15 July 2024

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Contributed by Jessica Harper

Jessica Harper is an award-winning actress, author and composer who starred in such horror outings as Dario Argento's classic Suspiria and The Evictors, as well as the cult favorites Shock Treatment and Brian De Palma's rock musical Phantom of the Paradise. She also notched a variety of notable fare on her resume, including Woody Allen's Stardust Memories and Herbert Ross' Pennies from Heaven. In addition to composing a number of popular children's music CDs, Harper is an accomplished writer, with nearly a dozen published children's books in the past decade. You can visit Harper either at her official website jessicaharper.com or at her cooking blog thecrabbycook.com.

I really don't like scary movies.

This is a little ironic, since I have appeared in a few films that frighten the bejeezus out of people. But there's a reason for my dislike. The first movie I ever saw was so scary, it haunts me still, filling my dreams with unwelcome images.

It was The Wizard Of Oz.

Now, some of you may not think that, on the scare-o-meter, this 1939 children's classic directed by Victor Fleming is in a league with, say, Saw, or The Haunting.

But I beg to differ.

First of all, there's that traumatizing dognapping scene featuring Miss Gulch, who looks just like my kindergarten teacher did, with a similar level of charm.

Next, there's that wicked tornado, which, if you live in Illinois as I did, triggers real, pants-wetting fears of natural disaster. Like earthquakes do in L.A.

Then, as you know, upon her arrival in the merry old land of Oz, poor Dorothy is threatened by all kinds of horrors almost too numerous to get into here. Suffice it to say, lions and tigers and bears were the least of her problems.

Did I mention the witch throws huge fireballs at you when she gets mad...and tries to kill the poor scarecrow TWICE by setting him aflame?

Oh, and can't forget those strange talking trees, the drug-induced stupor Dorothy and her friends are forced to undergo in the field of poppies, and those creepy guards at the witch's castle.

But highest on my personal list of most feared beings are those damn flying monkeys. There's no place like home? Ya think?

So if you're looking for a good scare, forget Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Nightmare on Elm Street or Suspiria or Psycho.

For a real fright night, take a re-look at The Wizard of Oz, my friends. It took weeks for my nails to grow back after that one.

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