By Greg Proops – The Scotsman – 1996

      The Wizard of Oz is indestructible. It must be, I’ve done a version for Radio Scotland where I play all the parts. Yet I believe the story will survive my poorly developed characterisations and small array of voices because it’s a great story, and it’s a freak-out.

      Which part is the strangest? It’s hard to decide. For my money it’s the winged monkeys. In the movie they are so malicious and Ooky, the actor who plays the lead monkey, does that creepy monkey laugh and that grey face. Two great winged monkey moments: when Toto escapes and the witch cries ‘After him you fool’, and the head monkey hops down the stairs barking and, two, when the witch has been liquidated the chief monkey grabs her cloak and woofs happily – then you know they aren’t all bad, just slaves to the witch like the green-faced guards. Here is a bonus monkey-trivia factoid that will make you the envy of all your anorak friends. In the book the witch has a gold cap that controls the monkeys. They will do your bidding three times if you wear the cap. Next time you watch the movie look for the cap the witch is holding in the extraordinary scene where she sends them to the forest to get Dorothy and you see thousands of monkeys launching themselves from the castle. I didn’t say knowing this would make you popular – I just thought it was vaguely interesting.

      The movie is really how most people get the story and it’s so gorgeous and effective it seems churlish to argue story details. But I find it funny they would keep the cap and change whole other chunks. The movie is actually better than the book in lots of ways. For one, the songs are incomparable and the cast perfect. Yes, MGM wanted Shirley Temple for Dorothy, but they didn’t get her. You’d never watch it more than once if they had. It would just be another Shirley Temple movie. Gay men wouldn’t even watch it. Judy gives it soul. But the movie changes several elements that are alarming. For instance, astute observers may notice that Dorothy ends up back in Kansas but no one has resolved the Toto/Miss Gulch issue. Are we to assume Miss Gulch is going to back off and let Toto live now? Dorothy says there’s no place like home yet she lives on a Depression-era farm where no one pays attention to her and the local witch is going to have her dog destroyed. Just a dream indeed. The best part of the book is that it’s not a dream, it’s awesomely real. So real she goes back over the course of many exciting Oz adventures. Dorothy goes back to Oz so many times she moves there and gets a gig as a princess. The creator L. Frank Baum says in the introduction to Wizard something to the effect of ‘I wanted to write a fairy story without the nightmares’. It’s the love and dreamlike logic of the story that make it so memorable as a kid. The witch is horrifying and very dangerous – but she gets hers. It seems so right that Dorothy would need a friend – who wouldn’t after accidentally squashing a wicked witch? Isn’t it the sweetest moment when Dorothy says ‘Scarecrow, I guess I’ll miss you most of all’? My friend Colin and I always cry at that part. I’m not proud of it. Look, who am I kidding, I’ve cried at the credits. When Pam Waddell asked me to do the radio play I was pathetically grateful. If I’ve blown my stance I don’t care. I’m an Oz loser baby. I didn’t say goodbye yellow brick road. I was asked to write a piece on the Wizard of Oz and I can’t. It means too much to me in the most childish personal way. I’ve tried to explain but I got stuck on the flying monkeys. Because I really like the flying monkey parts. If I’m an Oz loser I know there are others. Those who will go see the Wizard of Oz holiday show and rent the video. Don’t buy the figures though. Or the dishes or the salt shakers – that’s too scary. Start the New Year right. Just get the CD and sing the oh-we-oh guarding the castle song when you wake up. It works.

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