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Warners burnishes ‘Oz’ DVD

New restoration created with high-def in mind

Warner Home Video will release two new special editions of “The Wizard of Oz” on Oct. 25 that include the first new restoration and new bonus features in 12 years.

Restoration utilizes Warner’s proprietary digital “Ultra-Resolution” technology process used on recent releases of titles such as last year’s “Gone With the Wind.”

New restoration has been created with high-def presentation in mind. “Wizard” will not be one of the first batch of high-def DVDs Warner releases this fall, when it plans to introduce the first releases on one of two incompatible high-def disc formats called HD DVD. But Warner Home Video senior VP classic catalog George Feltenstein said it will likely be among the first waves of movies released in high-def.

The score and soundtrack have also been enhanced and remastered for a new 5.1 channel stereo audio track, creating more separation from the two microphones used to record some of the music, in addition to the option of the original mono track.

Two versions of the DVD will be released with very different sleeve art for the two-disc special edition and the three-disc collector’s edition.

Three-disc edition, with 13 hours of bonus features, including more than five hours of new extras, features a new documentary about creator L. Frank Baum and the entire 1925 silent feature film version of “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. Earlier pic has been restored from 35mm nitrate and features a new score recorded by Robert Israel.

Warners estimates that about 20 million copies of the movie have been sold collectively in the multiple VHS and Betamax editions, three laserdisc editions and two previous DVD editions since the initial VHS release in 1980 as one of MGM’s first group of homevideo titles. That edition used an original theatrical release print. The studio reissued the movie on video in a 50th anniversary edition in 1989 using a transfer from a rare Technicolor print found in the basement of CBS.

In 1993 MGM released “The Ultimate Oz” set that featured the film transferred from a new interpositive from the original negative and hours of bonus features presented in their entirety on a laserdisc set. But that edition has registration problems with colors out of alignment, causing fuzziness and ghosting in some scenes.

That same film element was used for the edition that MGM released in 1997 for one of its first DVDs, which had none of the bonus features from “The Ultimate Oz,” and again on the 1999 DVD release from Warner, which had then taken over the MGM library. That current release includes all of the bonus features from the 1993 laserdisc.

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