- The Nazis brandishing eagle topped staffs and banners are like the witch’s guards with their lances parading in front of her castle gate.
- The pet monkey all dressed up reminds you of witch’s flying monkey troops in costume. This little beast proves equally untrustworthy; he betrays Marion’s hiding place and leads to her capture. For more flying monkeys, see Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Minority Report, The Lost World of Jurassic Park, The Adventures of TinTin
- Marion is trapped inside a basket like Toto.
- The weird spirits inside the Ark of the Covenant appear in smoke and are sort of human, sort of scary, like Oz’s head in great hall. See Lincoln
- The cover of the Ark—when it finally falls back on top to trap the spirits inside— twirls down exactly like Dorothy’s spinning house did when it fell from sky. Check out camera angles from above.
- Nazis get melted after looking at the power inside ark— evil departs world— witch melts in WOO. See Lost World of Jurassic Park
- In this film as in Super 8, Indy infiltrates enemy territory by appropriating an enemy uniform, the WOO trick to get Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow through witch’s gates. Note how a hat flies up during struggle; clothes did this in WOO too. See Catch Me if You Can, Super 8
- Indy ducks out of soldier’s marching line. Super 8 dad does same… as do WOO companions after getting over drawbridge.
- Indy reminds me of Scarecrow in the scene where he crawls under moving truck and is dragged. His body is as delightfully indestructible as the pratfalling straw man’s. Spielberg jokes about this afterward in the ‘what part of you doesn’t hurt?’ scene. Remember Dorothy asking Scarecrow about his injuries after she gets him down off the post? And how Scarecrow bounces back after being ripped apart by monkeys? Apparently Indy’s aches and pains aren’t as bad as he makes out, since he and Marion end up doing more than sleeping together. Young Indy is presumably conceived?
- Alex’s mother appears in the midst of the harbor’s competitive chaos. Everybody in town is debarking. They hope to win a fabulous bounty for catching the man-eating monster. Mrs. Kintner is dressed all in black. Like the Wicked Witch of West, she cleaves through the center of crowd. You recall how the Munchkins hailed Dorothy in raucous celebration until witch sucked their joy away? The bereaved mother has same effect here. With vitriolic demeanor, she confronts Martin in an angry threatening speech, beating him down as the witch did Dorothy.
- There are several clinking, tinkling interludes in this movie that warn you the shark is coming, like the WOO signal that let you know Glinda was on her way. Unlike the soundtrack music that tricks you sometimes…this prescient clinking is never wrong. The buoy rings as the girl goes for her dip, a warning the shark is going to get her. Before Alex and Tippett get chomped listen to the background music for orchestral chimes. Those two won’t escape. There are no chimes in the famous roast beef scene because the fisherman escapes, but you will hear them at the pond when the helpful man falls out of his boat and becomes shark bait. Listen for a flat drumming knell when Hooper dives around Ben Gardner’s disabled boat before he finds the gory corpse. Even when Orca’s crew is chasing and being chased, despite music implying danger, suspenseful clicking of fishing pole, beeping of monitor, you only hear the chimes to verify doom. No chimes when shark initially toys with broken boat but when they tie on three barrels, Jaws gets mad. He goes after them and then the chimes sound. Someone is going to pay. When he eats Hooper’s cage the chimes are silent; Hooper will survive. When the ship is sinking and the bell tolls, Quint will soon be a dead man. The bell rings again right before Martin shoots the gas canister that blows the shark to smithereens at which point you will hear a profusion of happy chimes while pieces sink! See Always, A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist.
- I have seen this film dozens of times, two or three at the movie theater when it first came out. It is one of a handful that never fails to suck me in as I try to click by. I thought I had noticed everything WOO until recently I became aware of the heavy use of red and yellow color scheme: Amity’s billboard, beach decor, costumes the extras are wearing, Ben Gardner’s boat scene, the man’s red and yellow dinghy on the pond, Alex’s yellow raft covered in blood, yellow barrels, red lifejackets, the Orca herself. And here’s an interesting detail: the Orca’s paint job changes frequently. Watch how she starts out with yellow letters on a red transom. Then she goes to an all red stern with black hull…perhaps as a better backdrop for yellow barrels? At one point before the boat burns, the stern even seems to turn yellow! WOO, one of the first color films ever made employed its eye-popping hues to best advantage, most notably ruby slippers against the yellow brick road. See A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Always, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist.
- On the 4th of July an army of bicyclists debark from the ferry. See E.T., Munich, Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, 1941, Always, Super 8, War of the Worlds, Empire of the Sun,The Goonies, Sugarland Express, Inner Space, Used Cars. If there’s a way to squeeze a bike in, Steven will find it… even in a film that is set primarily on water!
- Quint, of course, is the lovable trickster. His methods are questionable, especially when he destroys the radio that might have saved them all. But Martin’s quest to kill the monster would not have been fulfilled without Quint’s maniacal manipulation. See Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can.
- The happy ending shows our survivors coming in sight of home as they swim. See references to safety of home, Empire of the Sun, Close Encounters, Catch Me if You Can, Amistad, The Terminal, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, Poltergeist etc.
- When the 13th amendment passes, the shot of Lincoln in dim office—with backlight raying in from curtained window—brings to mind the interior of Dorothy’s house just after it’s fallen from the tornado into Munchkin land. Despite many TV broadcasts in black and white, the Kansas scenes in WOO were actually filmed in muted sepias… a silent, dusty, ‘air of grayness’. For sepia, see Schindler’s List. For air of grayness, see War Horse, E.T., Joe vs the Volcano, Twister, Twilight Zone the Movie, Kick the Can episode.
- Spielberg repeats this WOO scene of quiet before chaos in many films; as a tension-builder it’s always effective. See E.T., the Extraterrestrial, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Twilight Zone the Movie, Kick the Can Episode.
- Then the bells ring all over Washington; “Ding dong the witch is dead!” In this case of course the oppression that has been conquered is not that of the Wicked Witch of the East, but of slavery. See War Horse.
- The character ‘Bilbo’ is a mischievous, somewhat shady but good-hearted fellow, serving a righteous cause. He mimics with his curled mustache, apple cheeks, costume (hat, tie etc.) good old Professor Marvel (AKA: the Wizard of Oz & his alter-egos in Emerald City). He is a smooth operator, a charlatan who nevertheless sees that justice, or at least the greater good is carried out— even if he accomplishes that by somewhat questionable means. Whatever you think of his methods, the heroes might not have achieved their goals without the aid of his chicanery. See Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can, Schindler’s List for more lovable tricksters.
- During the play, Todd watches—in a different theater than his doomed father attends— a pink cloud like the one Oz uses in the Great Hall explode like smoke bomb. Directly afterward a man comes ‘from behind the curtain’ to blow away all magical pretense and to announce a most horrible truth “The president has been shot.” There is no such thing as magic. Only humbug. Only the hideous realization of reality.
- When Lincoln dies, we see his head ‘speechifying’ within a halo of candle flame as Oz’s head does in the Great Hall. See A.I., Artificial Intelligence.
JURASSIC PARK 1993
- I remember being stymied by this one…even back in the day. WOO references are surprisingly sparse. Considering the film’s light subject matter and the fact that it’s clearly aimed to appeal to children—right down to corny quips and jokes— why does Spielberg hold back as if it were a more serious work? Due to tense action throughout and spectacular creatures/special effects, I wonder if WOO cuteness wasn’t sacrificed in editing to retain the film’s overall integrity?
- The helicopter’s descent into the island park goes straight down from above, the same vertical path Dorothy and the Wizard had to brave to get into Oz. An aerial transportation between levels of consciousness or reality is an oft-used medium in Spielberg films, most memorably Joe and Patricia’s leap of faith. Joe vs. the Volcano, Twister, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, War of the Worlds, Super 8, Always.
- The park’s gates at beginning of the ride, complete with torches, bring to mind the gates to Witch’s castle. Beware ye who enter here…you may get trapped. See Amistad, Lost World of Jurassic Park
- One of the first magical sights you see happens to be the giant eggs hatching. Similar size and shape eggs hatch into Munchkins as Dorothy explores her new world.
- When the two archeologists realize the gentleman they have been so rude to is actually a benefactor ready to sponsor their project, watch Laura Dern make a belated bob of a curtsey…at least sort of… considering she’s wearing jeans. Dorothy executes similar belated courtesy to Professor Marvel as she tries to butter him up to take them along to see crowned heads of Europe etc.
- Grandkids have red and blonde hair. See Sugarland Express. Is this a muted tribute to Steven’s penchant for WOO’s favorite colors, red and yellow? See Schindler’s List, Jaws, 1941, Joe vs. the Volcano, Twister, Inner Space.
THE COLOR PURPLE 1985
- Repeated over and over are the wind chimes tinkling, preceding every important moment of change in Celie’s life. We hear clinking or tinkling signaling magic, danger, change in so many of Spielberg’s films. The device is inspired by WOO’s Glinda. Unlike the witch who shocked and frightened children each time she appeared, Glinda politely let you know to expect her arrival with a recurring fanfare of chimes. See Always, A.I., E. T., Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist
- Shug dances from the speak-easy to her father’s church with a parade of born-again sinners coming down road behind her. The scene brings to mind many instances where WOO crowds follow Dorothy and her entourage. We see such accompaniment repeated in The Terminal, Joe vs.the Volcano, Twister, Catch Me if You Can, Sugarland Express, Used Cars.
- Shug is the trickster, a bad woman, a sinner, who nonetheless shows the meek Celie how to fight for what she wants. Her courage and indomitable spirit transcend her mischievous behavior and inspire and push our protagonist to achieve her goals. See Wizard of Oz, See Empire of the Sun, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can. Schindler’s List, Used Cars, Joe vs. the Volcano for other examples of tricksters.
- The girls running and leaping through the field of flowers evokes the same pure joy and camaraderie Dorothy and pals experience upon reaching the poppies outside of Emerald City. The act of a protagonist crossing a field often precedes a major plot point in Steven’s films. See Twister, Saving Private Ryan, Lost World of Jurassic Park, Always.
- Celie inherits her family’s former house when her raunchy stepfather dies. This windfall marks a turning point in her life. She finds security, autonomy, peace, and eventually joy after she returns ‘home’. The WOO promise! See Twister, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, Amistad, Munich, Poltergeist, The Terminal for other examples of home as the sanctuary.
- Mother is finally reunited with her children, a slight variance to the definition of ‘home’. See Empire of the Sun, A.I., Sugarland Express, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park (to Grampa) and WOO (to Auntie Em) for reunions of children with loved ones.
ET THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL – Directed 1982
- Introduction opens with spaceship in woods…you see the glowing triangular pyramids, some kind of flora-specimen collecting devices…Check the right hand side of scene. For an instant camera pans tree and an animated human face appears in bark, just like the apple trees in Oz. See Minority Report, Poltergeist.
- Elliot gets tipsy because ET has discovered beer, he lets frogs loose and in pandemonium kisses the girl. Camera closes in to her black patent leather shoes; she kicks out her heel in a move exactly like the one Dorothy uses to show off ruby slippers.
- The trailers, posters all featured the key moment when Elliott is speeding away on his bike with ET on handlebars. ET’s magic launches them over the cliff… and then they are flying through the air. Obvious parallel: Almira Gulch pedaling her bike through the air is straight out of Dorothy’s view of inside the tornado.
- Apparently the bike scene from ET is one of Spielberg’s favorites. It is now the logo for Amblin, his production company. Spielberg gives his trademark bicycle a cameo in many films. See Munich, Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, 1941, Always, Super 8, War of the Worlds, Empire of the Sun,The Goonies, Sugarland Express, Jaws, Inner Space, Used Cars, Poltergeist.
- Chimes/clinking are used in this film to foreshadow magic. ET’s jury rigged phone clinks; chimes sound right before the spaceship returns to pick him up; a bell actually rings before the BMX gang all take off into thin air. WOO’s good witch always announced her arrival with magical chimes. See Always, A.I.,The Color Purple, Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist.
- You will see the oft-used backlit, dusty quiet scene when the astronauts first invade Elliot’s home searching for ET, like Dorothy’s house upon landing in Oz— calm before craziness. See War of the Worlds, Minority Report, Twilight Zone, Twister. Also the ‘air of grayness’ that WOO used to portray Kansas is changed to an air of eerie blueness in this scene.
- And yes WOO’s recurring theme is handled again in this as in many of Spielberg’s films…all ET wants is to “go home.” See Jaws, War Horse,The Terminal, A.I., The Color Purple, Sugarland Express, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch Me if You Can, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Super 8, 1941, Amistad, Minority Report, Munich, Hook, Poltergeist.
- Interesting note: The mother protests, “This is my home,” as government officials violate her sanctuary. Home is supposed to be a ‘safe’ place. See Twister, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, Amistad, The Color Purple, Munich, Poltergeist.