Of Flying Monkeys and Ruby Slippers

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Wizard of Oz (1939) (Photo credit: twm1340)

When I was about five or six, my parents let me stay up to watch the yearly Thanksgiving transmission of The Wizard of Oz. I was transfixed.  Of course in those days my folks could not afford a colour television, so I had to wait a few years to see the glorious technicolor  world of Oz. But even with the whole film in black and white, it changed me forever.

The story of Dorothy and Toto fleeing the safety and comfort of Auntie Em’s farm in an attempt to save Toto from the horrible Miss Gulch and certain death; the tornado, the travelling fortune teller, Oz and it’s ersatz wizard and the very real good  and bad witch kept me coming back year after year.

I still enjoy watching the 1939 film. Who doesn’t? The film has become an icon of our society. Is their anyone who can’t recite entire reams of dialogue from the film?

The Wizard of Oz has enchanted and terrified children for years. I for one was scarred for life after my first viewing. Why? Because of the damn flying monkeys. Even looking at the flying monkey scenes now, I get a little “creeped out” by them. This is despite the fact that the FX for the monkeys has not aged well at all.

Winged monkeys!
Winged monkeys! (Photo credit: momboleum)

But when I saw those flying monkeys when I was little? I was convinced that they were real. Very real. And I just knew they would come and visit me at night.  I can honestly say those monkeys scared the hell out of me for years. Of course now the flying monkey idea has been used in lots of other films. It is still an effective idea, but it has lost a little of it’s initial magic.

Now on to the ruby slippers. Even in black and white you could see that these special shoes glittered with magical qualities. That they were second-hand shoes still warm from the dead Wicked Witch of the East‘s foot when Dorothy got them, took nothing away from their glamour. And of course the idea that these shoes could transport you home? To a child, whose worst fear is losing his mother or father, the idea that a pair of shoes could reunite you with your family, was reassuring and wonderful.

English: The original Ruby slippers used in Th...

You just clicked your heels together three times and said, “There’s no place like home.” Okay you had to say it quite a lot before the shoes ‘kicked’ in, but they worked nonetheless. This is another bit of the film that has become an iconic image in our society.

I remember when I was in basic training at  Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. There was a lad who was very homesick. He had never left his home or his parents for an extended amount of time before. Every night his eyes would start to tear and he’d sniffle a bit. One night our Technical Instructor (TI for short) caught our homesick boy sniffling.

Kindly the TI got the boy to stand up and tell him why he was crying. Manfully struggling to hold back a flood of tears the young Airman explained how homesick he was. The TI was a picture of solicitude. ” I can help you son,” he said. “I can get you home to see your family.”

The Airman’s eyes widened. “Really” “Sure,” the TI said, “Just stand up straight, click your heels together three times and repeat after me, There’s no place like home.”

The homesick Airman actually did click his heels together twice before he figured out the joke.

About Michael Knox-Smith

Word traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Entertainment background. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Old journos never retire, they start their own site. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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