Warner journeys down the digitally enhanced yellow brick road yet again in its never-ending quest for holiday greenbacks. Six years after its last “Oz,” the studio gave the 1939 classic another major restoration, then scoured the vaults to fill a three-disc set with too many Oz goodies to enumerate. Any more “Oz” artifacts surely would have the most ardent fans crying “Surrender Dorothy.”
Consider the breadth of extras: five new docus, five pre-1939 versions of Oz, home movies by Harold Arlen and a clever commentary by Oz historian John Fricke that weaves archival interviews with stars Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley, plus reproductions of the original Chinese Theater premiere program and plenty of outtakes.
In one amusing audio snippet on the commentary, Hamilton talks about how excited she was to hear producers were interested in her for the movie, only to be slightly crestfallen to hear it was for the wicked witch. “What else?” she recalled her rep saying, to disconcerting peals of studio laughter.
Fricke provides a steady stream of lore for Oz fans, including MGM’s concerns that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” slowed things down too much.
Other extras, such as the Oz storybook, in which Angela Lansbury reads from Frank Baum, are less interesting for the casual fan, and nontechies’ eyes will soon glaze over during the featurette on the restoration.
The restoration itself is another matter; all ages can enjoy the high-def-friendly “ultra resolution,” which enables viewers to see the Cowardly Lion’s makeup and ruby red slippers in greater detail than ever. The care given this film over the years definitely aided the cause: As one of the restorers points out, “This is the most protected film in history.”
And certainly one of the most marketed on DVD.