JOE VS. THE VOLCANO 1989 (produced)
- The volcano is called ‘the big WOO’, a blatant acronym I am quite fond of.
- The scene that jumped out at me the first time I saw this film was when the Waponis groom Joe and Patricia for their final leap into volcano, singing rhythmically in background. It’s like the four companions getting coiffed and shined up in Emerald City to go see the Wizard.
- The escape path the WOO companions take along the ramparts of Witch’s castle is very similar to the crooked processional on Waponi Woo. The same jagged graphic design represents the rectal probe factory where Joe works at beginning. Look for it as shiny wall décor in Joe’s dingy apartment and find it in the lightning bolt that strikes Tweedle Dee.
- Dr. Ellison who diagnoses ‘brain cloud’ works on behalf of the trickster, Samuel Harvey Graynamore. References to lovable tricksters like our Wizard of Oz abound chez Spielberg. Even though Graynamore uses Joe as his dupe, without that mischievous influence, our hero would never have achieved his happy ending. See Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can, Used Cars.
- An ‘air of grayness’ permeates the scenes at factory with colors toned way down, the WOO cue for hopelessness in Kansas and the witch’s lands. An ‘air of greenness’ prevails instead before the typhoon that will sink the Tweedledee. See E.T. the Extraterrestrial, War Horse, Schindler’s List, Twister, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Poltergeist, Indiana jones and the Last Crusade.
- Iron gates, like those in the witch’s castle, trap Joe in his workplace as they do many Spielberg protagonists. See Jurassic Parks, Amistad, Catch Me if You Can.
- Steven likes to use WOO’s ‘school colors’—red and yellow for the ruby slippers against the yellow brick road. You can watch for them on the main drain and as a muted background behind Joe’s desk. See them again in Schindler’s List, Jaws, Sugarland Express, 1941, Twister, Used Cars.
- Joe’s standby complement to women he likes is ‘I felt like I had seen you before.’ The obvious joke is that Meg Ryan plays all three women. One of the parts cut from WOO was a bit that implied a budding romance between Dorothy and Hunk, the hired hand. If you ever wondered why she’d miss the scarecrow ‘most of all’, there’s your explanation. Ray Bolger played both parts. In fact, all the main characters in WOO had dual roles except Dorothy. She points out at the end what viewers may have missed because of the camouflaging make-up—that some of the Kansas folks had been in OZ with her! Suddenly we kids realized why we ‘felt like we had seen them before.’ See Used Cars.
- When Joe plays the ukulele in his apartment the day after quitting his job, the wind blows his curtain inward, a sign that his life is about to undergo a radical change. Sure enough, Graynamore arrives. Dorothy leaves Kansas behind when the wind blows her window inward and knocks her unconscious. See Empire of the Sun, Catch Me if You Can, Hook, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode for other prophetic draughts.
- Glinda’s foreshadowing chimes sound several times in this movie: on the boat, wind chimes signal love blooming between Patricia and Joe. A bell rings when Patricia confides to Joe her present life conflict; both are becoming increasingly comfortable with their intimacy. A bell tolls when the boat is doomed. Listen to the tinkling that accompanies the stars and to chimes for the giant moon—Joe’s awakening to the grandeur of God and his gratitude for his life. See Always, A.I., The Color purple, Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Twister for more tinkling clues.
- Joe is pushed forward by three things: his brain cloud, his heart’s desire for love, a need to rediscover the courage he has lost. Remind you of WOO much? See Goonies, The Terminal for tributes to Dorothy’s companions.
- The couple’s desire to get ‘away from the things of man’ is akin to Dorothy’s wish to go ‘over the rainbow.’
- In the tradition of both Munchkinland and Emerald City, some gorgeous promenades take place on Waponi Woo. See The Terminal, Sugarland Express, Catch Me if You Can, The Color Purple, Used Cars, Twister for other enthusiastic followers.
- “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of total constant amazement.” Spielberg alludes to this theme in A. I. Artifical Intelligence. Is physical incarnation actually the dream? Are our dreams (the soul’s desires) the doors that lead to spiritual awakening, the actual passageways to get ‘home’? That proved true for Dorothy in WOO.
- The path between these two dimensions of human experience often requires vertical ascents or descents in Spielberg’s films…mimicking Dorothy’s ingress and originally proposed egress from OZ. See Twister, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, War of the Worlds, Super 8, Always, Joe vs. the Volcano.
- Editorial commentary: I think this is one of the most under-appreciated movies of all time. It never ceases to amaze me that it was considered a flop. What a peevish peculiarity straight out of the pages of Ayn Rand… persecuted genius and all that jazz!
2 thoughts on “JOE VS. THE VOLCANO 1989 (produced)”
So glad I found this site! Thank you for creating it. I have been on the Joe bandwagon for years and have loved finding comparisons between it and WOO. It was one of the coolest things ever when I first put the plot similarities together. Joe is totally Dorothy and I have always seen the three versions of Meg Ryan as the Cowardly Lion (Meg in NY), the Tin Man (Meg in LA) and the Scarecrow (Meg on the boat). The limo driver is the good witch and Graynamore is the Wizard. The lightning path is symbolic of the yellow brick road and the Waponis are the people of Oz. It fits so well and is a beautiful tribute. I never saw the WOO as an acronym angle. So cool. Thanks again for making this!
Great insights. Like WOO, Joe has always been one of those films I can watch over and over.