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The Wiz

USA 1978
produced by
Rob Cohen for Motown
directed by Sidney Lumet
starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Thelma King, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Theresa Merritt, Stanley Greene, Derrick Bell, Roderick-Spencer Sibert, Kashka Banjoko, Ronald 'Smokey' Stevens, Carlton Johnson
screenplay by Joel Schumacher, based on a story by L. Frank Baum, music by Charlie Smalls, additional music, music arrangements & supervision by Quincy Jones

Wizard of Oz

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Caught by a freak whirlwind, Dorothy (Diana Ross) is transported from Harlem into the weird urban fantasy land of Oz with her ugly dog Toto. Immediately upon arrival, she smashes the Wicked Witch of the East, thereby freeing the munchkins who have been impriaoned in a grafitte by her.

So, the good witch Miss One (Thelma Carpenter) gives her the evil witch's magic silver slippers which she will need to return to Harlem, but tells her only the  Wizard of Oz has the power to get her back, & to find him she has to follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Along the way, wouldn't you know it, Dorothy finds a scarecrow (Michael Jackson) whom she saves from 4 evil crows (Derrick Bell, Roderick-Spencer Sibert, Kashka Banjoko, Ronald 'Smokey' Stevens), who desperately needs a brain, a Tin Man (Nipsey russell) who has been a carnival hustler until the carnie was abandoned & now desperately needs a heart, & a Lion (Ted ross), who is of course cowardly. She decides to take them all to the Wizard of Oz, so he can give them brains, heart & courage, however their path is not without dangers, as in a subway station they are already attacked by bizarre beings (including trashcans & columns), & only thanks to the courageous fighting of the Lion can they escape - makes one rather wonder why he was presented as cowardly just minutes ago ... there wasn't the least bit of character development in between.

However, when the foursome & the ugly dog arrive at Emerald City, where the wizard lives, , he proves to be an impressive but also ruthless being who promises them what they want only on the condition that they kill the Wicked Witch of the West (Mabel King), to which they reluctantly have to agree.

The Witch runs an underground sweatshop, & of course she awaits our heroes & sends her Flying Monkeys to capture them. Now she wants to force Dorothy to give up her siler slißpers, lest she tortures her friends, but Dorothy stays strong ... until the Witch threatens ugly Toto ... but thank god  the Scarecrow comes up with the idea to turn on the fire extinguishing system, & literally wash the Wicked Witch of the West from the face of the earth down the drain.

All's well that ends well ?

Not yet, because when our quartet returns to the Wizard, they find him to be not the impressive godlike being they had expected but a pathetic little man (Richard Pryor), who needs their help much more than they need his ... but thank god Glinda the Good Witch (Lena Horne) arrives just in time to fulfill everybody's deepest desire ...


The idea of turning a decidedly rural fantasy tale like Wizard of Oz into an urban-style all-black big-budget film is so bad it might just work.

However, despite the involvement of prolific, respectable & respected director Sidney Lumet & legendary record company Motown (then the main provider of urban black music, which also provided much talent for the film), The Wiz is a total desaster.

It seems no effort was made to update the story besides some urban settings & some mediocre soul- & R'n'B-music that is far below Motowns best & is not helped by some of the worst lyrics imaginable. When it comes to dance routines, costumes or imaginative scenery though, The Wiz remains pale compared to Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz from 39 years earlier - comparisons which the producers of The Wiz back then carefully tried to avoid, but ironically the 1939-version ot the story has stood the test of time much better thatn the 1978-version.

Also, Diana Ross proves to be no Judy Garland, neither in acting, singing, charisma or dancing, & she looks much too old for the role (she's supposed to be 24 - too old to fit the story that is essentially a coming-of-age-tale in the first place - but looks rather fortyish.. in fact she was 34). & Michael Jackson is every bit as bad as you might imagine.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD