Sep 252013

Title: Wizard of Oz


Wizard of Oz

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain – or standing arm in arm with you!

Young Dorothy Gale, living in a sepia-toned Kansas is tied up in her dreams of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when a twister apparently lifts her house to the magical Technicolor Land of Oz. There are a variety of witches, including Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in one of the greatest scenery chewing roles of all time. There’s a quest, a trio of charming friends – all of whom with a theme song – a wizard, a daring rescue, a bucket of water, and a deus ex machina that forces the theme, “there’s no place like home.”

Appropriate for:

Ages 8 and up

When the Wizard of Oz was broadcasting every year during my youth I would watch it but was fairly terrified of the Wicked Witch, especially when she was cackling and skywriting, “Surrender Dorothy”. We watched it recently with the kids in IMAX 3D, which had the visual double whammy of giant screen and the witch popping out of it, which I thought would be beyond horrific, but the kids were unperturbed.

Content Warnings:

We’re essentially talking 1939 children’s movie so no. No warnings unless you want to count the scary green lady, her flying monkeys, and the Winkie guards with their halberds.

The Scoop:

There are a lot of Wizard of Oz 75th anniversary releases going on right now even though 2013 is only the 74th year since its release. I won’t bother splitting hairs (too late) because we got to see it in IMAX 3D with giant sound. I wasn’t sure how the antique 35mm film format would translate to a format that’s essentially double the size. When looking at modern high-resolution films on IMAX, like The Hobbit, any little flaw is amplified. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the image for the Wizard of Oz. The kids pointed out that some things did look like props, which is fully to be expected, but in general it looked great. I suspect there was some digital airbrushing to help put that golden age glow on things but when the movie goes Technicolor you can see Judy Garland’s freckles. I didn’t know that Judy Garland had freckles. You can also see where the studio floor ends and the painted backdrop begins as the yellow brick road snakes up over painted hills.

But I found it easy to ignore and let myself get caught up in the performances. Often the acting in old films can be stilted, wooden, or dated. You might find yourself asking, “how can the Tin Man be from Boston?” but the subject matter of the story allowed the actors a freedom they didn’t normally have and some of them, most notably Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch and Frank Morgan as the Wizard are wonderfully over the top. Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr as the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion also have plenty of room to play with their characters and can still make the audience laugh over 70 years later.

The Wizard of Oz is going to be around for a long time, and not just because it’s getting a bunch of Blu-Ray and DVD releases but because it’s a fairly timeless movie that’s aged well.

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