Movie Review – The Wizard of Oz

They say he's a wonderful wizard, but you know he never calls his mother.

They say he's a wonderful wizard, but you know he never calls his mother.

Ah, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Truly, this series was the Harry Potter of its day. Within just a few years of the 1900 publication of the first book, there were several sequels, a Broadway musical, a series of traveling plays and, as we see in this boxed set, even a movie that came out back in 1910!

But what most people are familiar with is this movie. The 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland was far older than Dorothy, but still managed to do an excellent job playing her. Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow was unforgettable, as was the Wicked Witch of the West, played with cackling glee by Margaret Hamilton. They, along with the other actors, the incredible set design, the wonderful music and the bright, cheerful Technocolor fantasy combined to make this a truly iconic film.

There’s a lot layers to this film. There’s some of the obvious ones, like the switch between black and white to represent Kansas, and color, bold Technicolor no less, to represent Oz. There’s also the more subtle ones, like the possibility that the entire work is a scree against capitalism or a parable about the French Revolution. Really!

I wonder to myself what audiences felt about this movie in 1939? It’s my understanding that it didn’t have the best box office performance. It didn’t do well at the Oscars. Perhaps it just stood out to many as being too bright and cheerful, given the events unfolding in Europe when the movie was released.

Regardless, by now its a timeless classic. I remember when I was a kid watching CBS broadcast the film annually, and since then have caught it from time-to-time on TCM (aka: Ted Turner’s penance for inflicting colorization on the world). The film has been around for my entire life, and I’m pleased to see that after two previous attempts, it finally got a DVD worthy of its legacy.

The Wizard of Oz (Three-Disc Collector’s Edition) includes the movie itself, complete with a fascinating commentary, several behind-the-scenes documentries and trailers. What was really interesting to me was the disc that contained the 1910 version of the film, as well as other silent-era movies. They aren’t the best films ever made, but they’re interesting. Even more interesting is the cartoon version of the materiel, which featured the stunning inovation of showing Kansas in black and white and Oz in color. Rounding out these extras is a documentry on the life of L Frank Baum, which is well-worth watching.

Equally interesting are the printed items that come with the discs, including reproductions of the press-kit and an invitation to the premire screening. If I ever get my hands on another time machine, I’m so crashing that party.

Is this set worth the price? Heck, yeah! Worth every penny and then some. If you like Oz, like musicals or just like good films, this is the set for you. With the combonation of a great movie and some wonderful historical items, this set is a perfect 10.


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