The Wiz

  • Directors: Sidney Lumet
  • Producers: Rob Cohen
  • Writers: Joel Schumacher, William F Brown
  • Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Musical, Family
  • Actors: Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Thelma Carpenter, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor

A Thanksgiving dinner brings a host of friends and family together in a Harlem home, where a 24-year old schoolteacher named Dorothy Gale (Diana Ross) lives with her Aunt Em (Theresa Merritt) and her Uncle Henry (Stanley Greene). Extremely introverted, Dorothy has, as her aunt teases her, “never been south of 125th Street”, and refuses to move out and move on with her life.

While cleaning up after the dinner party, Dorothy’s dog Toto runs out the open kitchen door into a violent snowstorm. Dorothy succeeds in retrieving him, but finds herself trapped in the snowstorm. A magical whirlwind â€“ the work of Glinda the Good Witch (Lena Horne) â€“ materializes and transports the woman and her dog to Oz. Upon her entrance into Oz, Dorothy smashes through an electric “Oz” sign, which falls upon and kills Evermean, the Wicked Witch of the East. As a result, Dorothy frees the Munchkins who populate the park into which Dorothy lands; the Munchkins had been transformed by Evermean into graffiti for “tagging” the park walls.

Dorothy soon meets The Munchkins’ main benefactress, Miss One, the Good Witch of the North (Thelma Carpenter), a magical “numbers runner” who gives Evermean’s powerful silver slippers to Dorothy. However, the frightened Dorothy desperately wants to get home. Miss One urges her to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and find the mysterious “Wiz” who Miss One believes holds the power to send Dorothy back to Harlem. The good witch and the Munchkins then disappear and Dorothy is left to search for the yellow brick road on her own.

Upon arriving back in Emerald City, the quintet take a back door into the Wiz’s quarters and discover that the Wiz is a “phony”. The “great and powerful Oz” is actually Herman Smith, a failed politician from Atlantic City, New Jersey who was transported to Oz when a balloon he was flying to promote his campaign to become the city dogcatcher was lost in a storm. Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion are distraught that they will never receive their respective brains, heart and courage, but Dorothy makes them realize that they had these things all along. Just as it seems as if Dorothy will never be able to go home again, Glinda the Good Witch appears and implores Dorothy to find her way home by searching within and using her silver slippers. After thanking Glinda and saying goodbye to her friends, Dorothy takes Toto in her arms, thinks of home and the things she loves most about it and, after clicking her heels three times, finds herself back in her neighborhood. A changed woman, Dorothy carries Toto back to their apartment and closes the door.

Stir Crazy

  • Directors: Sidney Poitier
  • Producers: Hannah Weinstein
  • Writers: Bruce Jay Friedman
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime
  • Actors: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Miguel Angel Suarez

Writer Skip Donahue (Gene Wilder) and actor Harry Monroe (Richard Pryor) are two down-on-their-luck men trying to break into show business. After they both get fired from their jobs (Skip for accusing an actress (Lee Purcell) of robbery from the store he worked at, and Harry after a fellow caterer (Pamela Poitier) put his marijuana in several meals, believing it to be oregano), they leave New York together for Hollywood. To get the bills paid, they decide to take odd jobs along the way. In one such job, Skip and Harry dress up as two woodpeckers for a local bank, where they perform a song and dance routine as part of a promotion for the bank. Little do they realize that two men are watching them…and also planning the perfect crime (Skip and Harry met them earlier in a bar).

The men wait until Harry and Skip remove their costumes to take a break. They steal the costumes and perform the routine under the pretense of being Harry and Skip. They then use the ruse to rob the bank. Harry and Skip are immediately arrested upon their return and whisked through a speedy trial that lands them a 125-year jail sentence, which would make them eligible for parole in 30 years. Len Garber, their court-appointed lawyer (Joel Brooks) advises them to start their sentence until he can appeal their case.

Arriving at a secret meeting spot, Jesus and Rory quickly make introductions, then bid Harry and Skip farewell as they all pile into a waiting car, heading off to Mexico. Harry and Skip hop in the other waiting car, only to be stopped by another car containing Len Garber and Meredith. Meredith tells Harry and Skip that, thanks to her work, the police have captured the real crooks, who have confessed to the bank robbery that wrongly convicted them. Harry and Skip, ecstatic, decide to resume their original plans of heading to Hollywood. Skip asks Meredith to go with him, and Meredith, on a whim, does.

Blazing Saddles

  • Directors: Mel Brooks
  • Producers: Michael Hertzberg
  • Writers: Story, Andrew Bergman, Screenplay, Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Al Uger
  • Genres: Comedy, Western
  • Actors: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn

In the American Old West of 1874, construction on a new railroad runs into quicksand. The route has to be changed, which will require it to go through Rock Ridge, a frontier town where everyone has the last name of “Johnson” (including a “Howard Johnson”, a “Van Johnson” and an “Olson Johnson”.) The conniving State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) – not to be confused, as he often is in the film, with actress Hedy Lamarr – wants to buy the land along the new railroad route cheaply by driving the townspeople out. He sends a gang of thugs, led by his flunky Taggart (Slim Pickens), to scare them away, prompting the townsfolk to demand that Governor William J. LePetomane (Mel Brooks) appoint a new sheriff. The Attorney General convinces the dim-witted Governor to select Bart (Cleavon Little), a black railroad worker who was about to be hanged, as the new sheriff. Because Bart is black, Lamarr believes that this will so offend the townspeople they will either abandon the town or lynch the new sheriff.

With his quick wits and the assistance of drunken gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder), also known as “The Waco Kid” (“I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille”), Bart works to overcome the townsfolk’s hostile reception. He defeats and befriends Mongo (Alex Karras), an immensely strong (but exceptionally dim-witted) henchman sent by Taggart, and beats German seductress-for-hire Lili von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) at her own game, before inspiring the town to lure Lamarr’s newly-recruited and incredibly diverse army of thugs (characterized by Lamarr as ideally consisting of “rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists” in addition to nearly every other kind of stock movie villain) into an ambush. (In the later scene where Lamarr conducts his hiring event, the candidates in line for consideration include stereotypical bikers, banditos, crusaders, Nazis and Klansmen).

The film ends with Bart shooting Hedley Lamarr in the groin at the ‘premiere’ of Blazing Saddles outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater, saving the town, joining Jim inside a theater to view the end of the movie, persuading people of all colors and creeds to live in harmony and, finally, riding (in a limousine) off into the sunset.