Thursday, July 10, 2008

The motorcycle in cinema: The Wiz.

"The Wiz is a 1975 Broadway musical, based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, exclusively featuring African American actors. The play features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, and its original cast featured Stephanie Mills, Hinton Battle, Tiger Haynes, Ted Ross, Dee Dee Bridgewater, André DeShields, Tasha Thomas and Mabel King. The Broadway show opened on January 5, 1975 on the Majestic Theatre and ended in May of 1977. The show moved to broadway for the final two years and ended on January 28, 1979, and ran for 1,672 performances. A motion picture adaptation of The Wiz was produced in 1978 by Motown Productions and Universal Pictures, starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, and Mabel King."
The film version of The Wiz is set in New York City: Dorothy's real-life home is in Harlem, and the Oz of the film is an alternate fantasy version of the rest of New York City. The $22 million production was poorly received by critics and grossed only $12 million during its original theatrical release.

The Wiz was Michael Jackson's first feature film, and Diana Ross's final theatrical feature film. Its commercial failure helped to bring to an end the stream of all-black films that had begun with the "blaxploitation film" era of the 1970s. However, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones's collaboration on the film's soundtrack led to Jones producing three of Jackson's most successful albums, Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. In later years, due to its recurrent broadcasts on television, The Wiz has become something of a cult classic among African-American audiences.

In the film version of The Wiz, the Flying Monkeys are a motorcycle gang, whose leader is named Cheetah, after the Tarzan character. Their metal wings are part of their motorcycles.
Production art and stills via: The Wiz: The Musical-a "virtual coffee table book"

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