Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Cursed Films II: The Wizard of Oz & Rosemary’s Baby

If you only looked at these films as profit-and-loss entries on their studios’ ledgers, you would hardly consider them “cursed”—quite the contrary. Sadly, the subsequent fates of so many involved in their productions gave rise to such a reputation. Whether it be tragic rumors or fannish obsession, fan fascination continues to swirl around The Wizard of Oz and Rosemary’s Baby, the first two subjects explored in the second season of Cursed Films, written, directed, and edited by Jay Cheel, which begins this Thursday on Shudder.

Wizard of Oz
might not sound like a very Shudderish movie, but it has witches. Regardless, fans know it had its share of behind-the-scenes mishaps. For instance, Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man, but had to drop out after the makeup nearly killed him. Margaret Hamilton was also badly burned when a fire-based special effect launched too soon.

Of course, the star, Judy Garland went on live a tragically short, troubled life marked by addiction issues, which started with the “energy” pills the studio gave her to power through the chaotic production. Awkwardly, we eventually see director Steve Rash disavow his film
Under the Rainbow for perpetuating the baseless smear that the Munchkin thesps were engaged in wild, drunken carousing during the filming of Oz. It is definitely an uncomfortable moment of woke self-criticism, but there is still a good deal of crazy Hollywood lore that makes this episode far more interesting and entertaining than American Experience’s L. Frank Baum profile.

Of course, Polanski’s
Rosemary’s Baby is a horror classic and everyone knows the horrific Manson Family Tate-LaBianca murders were tragically committed just over a year after its release. To their credit, Cheel and company start by documenting the untimely death of the film’s composer, Krzystof Komeda. The murder of Sharon Tate and Polanski’s odd subsequent behavior are covered in detail. However, the contention that Tate was on verge of leaving Polanski to reconcile with Jay Sebring, which is quite credibly suggested in Jay Sebring…Cutting to the Truth, goes unacknowledged here.

Regardless, some of the most fascinating insights come from the daughter of the legendary producer, William Castle (Shudder really ought to pick-up
Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story). While the previous season of Cursed Films largely tried to debunk the notion of curses, the Rosemary’s Baby installment leans into to it, to a surprising extent. It is also probably the best film Cursed Films has covered so far (or, at least its neck-and-neck with The Exorcist).

So far, the first two episodes of season II just seem to have fresher, weirder stuff than season I. It is tough to beat
Rosemary’s Baby, either as a horror film and a source of cinematic urban legends. Recommended as slightly gossipy fan viewing, Cursed Films II digs into Wizard of Oz this Thursday (4/7) and Rosemary’s Baby the following Thursday (4/14).