As far as I knew, no one knew about Return to Oz . I can’t even recall an origin story, how the movie actually showed up in my hands. My sister claims we just found the VHS somewhere, maybe in an overlooked bin, at some video store that may have been Blockbuster. I do remember looking at the cover and knowing immediately that I wanted it. We went home and watched it. And watched it again. And watched it again. And watched it. Again.
This is an Oz you might unfamiliar with. The film begins with Dorothy Gale—the same Dorothy character previously played by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, but now played by a younger Fairuza Balk—shortly after her return to Kansas. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are growing concerned with Dorothy’s inability to sleep, and what they see as her obsessive delusions, this odd fixation on a place she’s created in her head. In order to help cure her, they bring her to a mental institution to be treated overnight via electroshock therapy. It’s nighttime, it’s raining, and Dorothy can hear the howls of other patients in pain.
This unexpected premise resonated with me as a child. At that age, I felt just as Dorothy did—misunderstood to the point of feeling like an alien, finding home only in imagined worlds. I was brought to see a psychiatrist for similar reasons. Why this obsession with the imagined? Where was reality? I was always more concerned with my inner world than socializing with the other kids around me. So prone to fantasy, I hardly even noticed my peers. In pictures, always looked both meek and haunted. My eyes darted elsewhere.
— Between Botany And Alchemy: A Return To Return To Oz by Joseph Dante.