MovieChat Forums > The Wiz (1978) Discussion > It was garbage back then and garbage now

It was garbage back then and garbage now


I had a chance to revisit "The Wiz" recently, not having seen it since the late 70's. The original was an unnecessary experiment in remaking a classic with a totally black cast. It was a blatant attempt to hijack a classic and selfishly paint it to fit one culture. I remember the outrage when this monstrosity first came out. It was a terrible movie by every standard. The acting was just awful. The music was uninspired and forgettable. Diana Ross was a casting disaster. The plot was a confusing and weak shadow of the original Wizard of Oz. Instead of creating a black musical that was original and culturally significant, this flick comes off as a sad carbon copy.

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The Broadway play (and film) was based on the original book by L. Frank Baum. Not the Judy Garland flick, which isn't the be all, end all of everything Oz.

Funny you whine about this movie "selfishly painting itself to fit one culture" when I saw not one dark skinned person in the '39 flick. How dare people of color create a film that speaks to and celebrates their culture!

Don't eva let nobody tell you you ain't strong enough

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^ "How dare people of color create a film that speaks to and celebrates their culture!"
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Though in all fairness, there really weren't any people of color involved in top creative decision making positions on this film.

The producer, director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, designers (and certainly the Universal Studios executives overseeing the project) were White. It is said that Berry Gordy and Ken Harper were producers in name only, and rarely even visited the set. Gordy to this day disavows the movie. Quincy Jones and Louis Johnston as musical supervisor and choregorapher, respectvely, were certainly in subordinate positions, with no decision-making authority beyond their departments.

Now then...

The original Broadway show WAS groundbreaking in this regard becasue there had never been an "All-Black" show as lavishly produced or successful as this for which the producer, director, composer/lyricist, choreographer, orchestrator, costumer, and conductor were all African-Americans and primarily responsible for the key creative elements.

THAT accomplishment was truly noteworthy; not White Hollywood's attempt to capitalize on the genius of others.

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Broadway show sucked in comparison to the film! and many white critics hated it. Bashed Stephanie Mills for being to ugly and said Judy Garland would role over in her grave. Other white critics felt it was too loud and noisy. It only took off after people started to spend money to see it.

The Film version is the best no matter what anyone says. period.

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^ "Broadway show sucked in comparison to the film!"
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As you've admitted in the past never having seen the original Broadway show, your comparison as to which was superior is without merit. (That's like comparing different flavors of ice cream having only tasted vanilla.)

And if you suddenly revere the opinions of white critics as they pertain to the stage version, why were they wrongheaded in their opinions about the film?

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^ "It only took off after people started to spend money to see it."
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That is correct. Success in modern entertainment is largely defined by the amount of tickets sold. If nobody spends money to see a film or play it will never "take off." The film version of "The Wiz" being a prime example of something that never "took off."

The movie version does not exist in a vacuum. Had the stage version not been successful, there would have been no film.

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Stop lying. I have never said to you that I have never seen the Broadway show so I'm not sure where you got your ridiculous false information from. I have seen both the Broadway show with Mills and Debra Malone on the touring show as well so stop putting words in my mouth and creating your own lies to make yourself appear valid.

White critics hated both the play and the film. The film even more because it goes way beyond just being shown in a little theater in the corner of the world. A film is forever and THE WIZ is the most ambitious OZ film since the 1939 version.

and I completely disagree that without the stage version there would have been no film. There are tons of films now being turned into broadway shows after the fact, and not the other way around so you have no point really.

Your facts are always incorrect about THE WIZ. You used to argue that Mills was first choice for the film blah blah blah and I had to let you know that you were totally misinformed with that information too. lol. Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids lol

You obviously love the film very much because you are always here talking about it which I find hilarious.

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^ "I have seen both the Broadway show with Mills and Debra Malone on the touring show..."
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I stand corrected and apologize for what I interpreted as your not having seen the show in its original incarnation based on my recollections of previous posts. I must have been wrong.

Still, if the stage version "sucked" on some level as you said earlier, why would you see it twice?
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^ "There are tons of films now being turned into broadway shows after the fact, and not the other way around so you have no point really."
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But this is not the case with "The Wiz." The Broadway show came first in 1975, years before the film in question was envisioned. That is simply a fact.

Broadway musicals come from many sources: novels, short stories, straight plays, non-musical movies, comic strips, children's books (like L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,") and even the Bible. Bringing film musicals to the stage is largely a "Disney thing" and a relatively recent phenomenon. It was certainly not prevalent in the 1970s.
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"A film is forever and THE WIZ is the most ambitious OZ film since the 1939 version."
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You've forgotten about last year's "Oz The Great and Powerful" which was more than a little "ambitious" and more than a little successful (weak as it may have been structurally...again just an opinion), and that "Wicked" has been showing in "little theaters in various corners of the world" (virtually everywhere, that is, including Broadway) for over a decade.

And....surprise..."Wicked" is being developed as a film (based on the show) by Universal, the same studio that brought "The Wiz" to the screen. Wisely, they're waiting for the show to announce closure before starting production. A film opening while a show is still running has been known to kill said show's box office. That was certainly the case with "The Wiz": "Phantom of the Opera," and "Grease" have been notable exceptions to this "rule."
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"You used to argue that Mills was first choice for the film blah blah blah and I had to let you know that you were totally misinformed with that information too."
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You must be confusing me with some other poster. Mills herself has said that she was never seriously considered. (She can't really act. She was considered as a replacement to play Celie in "The Color Purple" musical adaptation on Broadway, but dramatically it was felt she couldn't cut it.)

When John Badham (Rob Cohen's partner) was attached to direct the film, the thought was to hire an unknown, and perhaps a nation-wide search for a teenaged Dorothy. When Diana Ross was signed, John Badham dropped out and Sidney Lumet was hired. Read Richard J. Anobile's "The Wiz Scrapbook." http://www.amazon.com/The-scrapbook-Berkley-windhover-book/dp/04250396 33
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"You obviously love the film very much because you are always here talking about it which I find hilarious."
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If this is your idea of "hilarity" you clearly have a rather warped sense of humor. I have stated my opinion several times: Certain elements and portions of the film version are truly brilliant, but specific creative choices which strayed too far from the Broadway material (the success of which prompted the film's existence) hindered its overall success artistically and otherwise.

And my original assertion in this thread still stands: There weren't any people of color involved in top creative decision making positions on the film version of "The Wiz," and the stage production on which the film was based displayed African-American creativity stunningly.

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PREACH! ;)

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Um...............well if you don't like that much, why comment!

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Thank you!

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Actually, it came fairly close to being a good film, and it might have been good instead of interesting if they hadn't made two big mistakes:

1) Hired a likeable lead actress, instead of Diana Ross. Ross was too old, and brought down the film by being all drippy and whiny in the lead. If they'd hired someone young, energetic, and likeable, someone who didn't look like she was being tortured throughout, the film would have been fun. With Ross, it isn't fun, and all the attempts at fun die as soon as she's back on camera.

2) The director didn't know how to shoot a musical! His idea of a big, spectacular number is to build gigantic sets and put hundreds of dancers on them, which is a great way to show off sets. The dancers are just sort of lost in the distance, you can barely see them dance. Imagine if they'd hired Bob Fosse to shoot the musical numbers...

This from someone who believes there's nothing wrong with remaking films, even if I'm aware than most remakes are crap.


PS: I'm probably the only person on IMDB who knows that "The Hot Mikado" once existed.


" Jack, you have debauched my sloth! "

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@otter

Actually to be fair,Ross was pretty likeable in this film, and she was not even the main problem with it,so I wish people would stop harping on her as if that was the case. I agree with you big-time on #2 though----Sidney Lumet really didn't know how to do a musical, and he even admitted after the fact,to his credit,that he was the wrong choice for this film----some parts are too somber and serious, and there's this dark undertone throughout certain parts of the film that really dosen't belong in a musical,of all things, to begin with. I personally think he was one of the greatest directors New York (and America) ever produced (everything he ever made throughout the '60 and '70s proves that) but he should have not been allowed to do this film. It would have been a hell of a lot more lighthearted and fun if Fosse had done it.

And the OP is full of s***---the film has its good parts and its bad parts, but I sure as hell wouldn't call it "garbage"---not even by a long shot. And unlike most musicals I've seen, I liked and remembered most of the songs from this film, which are great, BTW. And this "selfishly fitting it into one culture" bull****? Uh, black people are Americans too, so THE WIZ was simply remade for a different part of AMERICAN culture. Sounds like the OP was just upset that it was remade with black people more than anything else---everybody didn't hate just because he/she did.

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I adore this film. It's horribly dated mind you, but that's another reason why I'm drawn to it.

I get a great feeling from this film and its amazing musical numbers.

BTW, I'm white. Long live The Wiz!

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^^ Me too! All what s/he said!

I think Diana Ross was the absolutely wrong choice for all the reasons most people have already said all over the place on this board, but it is what it is, it's ~40 years ago, and so it is what it is. But still, I overall think it has so much value.

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This film will never be one of my favorite Oz films, but even I can appreciate it. Even though I find the original musical to be a lot more fun, the film's versions of "Brand New Day" and the first take of "Ease On Down The Road" made it to my GoList on my mp3 player.

Even after buying it on DVD twice, I still made it one of the first two Oz Blu-Rays I bought (and I bought them at the same time), and later got the Ultraviolet version.

I have no problem with an African-American interpretation of Oz. It speaks well that the story transcends ethnicity, and "The Wiz" (in both of its forms) is proof. There's also a short story called "The Veiled Shanghai" that sets the story in China, and many foreign versions of the original Oz book often illustrate Dorothy in a way that will resound with local children. There is no problem with adapting a story to be more relevant to a certain culture (that's pretty much how a lot of old stories happened).

The flaws of the movie are more in the stylized visual choices (Dorothy and her friends dance through a garbage-strewn, empty, fantasy New York City), song sequences that run too long without establishing or furthering plot or characters, bad angle choices, a weird refocus on EST themes (looking for self-affirmation in yourself, the film is full of examples of people looking elsewhere for it, from Dorothy trying to help out instead of interacting with her family to the trend-chasers in the Emerald City), and Dorothy becoming a teacher too afraid to move on to teaching high school. While "The Wiz" does these alongside an all-African American cast, these flaws would have been there if the cast had been Caucasian or multi-ethnic.

Flaws aside, there's still quite a bit to like about "The Wiz." Michael Jackson is particularly winsome as the Scarecrow, Ted Ross shows off why he won a Tony for his Broadway role, Mabel King is delightfully wicked, and Lena Horne literally blows everyone else's songs out of the ballpark with "If You Believe." This movie is certainly not garbage.

What we see and what we seem are but a dream. A dream within a dream.

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The flaws of the movie are more in the stylized visual choices (Dorothy and her friends dance through a garbage-strewn, empty, fantasy New York City)


I watched the film earlier today for the first time in maybe twenty years and I have to admit, as someone who's watched more horror films than I can either count or remember, that this is one of the most bizarre, disturbing films I've ever seen and the setting you describe is a big part of it.

The movie has a dreamlike look, is set at night, and is full of incredibly strange imagery. Dorothy is in constant terror of everything around her. The movie looks like a nightmare brought into waking life.

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caught parts of it on tv just today,its far tooo long edit it down to 1 hour and it will help, but I find it far too urbany NYC gritty for my taste.

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