Scary Movie from Childhood

Andrea Johnson over at SFSignal asked me about a children’s movie that scared the bejesus out of me and I replied thusly. Check it out at the SFSignal site.

The Wizard of Oz scared me, then later thrilled me and has become my favorite movie of all time, able to repay the dozens of times I’ve watched it. I first saw it on our family’s black and white TV, and made sure to see it again every year when it was shown again. I recall it being around Easter. I remember the first time I was able to watch it all the way through, without leaving the room or covering my eyes at certain parts.

The Wicked Witch of the West, of course, is terrifying. Unlike the adults in my own childhood, who were vaguely benign, largely inert, immense beings who stifled my will for no particular reason, that green-faced sorceress was a worthy adversary, one who set her magics clearly and precisely against Dorothy. But I found her army of flying monkeys to be the real terror in Oz. Unswervingly obedient, entirely beyond the ability to dissuade through reason, these creatures were pure horror, particularly in that scene where they blacken the skies. “Fly my pretties,” indeed.

The Wizard of Oz produces other delights in me now — hope, wonder, befuddlement at why the heck Dorothy would want to go back to Kansas — but those airborne simians first taught me the joy of being afraid while watching a movie.