“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

The Wizard of Oz

tn_wizardofozHave you guys seen this? THE WIZARD OF OZ? I think it’s pretty well known. Last month they had a one-week re-release in 3D Fake Imax, so I took the opportunity to see it then and I thought I should write a little about it. If you have the 3D getup at home the converted version is now on blu-ray if you’re interested.

Loosely based on the stories of L. Frank Baum, Judy Garland (THOROUGHBREDS DON’T CRY) plays Dorothy Gale, an inquisitive, somewhat agitated girl who lives on a farm with her Aunt nah just kidding I’m not gonna explain the plot to you. Look it up on IMDb you lazy assholes.

Yeah, this movie is almost 75 god damn years old and still loved by each new generation that womankind squirts out, so I’d say it’s a pretty monumental piece of cinematic history. But to be honest it could end up that 200 years from now nobody gives a shit about OZ anymore but BLADE II is still beloved so BLADE II would be considered alot more important in the long game. But regardless of that I think there is room in history for both movies.

You know what, I’m gonna give you a rare glimpse into the ol’ childhood. Consider this Outlaw Origins: Vern. Like anybody this movie was something I saw alot growing up because it would play on TV every year. And looking back on it it was very important to my criticalistic development, or at least my understanding of movies. See, I have this memory of watching it when I was real little. It was at the part where they’re going through the woods saying “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” And li’l Vern was scared shitless. I don’t know what I thought was gonna happen, was an actual tiger gonna come out and tear Dorothy’s throat out? I don’ t know but I was pretty concerned.

Then all the sudden I had this realization. You know when you’re in a dream and you’re worried about something but then you notice some logical impossibility, like “wait a minute, I’m on vacation in California right now, how the fuck did I take the bus to work?” and then you figure out you’re in a dream? I had kinda the movie-watching equivalent of that where I remembered wait a minute, I’ve seen this movie a bunch of times already, and at no point has a bear jumped out and disemboweled the lion. I know they’re gonna be just fine, so what am I scared of? I really think it was the first time I stepped back and thought about how movies work. Or looked behind the curtain, you might say, but I wouldn’t.

Another thing I remember, I wanted to go back to watching THE WIZARD OF OZ on TV, but my old man said I had to finish my dinner first. I couldn’t do it because I thought the casserole or whatever was nasty, so when he wasn’t looking I scraped it off onto the table and put the plate on top of it. Problem solved! I went back to watching the movie but it turned out that he was later gonna move the plates and find out what I did, so there was hell to pay. Shoulda thought ahead a little more. This is not important to my development as a movie watcher, it’s just indicative of the poor decisions that have led me to where I am in life.

mp_wizardofozAnyway, I think we all know this movie holds up, I don’t gotta try to convince anybody it’s good. If somebody genuinely doesn’t get why THE WIZARD OF OZ is good then they’re just one of those weirdos that doesn’t like pizza or something. There’s not much point in trying to clue them in.

I saw this movie on the big screen once before, back when they still used film prints, and it looked great. One thing I remember from seeing it that time was spotting what urban legend claimed was the body of an actor who played a munchkin who had hung himself on set and had not been discovered, but which in fact was very clearly a bird walking through the fake trees. I figured if people had seen it on the big screen instead of TV broadcasts and VHS there never could’ve been that misunderstanding.

I forget which scene that’s in and this time I didn’t spot it. I wonder how 3D conversion artists handle stuff like that. It was technically a mistake that the bird is in the shot, but I doubt they would erase it. I hope there is a code of ethics for 3D conversionists.

The 3D is pretty cool. Of course a conversion, as opposed to a movie actually shot with cameras at two different angles, is never gonna look that great. But as far as these things go it’s pretty cool, and it fits the movie. It’s funny that in part of the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” scene there’s one piece of hay sticking out into the frame so they get to put it in front of Dorothy.

Definitely the best part of it is the backgrounds. There are so many painted backgrounds in this movie, and they’re not necessarily trying to look photorealistic, or at least they don’t look that way when vividly remastered and shown on a giant Imax screen. So what’s cool is that even though they’re clearly paintings they 3Dified them to give them depth. So if there’s a painting of mountains, even though we know it’s actually flat, they render each mountain at a different depth. I like it.

More important than the retrofitted 3D is just seeing it big and clear on a giant screen. The digital Imax (as a one week release this was only digital and not real Imax) is not my favorite. They use two separate projectors, which is great for the 3D illusion, but they’re not up to the standard resolution of digital projection. You don’t always notice it but it sucks to see pixels on the credits of a 75 year old movie. There were no pixels involved in making those credits! It’s kinda wrong.

Still, it’s probly the clearest I’ve ever seen the movie (can’t remember for sure how the print compared, that was a long time ago) and I like how you can see through the illusion more. I noticed alot of makeup and bald cap lines and cheapness in the sets, and maybe that could be a bad thing but I think it’s kinda cool because you’re very conscious of all the artists and craftspeople who had to build this shit. Watching the Munchkinland scene I kinda felt like I was at Disneyland, looking around at  all the buildings and costumes and appreciating the attention to detail.

So even though I’ve seen it a million times, it was kind of like watching it with a new set of eyeballs, and it made me think about some aspects of the world of Oz I hadn’t really considered before. So let’s discuss those.

I know there’s that musical called “Wicked” that I believe is supposed to be this story from the point of view of the witch. Maybe they deal with this question I kept wondering: How bad could this Witch of the East really have been? The citizens of Munchkinland all celebrate her death like she was Saddam, but don’t most tyrants tend to live it up themselves and starve most of their people? We don’t see a bunch of Munchkins in rags throwing burning garbage cans at flying monkeys. Look at these little guys with their fancy outfits, houses, carriages.

True, this appears to be a Necromonger style government where they want Dorothy to rule them because she slew their previous master. But they’re not barbarians. They have a mayor who seems to have legitimate power, not just a figurehead. The coroner, I mean who knows, but he doesn’t seem to have a haunted look in his eye like he’s seen fucked up shit you wouldn’t believe. They have an elite guard who are happy to still do their precision marching, apparently not disbanded during sudden regime change. They have the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild, so obviously this witch allowed organized labor to flourish. You don’t get that in many fascist states. The Lollipop Guild have stylized jagged cuts that seem to represent torn clothes, the only arguably impoverished Munchkins we see, so they might not be getting paid a living wage. But obviously we know they have food.

It is very possible that all of these titles are just some bullshit that the Wizard made up a long time ago and not actual offices. But it’s hard to argue with their material wealth. We see it on them.

On the other hand, look at the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s not exactly gonna get on MTV’s Cribs. She doesn’t have an Ice-T style shark tank. Yes, she lives in a castle, but it’s not some Saddam or Scarface type shit. It’s all rough stone, not marble. Very little decoration. Probly cold. Almost for sure smells like monkey shit. Nobody in their right mind would prefer to live in that place to Munchkinland, if they could fit. If her sister in the East had a similar lifestyle then how tyrannical could she have been? Her people were living better than her.

What I’m getting at is maybe these Munchkins are a bunch of tea partiers, this witch actually did well for them but they can’t appreciate it, they hate her because she’s different from them. They’re okay with tall ladies like Glinda and Dorothy, but Glinda’s telling them this stereotype that ugly women are “bad witches.” Maybe that’s what it was about. Overall Oz is an accepting land for people of many sizes, talking animals and animate-inanimate objects. But maybe Munchkinland is the deep south of Oz. I see exactly one brother in this whole place and he’s the security guard.

But what do I know, I’m not on the inside, and they could very well know things that we’re not seeing in the movie. Maybe that witch was executing her enemies left and right, maybe there are political prisoners rotting away somewhere. Maybe they’re in the sewers we saw one Munchkin crawl out of. I don’t claim to be an expert on the political situation there, so don’t get offended. I’m just making some observations.

Before we move on from witches, why do they melt in water? I mean that’s a dumb question, but I wonder if the answer is that they’re made of sugar. If so it would be cool to just eat ’em. Like one of those cake decorations that are carved out of sugar. You’re not supposed to eat ’em, but when in Oz, you know?

More government questions. If the Wizard is the ruler of the whole place doesn’t he have some responsibility for what goes on with the witches, who only rule by region? Is this like one of those countries where there’s a government but they can’t really control the warlords in certain regions? You’d think it would be more of an obvious hellhole if that  was the case, but maybe not. I can buy it.

But I don’t know how much we as Americans should be supporting this Wizard’s regime. He decides to leave and just transfer his power to the Scarecrow! We like the Scarecrow, but what kind of democracy is that? I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The Wizard’s power is completely based on hype and bullshit, like THE MATRIX. We know this, but then we forgive him because of a couple medals that we know don’t mean shit. A total used car salesman.

We should not be in bed with this guy, it’s gonna blow back on us. And don’t tell me we’re safe just because they’re in a dream and we’re in the waking world. There are many connections between our lands. Dorothy travels there by dream, the Wizard by air. They’re treated as foreign visitors, but not as aliens. There has been plenty of communication between the realms, otherwise how do you explain the references to Lincoln and Shakespeare? They know our history and our writers. They know more about us than we do about them.

But maybe that’s a good thing that our people haven’t explored Oz that much. We can’t be trusted anymore than they can. Thank God the Crusades didn’t make it over there, or the Witch Trials. Poor Glinda coulda been burnt at the stake, then instead of seeing her flying around in a bubble we’d see horror movies about why she deserved it.

On a completely different topic: do you guys remember that the Scarecrow is a gun owner? Somehow I didn’t remember this, and an informal poll shows that nobody I know remembers it either. But I swear to you that when they’re in the Haunted Woods all the sudden the Scarecrow is waving a piece around. Here, watch his right hand:

See, you don’t even have to have a brain to pass the background check. Luckily he never uses it. But maybe he should’ve tried shooting that witch or some of those monkeys, now that I think about it.

Back in the real world, where everyone is awake and in sepia tones, did they ever solve the issue with that neighbor lady who looks like the Wicked Witch of the West who says she’s going to execute Toto for trespassing in her garden? I don’t think they do. That lady was so bad that Aunt Em said that “being a Christian woman” she couldn’t say what she’d wanted to say to her for 23 years. How many people do you know that Aunt Em wants to call the c-word?

I don’t think Dorothy saves the dog, but she does learn her lesson that “there’s no place like home,” so I guess she should stay home on the farm at all times instead of wanting to go out and do different things or go to different places. It’s supposed to be a nice warm message, but it’s kinda sad. I got two pieces of advice for Dorothy:

1. You can always write letters to home. Go travel for a while, live in a city somewhere, have a good time, find yourself. You don’t gotta be a chicken farmer just ’cause your aunt was, you gotta do what fulfills you. And you seem like somebody that likes to meet different people. If you stay here you’ll never experience diversity like you saw in Oz. You’ll probly never meet any gay people. Trust me, gay people would love you! You gotta get out there.

2. You know, people are very rarely interested in hearing about other people’s dreams. Cool it with the “and you were there, and you were there” business.

Anyway, pretty good movie in my opinion.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 at 1:48 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Musical, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

38 Responses to “The Wizard of Oz”

  1. I feel like I should totally put this link in here: http://youtu.be/avIqTrX2eac

  2. I find it funny how this movie has inspired so many conspiracy theories over the years, there’s the aforementioned hanging midget one, but the craziest I’ve heard is the theory that the whole movie is a metaphor for Illuminati mind control, which supposedly Judy Garland was a victim of, yes, there’s even Illuminati related conspiracy theories about this movie, truly the Wizard of Oz has it all

    and of course there’s the fact that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album syncs up with it, which it totally does! I saw it synced up with the album years ago when it used to be available on Google video, it’s some trippy shit, for example the first “CHA-CHING!” sound effect of Money happens at the very second the movie transitions to color and the Munchkin’s dancing seems to be in tune with the beat of the song

    obviously Pink Floyd didn’t intentionally score the movie with the album, but it’s a baffling and eerie example of synchronicity nevertheless

  3. as a matter of fact, the first few months that I had access to the internet I was kind of obsessed with this movie, looking up as many urban legends about it as I could

    I had no idea prior to that that there was all this weird shit related to this movie, it blew my mind

  4. Here’s hoping a RETURN TO OZ review is on the way.

  5. Especially because RETURN would be pretty Halloween appropriate!

  6. Great review, Vern. I could tell you were having fun writing this one.

  7. I, too, would appreciate a RETURN TO OZ write up from Vern.

  8. And I’m hoping for a review of THE WIZ.

  9. Griff: See the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY comments for a much better Floyd sync.

  10. Wow, great review. I love it when you really get into a movie and start going really in-depth.

  11. I haven’t seen Return to Oz in a long, long time, but I would also be interested in a review (although, I realize that in the end Vern does what the fuck he wants).

    Over the years I’ve really wanted to see other sequels to the Wizard of Oz. You really can’t improve on the original film, so any remake or reimagining is always going to suffer by comparison. Likewise, the Sam Raimi prequel, which had its moments, was burdened by all of the issues that tend to hold back most prequels: we knew what would happen. But there are at least a dozen or so books. You would think that someone would be able to take them as inspiration for a Wizard of Oz sequel. I’ve only read the first in the series, but I can only imagine that good ol’ Frank L. Baum came up with some decent material for the silver screen beyond the first novel.

  12. Okay, I read some of the Oz books not too long ago, so I’m going to be like that asshole who explains something in STAR WARS by saying “Well actually, in the Expanded Universe…”

    In the original book, the Wicked Witch of the West lived in a dope-ass palace and was a dwarf cyclops with a telescopic eye, which is rad. She is described as an evil despot, but it’s never stated exactly what she does that’s so bad. I believe it is explicitly stated in the books that there are no poor people in Oz and that it’s a socialist utopia with no conception of money. She does spy on everyone Obama-style with her telescopic eye/crystal ball; so maybe she ships dissenters to an offshore torture facility or sends in the flying monkeys for a drone strike. The reason why she melts in water is never really explained, but it’s heavily implied that the witches are such dried up husks that moisture causes them to disintegrate.

    As you learned from OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, the Wizard is really just a cowardly asshole with no real magic powers, so as the Witches split up Oz amongst themselves he pulled a John Boehner and cowered in his palace while the extremists took over.

  13. Well, clearly the witch was involved in the drug trade, what with her vast fields of poppies and all. Maybe we just never got to see the bad part of Munchkinland, where all the Munchkin crack whores and junkies live.

  14. I also support a RETURN TO OZ review. A good film, really tarnished at the time because parents pussied out because it was dark and insane. (Jesus people, don’t you think kids might have the same reaction to WOZ in the first place?) Walter Murch should’ve been allowed to direct more films. Hey if Marvel was around back then, he probably would’ve been hired (and cheaply too, of course.)

    Maybe I’m imagining, but I barely remember there being a WOZ cartoon program on TV when I was a tater tot.

    “did they ever solve the issue with that neighbor lady who looks like the Wicked Witch of the West who says she’s going to execute Toto for trespassing in her garden? ”

    Vern – didn’t you see her in that tornado? Mind you since she was dreaming (well if she was dreaming) so it could’ve been a fantasy, but I assumed she was killed off.

    Griff – Not to mention WISH YOU WERE HERE also synchs pretty well with BLADE RUNNER.

  15. grimgrinningchris

    October 23rd, 2013 at 12:35 am

    I’m kind of OZ obsessed and have been since I was a kid. But somehow only just in the past few weeks became aware that there was actually a WIZARD OF OZ theme park that was open in North Carolina from 1970 til 1980.

  16. Yeah, OZ is good and all, though it’s always a bit odd to see Dorothy chasing the white dragon. I prefer the glimpses into Outlaw Origins: Vern.

    “In every generation there is a chosen one. He alone will stand against the shaky cam, internet trolling and the forces of post-action. He is the Outlaw.”

  17. grimgrinningchris – Holy crap! I think I went to that place. I only have the briefest tiny-little-boy memory of it, and I literally hadn’t thought about it in at least 33 years, but I’m pretty fucking I went to a bizarre OZ themed attraction in North Caroline. It was somewhere in the mountains, I think. The only things I can remember were there was a yellow brick road and a singing Dorothy. I recall it being kinda cheaply designed and a little creepy. If there were any animatronic flying monkeys, I’ve repressed the memory too deep.

  18. I read the original book a while ago, but I don’t remember the witch being a cyclops. Strange. Is it worth reading the Oz sequels. I’ve thought about picking them up at some point, but I never got around to it. And an Oz theme park sounds amazing. It sure as hell would beat the crap out of whatever Hogwarts park they have these days.

  19. grimgrinningchris

    October 23rd, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Zeke-
    Yeah, I’ve looked into it and your description sounds apt. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot to it. More like a little tourist village than an actual theme park. Seems the only “ride” was a ski lift themed around the hot air balloon. Mostly just the yellow brick road, a munchkin village recreation, costumed characters and a song and dance show.
    Mainly visually based on original illustrations rather than the movie. And basing something in the 1970s around 80 year old fantasy illustrations could have DEFINITELY come off as “creepy”.
    http://www.emeraldmtn.com/LandofOz/landofoz.html

  20. grimgrinningchris

    October 23rd, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    RBatty, sorry to burst it, but the Harry Potter island at Universal IOA is AMAZING! One needn’t even give a damn about Potter to be go smacked by the level of detail of theming, the technical wizardry (sorry) of The Forbiddem Journey ride (which has a queue that is better than most actual RIDES), the thrill of the Dragon Challenge dual coasters or the fun of the wand choosing show at Ollivanders. It seriously raises the bar multiple notches over any other themed area in any park in the world that doesn’t have the word Disney in its name (and even surpasses a lot of Disneys best stuff).

    This Oz parl was obviously much better in idea than execution. As childhood memory than adult experience.

    And I’m a bigger Oz fan than Potter (though I DO love both).

  21. grimgrinningchris – shit yeah that Harry Potter section of Islands of Adventure is mind blowing and I say that as someone who has never read any of the books and only watched the first two movies

  22. if Matrix was here he would la

    October 24th, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Harry Potter? Seriously? That’s it. I want a divorce. And maybe a restraining order. You stay on your side of the internet and I’ll stay on mine.

  23. @RBatty024:
    “I read the original book a while ago, but I don’t remember the witch being a cyclops. Strange.”

    She wasn’t like a Harryhausen-style cyclops with an eye in the middle of her head, but she did have an eyepatch, here’s the illustration of her from the original edition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wicked_Witch_of_the_West_W.W._Denslow.jpg

    Two more little differences from the movie I thought were interesting:

    –the flying monkeys weren’t like her regular lackeys, she just had a magic crown that gave her the power to summon them for three specific tasks, one of which had been driving the Wizard’s forces out of the lands of the West. The monkeys are also intelligent, and when Dorothy talks to them they seem like pretty cool dudes.

    –the good witch who Dorothy meets in the beginning is the witch of the North who just looks like a friendly old woman, while Glinda is the witch of the South who Dorothy doesn’t meet until the very end.

    “Is it worth reading the Oz sequels. I’ve thought about picking them up at some point, but I never got around to it.”

    Basically depends on whether you enjoyed reading the first, the style of story is pretty much the same. I’ve just read the first two sequels because after watching the IMAX re-release with my girlfriend I wanted to introduce her to “Return to Oz” which was based on those two, so I thought it’d be interesting to compare. The movie changes a lot of the overall plot (for understandable reasons, for example the first sequel doesn’t even feature Dorothy, and the second features her traveling to a neighboring land called “Ev” and rescuing some royal family we never heard of from the Nome King, whereas in the movie the Nome King has taken over Oz and she has to rescue the Scarecrow & co.), but most of the individual episodes and characters are based pretty closely on the books.

    “And an Oz theme park sounds amazing. It sure as hell would beat the crap out of whatever Hogwarts park they have these days.”

    There actually was a cool-looking Oz park, unfortunately it’s closed now and only opens once a year for “former employees and past guests”: http://roadtrippers.kinja.com/next-weekend-this-creepy-abandoned-wizard-of-oz-theme-p-1421632859/

  24. I had heard the Harry Potter theme park was underwhelming, but I think that was a review I read way back when it opened, so who knows what sort of improvements they made. My absolute favorite theme park is Cedar Point, the single best place for roller coasters in the United States, but its in northern Ohio, so it’s not nearly as famous as your Universal Studios and Disney Worlds. I would love to see an Oz theme park with a little bit of cash behind it.

  25. if Matrix was here he would la – my God, my alter ego from The Av Club has gained a mind of it’s own! this is some Cyberpunk shit or something

  26. but seriously though, who keeps doing that? Mr M, is it you? you’re the only person I know that also posts on The AV Club

    it’s not that I can’t take a joke, it’s that I have no idea who is doing this and it kinda creeps me out

  27. I swear it’s not me, Griff. It’d be much more interesting and mean if it were.

    I’ve seen one or two other regulars on the AV Club, but I’m not naming names because I remember us talking about your alter ego on here a few months ago. Anyone who read that board would know about it.

    It could be any of us.

    Any. Of. Us.

    I think it goes without saying that we should all start preparing our own meals and only eating out of cans.

  28. paranoia levels, rising!

    I just want to say though that it’s not my fault stupid fucking Disqus cuts off my username and AV Club doesnt let you chnage your name, it was fine when I first joined that site

    I’ve contemplated just creating a whole new account

  29. grimgrinningchris

    October 24th, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Cedar Point is a coaster park and an amazing one. Possibly the best. Universal is a theme park. Apples and oranges.

  30. Looks like someone has a schoolgirl crush on you, Griff. Let us know if dead birds start showing up in your mailbox.

    Of course, I suppose it is possible that Ray Loitta is behind the whole thing. Did you do anything to piss off Ray Liotta?

  31. You mean like misspelling his last name “Loitta”?

  32. The Original... Paul

    October 25th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Majestyk:

    “I think it goes without saying that we should all start preparing our own meals and only eating out of cans.”

    Do you even remember what HAPPENED to the guy who said that, about two movie minutes after he said it?

    (Well neither do I… we never find out, exactly. But I don’t imagine there’s any fun ways to be turned into a pile of burnt ashes.)

  33. That’s it, Paul. You’re going in the toolshed.

  34. Grimgrinningchris – I think that difference is fair, and I’m willing to accept it since you also agree that Cedar Point is amazing.

  35. CJ: That’s the plot to IDENTITY. Cussack, with characteristic smarmy expression on his face, mis-spells Liotta’s name, perhaps paraphrases opening paragraph of Nabokov’s novel. Liotta gets pissed. Liotta causes unnecessarily complicated multiple personality disorder in Cussack. Hilarity and dismemberment ensures.

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen IDENTITY.

  36. Jareth— No….. THAT’s not it. It’s been less of awhile since I’ve seen Identity; hence, I will break it down for you:

    Cusack and Liotta have a heated disagreement that threatens to end their BBH relationship. It’s mostly Cusack’s fault, so he goes to Liotta’s house, stands outside Liotta’s bedroom window, and blasts a cheesy Peter Gabriel song on his boombox to get Liotta’s attention.

    Suddenly, the bedroom window opens, a set of car keys fly out, and Cusack catches them. The sounds of Liotta and a woman arguing echo down to him. Liotta marches out of the house, and he and Cusack drive off to an impromptu poker game.

    About 4-5 hands into the game, Cusack motions over lackey Curtis Armstrong to glance at his cards and advise him what to do. Armstrong replies “Bet that way… really fast. If something gets in your way… fold!”. Liotta tells Armstrong to mind his own business, and Armstrong laments “I’ve got a Trig midterm tomorrow, and I’m bartending for Guido The Killer Pimp”. To this bit of insolence, Liotta responds by pulling out a .45 automatic and BANG!, BANG!, BANG!….. he shoots Armstrong dead.

    Identity were a good moobie. Strange, but good.

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