Starring: Joy Dunstan, Bruce Spence, Gary Waddell, Michael Carman
Director: Chris Lofven
Distributor: Umbrella Entertainment
Reworking an all-time classic musical into a contemporary rock ‘n roll road movie could be viewed as a brave venture or downright lunacy, especially if that classic happens to be The Wizard of Oz. But this was the mid ’70s and writer/director Chris Lofven had all the courage of a lion after making a few cutting edge short films and some number one hit music clips for the likes of Spectrum and Daddy Cool so off he went down his own, often hilarious back road. First, he re-cast Dorothy as the ultimate groupie, a wannabe band moll who, after a minor car accident, imagines herself on an odyssey to see the final performance of a 25 year old glam rock star called The Wizard (Graham Matters).
Obviously Dorothy (Joy Dunstan) needs a pair of ruby red sling backs for her journey and she procures them free of charge from Glyn (Robin Ramsey) who runs The Good Fairy, a funky vintage clothes shop in an outback ghost town. They are a gift for killing the town baddie, which she apparently did in the accident, and for which she will be hounded along the entire trip by his brother, a menacing truckie played by Ned Kelly, the main roadie for Skyhooks.
There may not be munchkins in this time warp but the allegory holds true with the introduction of a straw-brained surfie (Bruce Spence), a tinnie-loving mechanic (Michael Carman) and a cowardly bikie (Gary Waddell). The Emerald City, ironically, is Melbourne and it’s here that the quartet finally arrives to see the much-lauded concert at The Palais. The actual footage for this climactic sequence was shot at the Myer Music Bowl where, in between performances by The Little River Band and AC/DC, The Wizard makes his appearance in a revealing G-string and silver boots. The authentic crowd goes suitably wild. Dorothy, however, is left with a bitter taste in her mouth.
Lofven claims he never bought the lesson that the original character came away with in the MGM film, so instead of having her intone the immortal phrase, ‘There’s no place like home’, he has her realise that ‘Fame and fortune fuck you up.’ In the end there is no comparison between the two films. Joy is no Judy and Ross Wilson, who provided the soundtrack, is no Harold Arlen, but for a glimpse of some classic ’70s looks, you could do a lot worse.