Ease on Down The Road
The Wiz is a 1978 movie musical released by Motown Records and Universal Pictures. It is based off the successful 1975 Broadway show of the same name. The film starred actress and singer Diana Ross as Dorothy Gale, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tinman, Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion, Lena Horne as Glinda and Richard Pryor as The Wiz. It was neither a commercial or a box office success. Ray Bolger, one of the two main cast member from The Wizard of Oz to survive into the 1980s (though adored the Broadway production) had a low opinion of the film, claiming it lacked the depth that made his film from thirty-nine years earlier a classic, However, it is still viewed by many movie lovers as a classic. It is also considered a cult classic among the African-American community and is one of the most famous all African-American family films ever made.
The film starts out on a snowy evening in New York City. Dorothy, a twenty-four year-old woman, lives with her Aunt Em in her apartment in Harlem. Aunt Em has hosted Thanksgiving at her place and invited several relatives. Despite having many family members Dorothy has no friends, with the exception her pet dog Toto. Aunt Em jokes that Dorothy has never seen any part of the world or as she quotes "south of 125th Street". Although she enjoys her job as a kindergarten teacher and is exposed to children through this, Dorothy has never considered having any of her own as she has made no effort to find a husband.
After the relatives depart, Aunt Em has a talk with Dorothy about getting a new job, finding a new place and meeting new people. Afterwards, Toto runs out the door while Dorothy is cleaning up. Dorothy chases after him into the cold streets right in the middle of a snow storm. She eventually catches him but not in time, it's too late. There is a huge blizzard (The work of Glinda the Good Witch Of the South) that sweeps her and Toto away, far away into space until the two cross over in the Land of Oz (which is a parallel universe of New York City).
As Dorothy holds Toto while she descends from the sky, they crash land into Munchkin Land. Which is a giant playground tagged up with lots of graffiti. When Dorothy came down from the sky she crashed through a big "Oz" sign above the Munchkins playground. In the middle of the bright glowing sign was a large "Z", which made the sign crush Evamene to death. Evamene was the Wicked Witch of the East aka the "Parks Department Commissioner" who just happened to be walking under the sign at that very moment but was unseen. And once she is killed the curse on Munchkinland is immediately broken. This automatically awakens the Munchkins, who were flattened onto the walls of the playground and doomed to be graffiti forever as punishment by Evamene for spray painting on her playground walls.
The Munchkins rejoice and thank Dorothy for setting them all free and show Dorothy the dead Witch as she lies crushed under the broken Z.
Suddenly, Miss One (The Good Witch of the North) arrives to see the now free Munchkins. However, Dorothy doesn't understand whats going on and has no clue where she is, as she demands answers to all the chaos happening around her. Miss One tells her she's in the land of Oz and gives Dorothy Evamene's pretty Silver Shoes for doing everyone in Oz a favor for killing Evamene.
With advice from the Munchkins and Miss One, they tell Dorothy to go visit The Wiz. (He's The Wiz!) He will help her find a way back home and is the only powerful one to do so. All Dorothy has to do is find the Yellow Brick Road that leads to the Emerald City. Miss One then reminds Dorothy to never take the Silver Shoes off and to watch out for the poison Poppies.
Dorothy is eager to seek the Wiz, but the problem is she can't find the road as there is no road around in sight. (Soon As I Get Home).
After wandering aimlessly in Oz, she comes across and cornfield in the middle of a vacant lot with the Scarecrow . The Scarecrow gets tormented on a daily basis by a group of bullying crows (You Can't Win). Dorothy decides to stand up for the Scarecrow and tells Toto to scare the crows off so she can help the Scarecrow and save him from the crows.
In return he chooses to accompany Dorothy on her journey to see the Wiz for a brain. And shortly after the Scarecrow finds the Yellow Brick Road and off they go, (Ease On Down the Road).
The road leads through an old Amusement Park that was abandoned long ago (parodying Coney Island of Dorothy's world), Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet and rescue the Tin Man, who is a rusted solid in a uncomfortable position. The Tin man tells his new friends that he wants to gain a heart to love (If I Could Feel). So they quickly invite him on their journey so he can ask the Wiz for a heart, right after they oil him up first (Slide Some Oil To Me). Later on down the road, the group of friends are attacked by the Lion who was banished from the jungle and hid in Oz. He became a statue in Oz's library, which parodied the famous lion statues at the entrance to the New York City public library in the real world (I'm a mean ole lion) After he frightens them, Toto bites him on his paw and begins to cry. They all get angry at the beast but soon feel sorry after he says he is not brave and wishes for some courage. Dorothy, the Scarecrow and Tinman invite him to see the Wiz also.
On the way they all run into frightening obstacles. First they follow the road into an underground subway, there they meet an old homeless peddler (who has been secretly spying Dorothy on her journey the entire time). The peddler unleashes two giant evil Kalidah puppets to chase Dorothy and her friends. Other objects of the subway, such as trash cans, an electrical panel and even the pillars awaken and try to kill the group. Luckily, the Lion rescues his friends by bravely fighting off the monsters and they safely escape the subway.
The group then encounters the poison "Poppy Girls". Stopping to have some innocent fun, Dorothy, the Lion and Toto are put to sleep, with magic poppy glitter to poison them to stop Dorothy from reaching the Emerald City. However, the Tinman's tears save them both and they are awakened by the deadly trance. The Lion feels deeply ashamed for putting his friends in danger after he just saved them from the subway's monsters, but Dorothy comforts him. (Be A Lion).
Finally, they all arrive at the Emerald City and see the Wiz .The city citizens are rich socialites who changed their clothes magically according to what colors the Wiz says is in or out of style. Thanks to Dorothy's Silver Slippers, the Wiz allows her and her friends an audience. The Wiz says he won't grant any of their wishes unless they kill Evillene, who runs a sweatshop in the sewers of Oz and keeps The Winkies as her slaves and workers. She also has the crows, the peddler and Poppy Girls working for her as her slaves for failng to stop Dorothy. (Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News).
She figures out that Dorothy and her friends are coming to kill her and sends out her Flying Monkeys (a motorcycle gang) to kidnap them. The Monkeys chase them all around through an abandoned arena and after the friends are captured, Evillene dismembers the Scarecrow, flattens the Tinman, and hangs the Lion by his tail trying to make Dorothy give up the slippers. When she threatens to burn Toto, Dorothy nearly gives the slippers up until the Scarecrow , whos still able to move, hints her to a fire sprinkler switch. Dorothy pulls the lever activating the sprinkler system which puts out the fire and melts Evillene (who is allergic to water). The Winkies are freed from Evillene and help Dorothy's friends and celebrate the witch's death (A Brand New Day).
The Flying Monkeys take them to the Emerald City only to discover the Wiz is in actuality Herman Smith, a failed politician from New Jersey. Smith admits he was ballooning to promote a campaign for a low office when a windstorm sent him to Oz. Smith's balloon takes off and he is overjoyed to return home, causing Dorothy's companions to realize they did not need him to see their true worth. (Believe in Yourself).
Just as it seems that Dorothy will never get home, the beautiful Glinda appears and encourages Dorothy by telling her home is where the heart is (Believe in Yourself Reprise) and how to find her way home by clicking her heels three times. (Home).
After saying goodbye to all her friends she takes Toto in her arms, thinks of home and the things she loves about it, and clicking her heels finds herself back in her neighborhood and is finally home again. Dorothy runs into her building and back into her family.
- Screenplay: Joel Schumacher
- Additional Music: Anthony Jackson
- Producer: Rob Cohen
- Executive Producer: Ken Harper
- Director: Sidney Lumet
- Choreographer: Louis Johnson
- Production Design: Tony Walton
- Makeup Design: Stan Winston
- Costume Design: Tony Walton, Miles White
- Set Decoration: Robert Drumheller, Edward Stewart
- Film Editing: Dede Allen
- Diana Ross as Dorothy
- Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow
- Nipsey Russell as the Tinman
- Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion
- Theresa Merritt as Aunt Em
- Thelma Carpenter as Miss One
- Lena Horne as Glinda
- Mabel King as the Wicked Witch of the West
- Richard Pryor as The Wiz
Songs in the film
- The Feeling That We Had
- Can I Go On ?
- Glinda's Theme
- He's The Wizard
- Soon As I Get Home
- You Can't Win
- Ease on Down the Road
- What Would I Do If I Could Feel
- Slide Some Oil To Me
- Ease on Down the Road (2)
- ( I'm a) Mean ole lion
- Ease on Down the Road (3)
- Poppy Girls
- Be a Lion
- Emerald City ( Green, Red and Gold )
- ( Don't Nobody Bring Me ) No Bad News
- A Brand New Day
- Believe in Yourself
- Believe in Yourself (reprise)
For more info click The Wiz Motion Picture Soundtrack
Differences from various versions of The Wizard of Oz
- Dorothy is a grown woman instead of a little girl.
- Dorothy and her family live in New York instead of Kansas.
- Dorothy flies through the tornado without her house.
- Glinda conjures up the tornado
- The Munchkins are graffiti children instead of little people.
- Dorothy crashes through a giant sign that falls on The Wicked Witch of The East, instead of Aunt Em's house
- The Crows are able to talk to the Scarecrow.
- The Scarecrow is made entirely of garbage, from the inside all the way to his clothes.
- The Scarecrow finds the Yellow Brick Road.
- The Tin Man is an old amusement park animatronic instead of a woodsman.
- The Lion was banished from the jungle.
- The Kalidahs are replaced by a homeless peddler and his subway of doom.
- The Poppies are seductresses rather than an empty flower field.
- The Emerald City citizens constantly change colors.
- The Wicked Witch has a factory instead of a castle.
- The Flying Monkeys are a motor bike gang.
- The Winkies are slaves instead of soldiers.
- The Wiz stays in Oz instead of leaving in a hot air balloon.
- Dorothy tells her friends that they have what they wanted all along, since the Wiz doesn't give them rewards.
- All the events that occurred were not a dream.
- The role of the Tin Man was originally assigned to Broadway and television veteran actor Ben Vereen but Director Sidney Lumet decided to give the role to Nipsey Russell
- The role of the Scarecrow was originally assigned to Jimmy "JJ" Walker from the hit 70s show Good Times but the crew decided that it would be best to get someone who was able to sing and dance, so the role was given to Michael Jackson
- Ted Ross,Theresa Merritt and Mabel King were the only three members from the original Broadway production to be in the film. Both Ross and King played the same characters they portrayed in the show, while Merritt portrayed Aunt Em.
- Stephanie Mills was originally going to reprise her role as Dorothy but it was changed after Diana Ross begged Motown owner Berry Gordy to be a part of the film.
- Michael Jackson's makeup artist was Michael Thomas, who also played the Scarecrow in the 1969 low-budget film The Wonderful Land of Oz.
- The Wiz was one of the most expensive movies to be made in 1978 right behind Superman.