Synopsis by Derek Armstrong
Sidney Lumet's The Wiz is the film version of the popular Broadway musical that retells the events of L. Frank Baum's classic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz through the eyes of a young African-American kindergarten teacher who's "never been below 125th Street." Leaving a large family dinner to chase her dog into a snowstorm, Dorothy (Diana Ross) is swept up by a cyclone and transplanted to the land of Oz -- which looks suspiciously like a skewed version of the run-down Manhattan of the late '70s. Landing on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, the puzzled Dorothy is greeted by munchkins who peel themselves from a graffiti mural and sing to her about the Wiz (Richard Pryor), a powerful wizard living in Emerald City who can help her get home. On her journey down the yellow brick road, she encounters a garbage-stuffed scarecrow (Michael Jackson) in a junkyard, a broken-down tin man (Nipsey Russell) caught in the decay of an old amusement park, and a cowardly lion (Ted Ross) posing as a stone statue outside a museum. The quartet tangles with a subway station that comes to life, a poppy den, and a gaggle of motorcycle henchman on their way to the Wiz -- who orders them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West (a sweatshop tyrant) before he will grant them their wishes. The Wiz has about double the large-scale production numbers of The Wizard of Oz (1939), with songs written and composed by Charlie Smalls.
Black [race], fantasy, fantasy-world, reality, schoolteacher, transformation
High Production Values