If you’re like me it’s probably been some time since you’ve watched the all time classic family film The Wizard of Oz. If you grew up watching the special annual screening of the film on television or regularly with your family you can probably quote passages from it or at least some of the iconic characters, imagery and tag lines. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” is one of my favorites and I try to I use it whenever I can when I’m around kids to see if they’ve found their yellow brick road. There’s actually quite a lot of quirky stuff about the original film, like from 1959 to 1991 it was only screened on television once each year, except in 1963 when it wasn’t shown at all. It changed after the invent of the videocassette then popularized cable, the DVD and the internet. The thing about the Blu-ray release from Warner Home Video is that it is a perfect marriage of tradition and technology, subtle enhancements and absolutely no embellishing. The film was brightened and polished, loved and honored, not replaced and improved for the sake of new. It is truly spectacular in every way to the classic. I was so impressed with the transfer I couldn’t help be enjoy it twice in preparation for this review. Oz sort of ranks up there with the greatest films of all time, like Citizen Kane, North By Northwest, 2001 A Space Odyssey and The Big Lewbowski – among many others.
The Wizard of Oz was an instant hit with families and moviegoers of all kinds when it first appeared and the magic that came to life by the state of the art process of the era Technicolor still holds true. Part of what makes the film so endearing is that there are so many life lessons and quality themes just beneath the surface that speak to home, the future, friendship and loyalty, togetherness and intestinal fortitude. Parents can actually teach their children something and there’s the song and dance numbers! Along with scenes that continue to be a part of pop-culture and surface time and time in other films, art and rich traditions in the theater and on television, the characters of Oz represent the purest marriage between actors and the roles they portray. Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin man) and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) were celebrated for the portrayals of the iconic figures and Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West remains one of the most influential witches in cinema history. All these elements and more were brought together by Victor Fleming, Noel Langley, Florence Riverson and a host of others for a one of a kind fantasy adventure film like no other.
The story of young, naive Dorothy who sets out to save her dog Toto only to get caught up in a tremendous storm that carries her to a magical land far away continues to be a chief starting place for adventure stories to this day. Once Dorothy enters the lands of Munchkins all her earthly troubles are replaced with new and more immediate ones – what will she do with her new vagabond fellow travelers? Will their path line up with hers and together they will all find what they are looking for or will somehow their weaknesses will spell certain disaster for poor Dorothy? While the sets and makeup are dim in today’s standards and often do not hold up the test of time, the film remains pure escapist joy with song, dance and merrymaking for audiences of all ages any time of the year.
Cherished treasure, beloved adventure film long on sentimental before it was a bad description used to touch upon on the hope and prayers of all children and dreamers too, to set out on an adventure to your hearts wishes come true. Many have pointed to grand fantasy films of today and franchises built on the very foundation of this film. It is difficult to predict the future, to know if Oz will live on and for generations to come or like so many other things it will fade away and succumb to immediacy and CGI everything, to Pixar films and stylized new technologies like IMAX and 3D. One this is certain when it comes to the world of Oz, there’s no place like home and sometimes that home lasts for minutes or a little longer because Oz made it so.
Warner Home Video, a division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., invited me to join their exclusive Blu-ray Elite Movie Review Program and they sent me a complimentary copy of this movie for the purpose of review with special attention on the “Blu-ray Experience”. I received this video for free, but that does not sway this review or the reviews of other films that will follow.