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OZ [a.k.a. 20th Century Oz] (1976).

During the late-'70s, Australia exported some of the finest films of that era, from young directors who went onto make Hollywood blockbusters. This silly road movie by writer-director Chris Lofven wasn't one of them. Shot for only $150,000, it's a rock-'n'-roll homage to THE WIZARD OF OZ, Down Under style. And while the basic idea might sound as ridiculous as US shitstorms like XANADU, it's actually a strange and likeable romp. Joy Dunstan stars as Dorothy, a sexy 16-year-old blonde from a boring small town, who checks out a local band and takes a post-gig ride in their van. One auto accident later, Dorothy passes out and wakes up in a odd new place (which looks exactly like any dusty, rural section of Australia). At a clothing shop called Good Fairy, the gay sales clerk gives her a pair of gaudy red platform shoes, and instead of a wicked witch, a pock-faced bruiser in a muscle-shirt is royally pissed that Dorothy's van just killed his brother. Decked out in a skimpy halter top, rolled up jeans and those scarlet disco shoes, Dorothy sets out on a quest -- to hitchhike her way to the big city and check out the final concert of a rock superstar named The Wizard (a thonged freak who looks like a cross between Genesis-era Peter Gabriel and The Village People). Along the way, she encounters a surfer dude (Bruce Spence, best known as THE ROAD WARRIOR's Gyro Captain), a gas station mechanic (Michael Carmen) and a tough-talking (but secretly cowardly) biker (Gary Waddell). Of course, all of these lonely blokes want to make time with this buxom dish, but Dorothy is more concerned about the vengeful brute who's still tailing her in his truck. If you're familiar with Baum's story, you know the routine -- she's kidnapped, her three traveling companions help her out, Dorothy makes it to the sold out show, and she flirts her way into the concert. The score by Ross Wilson includes the catchy "Living in the Land of Oz" as well as many unmemorable tunes, while Graham Matters (who played Rocky in the Oz troupe of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW) is not only The Wizard, but various supporting characters who guide Dorothy to her final destination. The film has a genuinely gritty veneer, and you've gotta love it when Dorothy uses the 'magic' of her red shoes to kick a guy in the balls. Or when she discovers the Wizard hidden behind a curtain -- in this instance, a shower curtain -- and joins him in the buff! At 86 minutes, this imaginative idea doesn't overstay its welcome, and this is definitely the sexiest Dorothy you're ever going to see (with the exception of Bill Osco's oft-promised, but never-produced '70s porn-version starring Kristine deBell).

© 2002 by Steven Puchalski.