×

The Wizard of Oz

For baby boomers who cherished it as an annual television event, for younger adults who have seen it only on video, if at all, and for the new generation of kids across the nation, nothing could be more welcome than Warner Bros.' reissue of MGM's 1939 "The Wizard of Oz." A work of almost staggering iconographic, mythological, creative and simple emotional meaning, this is one vintage film that fully lives up to its classic status.

For baby boomers who cherished it as an annual television event, for younger adults who have seen it only on video, if at all, and for the new generation of kids across the nation, nothing could be more welcome than Warner Bros.’ reissue of MGM’s 1939 “The Wizard of Oz.” A work of almost staggering iconographic, mythological, creative and simple emotional meaning, at least for American audiences, this is one vintage film that fully lives up to its classic status and should play with outstanding success to contemporary audiences of all ages.

Happily, Warners has done a first-rate job in technologically reproducing and enhancing the look and sound of the picture. The initial black-and-white Kansas section has been printed in an attractive, subtle sepia, and the special effects involved in creating the twister are outstanding even by today’s standards. On a dramatic level, these early sequences depicting Dorothy’s farm life and the characters around her possess an impressive economy and generate a surprising amount of feeling on their own.

The moment when Dorothy opens the door on the riot of color that is Munchkinland still represents one of the great visual coups in the history of American cinema, and leads to the extended musical sequence involving the little people that has no known equivalent; even while reveling in the fabulous music, clever lyrics, berserk art direction and costume design, and amazing faces and voices on display, film-wise, viewers will no doubt also ponder the sheer perversity of the scene’s conception as well as the real-life challenges that went into finding all these pint-size performers.

Seeing the film for the first time in years after many earlier viewings, one of the great and more subtle pleasures can be found in the incidental music and orchestrations; the constant invention in the musical area is tremendously impressive, and the digital sound on the new prints nicely presents the score without distorting or overly amplifying it (during the press screening at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, a portion of the sound dropped out around the scene in the poppy field, presumably a technical glitch specific to that showing).

Unlike on the recent reissue of director Victor Fleming’s other 1939 opus, “Gone With the Wind,” the color work on “Wizard” perfectly represents both one’s memory of the film and its proper look; so clear is the print that the string or wire attached to the Cowardly Lion’s tail is quite visible on more than one occasion. For showings at leading venues in major cities, the original 1.33 aspect ratio, fortunately, is being respected; how the film looks in its “adapted” 1.85 prints that will be used in most engagements remains to be seen.

The yellow brick road. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” The ruby slippers. “We’re off to see the wizard.” The Wicked Witch of the West. The Emerald City. Flying monkeys. “There’s no place like home.” These lines and icons, and so many more, have remained in the American cultural mythology for six decades now, and the answers to why they resonate more with deep meaning and feeling than with kitsch value to millions of people lie throughout this remarkable film.

The Wizard of Oz

More Film

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Signs Netflix Deal With Expanded Coverage

    SAG-AFTRA and streaming giant Netflix have agreed to a new three-year contract with expanded coverage for union performers. Netflix has previously employed SAG-AFTRA members under the union’s standard master contracts for television and film and had been signing on a production by production basis. The union announced Saturday that the new deal recognizes performance capture as covered work [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Passes 'Avatar' to Become Biggest Movie in History

    After “Avatar’s” impressive 10 year reign as box office champion, “Avengers: Endgame” has officially dethroned James Cameron’s sci-fi epic to become the biggest movie of all time. On Saturday, Disney and Marvel’s blockbuster crossed $2.7892 billion at the global box office, and will exceed the $500,000 in ticket sales needed to surpass “Avatar’s” $2.7897 billion [...]

  • Neve CampbellVariety's Power of Women NY

    Neve Campbell Seeking SAG-AFTRA Board Seat on Matthew Modine Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    Neve Campbell is running for a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Campbell is best known for starring as Sidney Prescott in the “Scream” movies and as LeAnn Harvey in “House of Cards.” Her credits include “Skyscraper,” “Wild Things” and “The Craft.” Election ballots will [...]

  • Themba-Bhebhe

    Durban FilmMart’s Themba Bhebhe on Diversity: ‘We Are At a Crossroads’

    DURBAN–A new thematic strand at this year’s Durban FilmMart, Engage @ DFM, offers a series of think tanks and in-depth discussions concerning diversity and de-colonial approaches to and models for filmmaking. To head up the new initiative, the DFM tapped guest curator Themba Bhebhe, who has led the Diversity & Inclusion initiative at the last two editions of [...]

  • Durban Film Festival 2019 / Copyright

    South African Creatives Grapple Over Copyright Amendment Bill

    DURBAN–The South African government is planning to update its four-decade-old copyright legislation, but what that means for filmmakers was up for debate during a contentious and often heated session at the Durban FilmMart this week. While the Copyright Amendment Bill awaits the signature of President Cyril Ramaphosa, industry stakeholders remain divided over how the proposed [...]

  • 'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office

    'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office With Dazzling Debut at $180 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has jolted the North American box office back to life with an opening weekend in the $180 million range, estimates showed Saturday. “The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and could replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched last year with $182.7 million, as the ninth biggest North American [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content