Phantasmagoria and The Wizard Of Oz


This text from a website about magic lanterns is reminiscent of the moment the Wizard of Oz is exposed:

“In the late eighteenth century several showmen used the lantern to produce horror shows. These were known as “Phantasmagoria” shows. A variety of horrific images were projected to frighten the audience, examples being ghosts projected on smoke to give a frightening appearance and images that would move around the walls. Often the projector was behind a translucent screen, out of the view of the audience. This greatly added to the mystery of the show.”

In the Wizard of Oz, a man who does not appear threatening in the flesh hides in a curtained control booth to project a frightening image, complete with bursts of fire and deep, authoritative voice, in order to maintain the order and power he wields over the citizens of the Emerald City. The reality that this entity is a frail human is revealed by Toto, the dog, who pulls the curtain aside. Would a dog really do this? It seems Toto is given human attributes in order to carry out this action. The team of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion have a shared purpose in their individual aims and they work together to achieve them. Toto seems to share this purpose too. Is this realistic? I can see the filmmakers needed a way of revealing the truth about the wizard but in doing so they anthropomorphised the dog. Integrity in the telling of a story is important because if that is not present it reduces the film to something that meets needs rather than reflects reality poetically. Once the man is revealed he thinks on his feet to help Dorothy’s three friends realise they already have what they thought was outside of themselves. This is a reflection of the spontaneity mentioned in Dai Vaughan’s essay Let There Be Lumiere. Vaughan sites the threat of nature, and specifically the sea, as creating the conditions for human spontaneity but the Wizard of Oz shows the sudden revealing of hidden truth to create similar conditions in human social interractions.


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