The Silence of the Lambs, the villain of the piece (Jame Gumb aka Buffalo Bill) surrounds himself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it's those creepy "death head" moths.

In The Silence of the Lambs, the villain of the piece (Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, played by Ted Levine) surrounds himself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it’s those creepy “Death’s-head” moths.

^ "I'll get you my pretty."

^ “I’ll get you, my pretty.”

Well, that’s just all of it for now. I could go on with another 2-3 examples, but I’ll stop and let you recover first.  I hope one day to write a book about this–or maybe just a fancy-shmancy academic article.  Obviously, more research is needed, and that takes time and patience; after all, there’s much consideration to be given about the ways in which the texts differ. I think it would be cool to do a video compilation in order to further demonstrate my points. That also takes time, maybe money. One thing I also need to do is to perfect a thesis statement of some kind in order to give this exercise context, or gravitas, so it’s not random and clever, but the idea still fascinates me.

Dr. Lecter (to Clarice): "What does he do, this man you seek...he covets."What does the Wicked Witch of the West do? She covets.

Dr. Lecter (to Clarice): “What does he do, this man you seek…he covets.”
What does the Wicked Witch of the West do? She covets.

Oh, and the very title of this article is something of an homage–but not to either film necessarily. I noticed that even the titles of the two texts are similar: The Wizard of Oz and The Silence of the Lambs. See? The something of the something, basically; however, “the something of the something” actually refers to a line in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), in which a dotty society matron (Constance Collier) struggles to remember the name of a show she saw recently. The best she can come up with is “Something of the something,” which the character played by star James Stewart ribs her about periodically. Anyway, if the something of the something fits…

Thanks for your consideration….

Advertisements

11 Responses to ““The Something of the Something””

  1. girlnixon 02 April 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Love this post, I am utterly and completely spell bounded by the coincidence. Brilliant.

    • listen2uraunt 02 April 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      Thanks! I thought it was time to get some of this stuff out of my system–and to have fun writing the blog in the process! Thanks again for reading.

  2. Dale 02 April 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Most Entertaining !!

    • listen2uraunt 03 April 2013 at 6:02 am #

      Thanks, Dale!

      • virgwb 03 April 2013 at 10:05 am #

        Wonderful work – thanks for doing it! This does give one a reason to ponder formulaic writing. I’ve thought about how effective it might be to dissect a wildly popular romance novel and rewrite it, ‘blow by blow’, into something else entirely. But, that’s a lot of work for a mere exercise of contrariness.

  3. Dorian Mooneyham 03 April 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I love it! Will you be at YFT tomorrow? I have a book that might be helpful/interesting for you about coincidences between Clarice/Dorothy.

    • listen2uraunt 03 April 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Thanks, Dori. I will try to be there. I’m playing nursemaid to my mother this week, alas, so I’m stretched.

  4. Wilma Carroll 03 April 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Most intriguing and thought provoking; also, I no longer feel alone in my thoughts regarding Disney. Thank you for sharing

    • listen2uraunt 03 April 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Hey, I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

  5. Kayla 12 April 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    I never thought about the two being similar until now. Very interesting!

    • listen2uraunt 12 April 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      Hey, Kayla! Thanks for reading. I’m glad you liked it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: