Friday, August 23, 2019
A Nightmare in Oz
This is my entry in The Wizard of Oz Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room
When I was a kid growing back in the 60's and 70's, there were only the three major networks; NBC, ABC and CBS, not including any number of UHF stations which were independently owned. We didn't have cable in those dark prehistoric days, kiddies, so unless the weather was just right, we only had 3 stations to choose from for our nightly entertainment.
Beginning in 1956 (5 years before I was even on the face of the Earth), stations started showing the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, and it quickly became an annual tradition. Once a year one of the major networks would replace their regular programming that night with the movie. In my vague memory I want to say it was the day after Thanksgiving, but that is probably wrong, since that would have meant substituting the film for potential ratings for the newest season of their regular shows.
More than likely it was during the summer, when reruns of their regular shows would not have been inhibited by the substitution. But then again, a wikipedia article on the subject says it was put in place of a regular TV movie slot on those networks, aired instead of, say, The Night They Raided Minsky's or In the Heat of the Night, (both of which I recall seeing when they made it to TV.)
My sister and I would watch it almost every year when we were growing up. I don't know whether either of us understood it when we were 6 and 7, but as the years went on we began to appreciate it.
I do recall a very early viewing in particular. This must have been in the late 60's because I recall my sister and I shared the same bedroom at the time, and I moved from there to my own bedroom (a converted porch) about 1968-69, the same year I started grade school. I do remember that I was still in the same bedroom with my sister at the time, even if I can't recall the exact year.
We had watched The Wizard of Oz that night. (Was it our first time? I think it just might have been.). We went to bed that night with visions of dancing munchkins. Or my sister did. I apparently went to bed with visions of flying monkeys.
I woke up in the middle of the night convinced that the flying monkeys were out to get me. I screamed for my mother in near tears from the nightmare that had awoken me. Why I didn't fear the wicked witch being out to get me is beyond me, but I guess she wasn't all that scary, even at 6 or 7 years old. But those flying monkeys were real and they scared the shit out of me that night.
Needless to say, I never went Halloween trick-or-treating as a flying monkey. Hell, I wouldn't even go to a costume party today as one.
Even today, those damn things still give me the willies (although I never had another nightmare about them.) It gives me great relief, however, to know that I am not alone in my trepidation about airborne chimpanzees.
That such a thing has such a widespread effect on people is a tribute to the makers of the film. I'm pretty cold-blooded, hardhearted and cynical in real life. I've seen hundreds of horror movies over the years. Not one single damn one of them has ever freaked me out. I could almost laugh at Freddie Krueger, and the zombies in Night of the Living Dead remind me of nothing so much as a few of the drunken friends I saw at parties I've attended. But those chimps can make me feel wary even at 57.
Maybe I'll sleep good tonight. And, then again, maybe I won't.