As you have probably guessed by now, I am a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz. I also love a good conspiracy theory. The Wizard of Oz is possibly one of the best loved and most iconic films in history. Owing to it’s immense popularity, it has generated several conspiracy theories over time. Today, I set out to debunk two of the biggest Wizard of Oz myths: The Myth of the Hanging Munchkin and The Dark Side of the Rainbow.
The Dark Side of the Rainbow.
What is the Dark Side of the Rainbow?
Basically, the it has been suggested that if you play Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon whilst watching The Wizard of Oz with the sound on mute, the music synchs up to what is happening on the screen, generating a kind of surreal, music video experience. This is a widely held belief in popular culture, and there are multitudes of websites devoted to this supposed phenomenon.
Does The Dark Side of the Rainbow actually work?
As I mentioned earlier, there are many people who will attest to the awesome synchronism of these two works, and can give multiple examples of links between TDSOTM and The Wizard of Oz. For example, Gary A. Bridgeman writes: “After the Scarecrow is handed his Doctorate of Thinkology he says “The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side”, of course the triangle being a recurring theme in this synchrony as well as the image we find on the cover of the DSOTM”. Well, that’s some hard-hitting scientific evidence, and I sure am convinced…or not. (Besides which, the triangle on the cover of DSOTM is an equilateral triangle, not an isosceles triangle).
Last night, Ross and I sat down with a copy of The Wizard of Oz and a copy of DSOTM and tried this theory out. I was sceptical, but this is something that I have wanted to try for years and so I kind of hoped to be surprised.
As to whether the phenomenon actually works, my answer is…somewhat. The music and the film DO synch up at many intervals. Some of these matches happen in perfect time and are a little eerie, some happen slightly out of synch. Sometimes, it is that the tone of the music fits perfectly with what is happening on the screen, sometimes a sound effect coincides with an event in the movie. There are times that the lyrics to the songs seem to describe the action on the screen, and sometimes the characters in the movie seem to move in time to the music. At any rate, I do believe this myth actually holds some water.
However, many fans have claimed a whole bunch of matches that I didn’t see, and some of the supposed synchronous moments are just hogwash, possibly because most people try this when they are stoned out of their minds. I did it sober, and I still saw plenty of matches.
Can I try this for myself?
Absolutely. To give this theory a whirl, all you need is a copy of Pink Floyds’ The Dark Side of the Moon and a copy of The Wizard of Oz on either VHS or DVD. Don’t use a copy that you taped off the T.V, or it won’t work at all. All you need to do is pop the movie on, and start the album as the M.G.M lion roars. There is some debate on exactly when to start the record, but I started on the third roar, which seems to be the most agreed upon method.
It is important to remember that the album is much shorter than the film, so you will need to play the album two and a half times. You can do this by putting your CD player on repeat, or starting the CD or record again when it stops. I paused the DVD when the CD finished, and then hit play when I got the CD playing again.
You can tell if you have synched the two mediums correctly if you hear the lyric “Balanced on the biggest wave” as Dorothy is balancing on the fence.
What sort of synchs did you notice?
There are plenty of lists online that you can access of supposed links. However, I found that many of these lists are a bit weird, and I didn’t see many of the synchs they claim to have seen. Contrary to popular belief, I actually found that the second play-through of the album yielded more perfect synchs than the first. Here is a list of some of the things that Ross and I observed.
– The transition from Breathe to On the Run occurs as Dorothy falls off the fence, andHickoryrescues her from the pigs. The fast tempo seems to mirror his anxiety as he mops his brow.
– The Great Gig in the Sky plays as the house is picked up by the Twister.
– The chimes at the beginning of Time sound as Mrs Gulch arrives at the house.
– When Aunt Em and Mrs Gulch are arguing about Toto, the music sounds like an old western showdown.
– “Waiting for someone to show you the way” plays as Toto jumps through the window.
– ‘Home, home again’ is heard as Dorothy arrives back at the farmhouse.
– The cash registers at the beginning of Money sound as Dorothy steps out into Munchkinland.
– “Get away” is heard as the Munchkins duck under the bushes.
– “Don’t give me none of that do-good goody bullshit” is heard as Glinda talks to Dorothy and Dorothy shakes her head.
– “Which is which” is heard as Dorothy looks from Witch to Witch.
– A saxophone solo begins as Dorothy steps onto the Yellow Brick road and seems to follow her steps.
– A choir begins singing as the Munchkins cheer for Dorothy.
– “down and out” is heard as Dorothy looks down at the Munchkins and then turns and steps out of Munchkinland.
– “Got to keep the loonies on the path” is heard as the Scarecrow and Dorothy skip off down theYellow Brick Road.
– ‘The lunatics are in my hall” as Dorothy and the Scarecrow arrive in the apple glen.
– ‘You raise the blade” as you see the Tin Man’s axe for the first time.
– A musical crescendo begins as Dorothy finds the oil can.
– A heartbeat sounds as Dorothy bangs on the Tin Man’s chest
– The heartbeat at the beginning of the album keeps time to the Tin Man’s dance.
– ‘All you touch” as Dorothy links arms with the Scarecrow and the Tin Man.
– “Run rabbit run” as they set off down theYellow Brick Road.
– When the Lion threatens the travellers, the Tin Man seems to shake in time with On the Run.
– The travellers jump into the air as the chimes at the beginning of Time are heard.
– Foreboding music plays as we see the witch in her castle.
– “No-one told you when to run” as the group races towards theEmeraldCity.
– ‘Shorter of breath and one day closer to death” as Dorothy collapses in the poppies.
– ‘Home, home again” as the group arrives in theEmeraldCity.
– “tolling of the iron bell” as Dorothy rings the bell at the gates.
– The Great Gig in the Sky plays as the witch writes Surrender Dorothy in the sky.
– The lion dances in time with the cash registers at the beginning of Money.
– Hymnal music plays as the Scarecrow bows to the wizard.
– “God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do” as the group enters the forest in search of the witch.
– “Down and out” as Toto runs down the drawbridge and out of the castle.
– “The lunatics are in my hall” as the Scarecrow, the Lion and Tin Man enter the witches castle.
– “if the dam breaks open” as the Tin Man breaks through the door.
– “you raise the blade” as the Scarecrow cuts through the rope holding the chandelier
– The second playing of Eclipse is one of the eeriest parts I saw. The lyrics match the action really well. “All you touch and all you see” (the monkey touches the witches remains as everyone looks on). “All you love (camera on Dorothy) and all you hate (camera on the witch’s remains). “All you give” (the monkey gives Dorothy the broom). “All you create (wizard makes a puff of smoke) and all you destroy” (Dorothy places the broom in front of the wizard). “All that is now (cast smile and rejoice) all that is gone’ (faces fall). “The sun is eclipsed by the moon” (Dorothy becomes angry with the wizard. A heartbeat then sounds at the curtain pulls back to reveal the wizard.
– Aeroplane sound effect as Glinda’s bubble appears
– Chimes as Dorothy realises how she can go home
– Frenzied ticking as Dorothy bids her companions goodbye.
– “Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town” as Dorothy arrives back inKansas.
– Time is heard every time we see Professor Marvel.
Was the synchronicity deliberate?
The members of Pink Floyd have hotly denied that the album was intended to be an alternative soundtrack to the Wizard of Oz. I believe that it is just a coincidence. If it were intended to be deliberate, I think that there would be a much stronger and tighter synchronicity and the band might have made some effort to include more sound effects or musical themes for each character. Also, I think that Pink Floyd would have said something by now if this was a deliberate act.
The Hanging Munchkin.
Many people claim to have seen a hanging munchkin on the film. I myself have experienced this, and can debunk this myth once and for all.
The first time I noticed this gaff, I was really creeped out by what I saw. If you watch closely in the scene where Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man first set off down theYellow Brick Road, you will notice a dark shape in the background between the shed and a tree. The shape appears to drop suddenly and then bob up and down a few times. Many people claim that this is one of the munchkin actors hanging himself in the background, and that this ghastly moment was caught on film.
Apparently, on the VHS version of the film, the footage in the background is blurred and it is more difficult to see what is really happening. In my remastered version, if you look closely, it is very clear that what you see is actually a large bird, like a stork or an ibis, with a long neck, stretching it’s wings and then bobbing it’s neck up and down. M.G.M did in fact borrow a number of exotic birds for the film shoot to use as set dressing, and it is one of these birds that you see in the background of this scene. There is no hanging munchkin.
I would love to hear from anyone who gives the Dark Side of the Rainbow a whirl, or if you guys have any other Oz questions that you would like answered.