25 October 2017

FABULOUS FILMS PRESENTS: THE WIZ and THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN: TWO BONKERS FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE WIZ and THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN: A DOUBLE REVIEW OF TWO BONKERS FILMS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WIZ. (1978) BASED ON THE BOOK 'THE WIZARD OF OZ' BY L. FRANK BAUM. PRODUCTION COMPANY: MOTOWN PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY SIDNEY LUMET. SCREENPLAY BY JOEL SCHUMACHER. STARRING DIANA ROSS, MICHAEL JACKSON, LENA HORNE AND RICHARD PRYOR.

THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN. (1969) BASED ON THE 1959 COMIC NOVEL BY TERRY SOUTHERN. DIRECTED BY JOSEPH MCGRATH. SCREENPLAY BY JOSEPH MCGRATH AND TERRY SOUTHERN. STARRING PETER SELLERS AND RINGO STARR.

I've chosen to put these two films together for reviewing purposes because yes, they're both completely and utterly bonkers, especially THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, but there's another reason as well, a more commercial one and, as Sir Guy Grand would doubtless agree, we all have our price, haha.

FABULOUS FILMS currently have two excellent box-sets for sale, each one including the works of a separate top comic actor. These are, namely, their Richard Pryor box-set, from which I've taken THE WIZ, and their Peter Sellers box-set, from which comes THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, the battiest film I've seen in many a long day.

THE WIZ is a musical re-working of the classic novel by L. Frank Baum, THE WIZARD OF OZ, of which the more popular version by miles was made in 1939 and starred Judy Garland as Dorothy. Sorry for being blunt about it but it seems to be true...!

THE WIZ's USP or Unique Selling Point was that it was made with an all-African-American cast, but it was universally panned by critics on its release as being too long, too boring, too bizarre and just too damned wacky overall.

The film has a cult following now, however, mainly amongst fans of THE WIZARD OF OZ story itself and fans of the late Michael Jackson, whose acting, singing and dancing in the film was seemingly the only bright spot for some of the critics.

His role as the literature-quoting, smarter-than-he-looks Scarecrow was his only feature film acting role and, from what I've read, starring in the film as Dorothy pretty much killed Diana Ross's acting career stone-dead. Oh dear...

Dorothy is a sweet, shy kindergarten teacher from Harlem who's, apparently, afraid to progress in her career and afraid also to live anywhere but with her Auntie Emma and Uncle Derek in their safe little apartment. Wise old Auntie Em in particular feels like she needs a wee nudge out of the nest to help her soar.

During a snowstorm one Thanksgiving, Dorothy and her little dog Toto find themselves whirled off to the legendary land of Oz, where people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is as it seems. (The obligatory reference to THE SIMPSONS there!)

Once there, she sets off to the Emerald City via the Yellow Brick Road to find the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, played by Richard Pryor, in the hopes that he'll help her to find her way back home to Harlem. She's accompanied by Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, and Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross as the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion respectively.

They sing, they dance, they pout and prance, they pirouette and jazz-hands their way to the Emerald City in a riot of colour, noise and silliness. And does the Great and Powerful Oz give 'em what they want in the end? Ah, come on, guys, you know the answer to that...! Maybe once they've despatched the nasty witch Evillene, aka the Wicked Witch of the West, to her eternal rest, things will become a little clearer for all concerned... 

THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN sees Peter Sellers (the PINK PANTHER series of INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU films) playing the super-posh English billionaire Sir Guy Grand. Sir Guy adopts
a grown man, played by Ringo Starr from a little-known pop-rock combo known as The Beatles, and sets out with him to prove that everyone has their price...

Let me give you guys an example. A ridiculously young-looking, pre-FAWLTY TOWERS John Cleese plays a superb cameo role as the snobby director of Sotheby's. He's shocked beyond belief when Sir Guy buys a Rembrandt for an obscene amount of money and then, once it's his, proceeds to deface it dreadfully right in front of everyone. But the money's already changed hands. You're entitled to do what you want with your own property, right...?

This is the kind of mad stuff that happens throughout the film. There's an episode of THE SIMPSONS, called HOMER VS. DIGNITY, based on this exact film. Bored, joyless millionaire Mr. Burns pays Homer Simpson good money to degrade himself horribly in public.

Homer, of course, as a man more than used to public humiliation, is happy to go along with Mr. Burns's plans up to a certain point, but after that, well, he'll have to think about it...

THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN is the name of the ship in the film, by the way, the luxury liner for which tickets are at a premium and issued only to those in the upper echelons of society. The stuff that happens on-board this tub is so surreal, you'll probably end up rubbing your eyes in disbelief. Don't worry, folks, your Captain's got everything under control. Or does he...?

The most disturbing scene in the film (after the stripping Hamlet, that is!) is when Sir Guy and his adult offspring Ringo Starr fill a huge vat with wee-wee, blood and animal doo-doo and then chuck a load of paper money into it. Can you see where this is going...?

Before long, the vat is filled to the brim with bowler-hatted and furled-umbrella-sporting City toffs who simply can't resist the lure of free dosh. It's disgusting and stomach-churning, but is Sir Guy inherently right in his assumption that people will do anything, literally anything, for filthy lucre...?

The film is famous for featuring the music of tragic Welsh pop-rock band Badfinger (poor management led to the suicide of lead singer Pete Ham in 1975 and of bass player Tommy Evans in 1983) and also for cameos by a load of famous faces. My favourite cameo is obviously by Christopher Lee as a sexy-as-hell vampire-waiter, but Raquel Welch as a scantily-clad slave-driver comes a close second.

Other familiar faces in the film include Spike Milligan, Richard Attenborough, Roman Polanski, Yul Brynner (as a transvestite lounge singer, no less!), the marvellous Hattie Jacques from SYKES and the CARRY ON series of films, Michael Aspel, Alan Whicker, Graham Chapman, James Laurenson, John Le Mesurier (SYKES, DAD'S ARMY) and Rita Webb, a terrific old character actress.

Other films in the Richard Pryor box-set include WHICH WAY IS UP?, CAR WASH and BREWSTER'S MILLIONS. Other films in the Peter Sellers box-set include THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, THE GREAT MCGONAGALL and GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN. Both excellent, great-value-for-money box-sets are each available to buy now from FABULOUS FILMS.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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