Written by Musgo del Jefe
It's intimidating to sit down to write a review of The Wizard Of Oz. I put it right up there with reviewing The Beatles or Huck Finn. What do you say that hasn't already been said? How do you find an angle on something in its seventh decade? For full disclosure, I have to admit that this movie has been in my Top 5 films ever since I was probably five- or six-years-old. Movies have come and gone and this film has never wavered. When we got a VCR, it was the first film I taped off of TV and watched and rewatched. When it was released on VHS, I had the deluxe edition. And back again for another version for the 50th Anniversary. In 1999, I was put my money down for a bare bones DVD version for the 60th Anniversary. Just back in 2005, I purchased the three-disc Collector's Edition on DVD. Now, Warner Bros. has gone into full Oz-mode again for the 70th Anniversary of the film.
First, the film. This is not the film that I watched year after year on CBS in my youth. The print is vibrant and living. If you haven't seen the film in years or only on television, then you haven't seen this film. There isn't a better Technicolor film out there. Simply put, this film uses color as a character. The Sepia portion of the film is so well shot and the story is so captivating, that you are lulled to sleep almost by the soft browns and whites. Once the film turns to Technicolor, the primary colors warm over all your senses. The brilliance of the Yellow Brick Road, the poppies and the Emerald City are just a few of the colors that strike you upon viewing this restored feature.
Does the story of Dorothy Gale from Kansas still stand up today? After 70 years, it's a fair question. The movie unfolds at a relatively slow pace compared to many films of today. There are plenty of songs and plot development before you ever see your first Munchkin or dead witch. But the plot never talks down to the viewer. The story of a young, misunderstood girl looking for an escape from her everyday life is one that still plays well today. I always found that the distinct beats in the story were almost planned to play on television, although the movie was made almost 20 years before it would become an annual fixture on TV. Every 15-20 minutes, there's a natural breathing point, whether when a tornado hits the house or after meeting a new character. There's an ebb and flow to the story that many screenwriters could take a clue from today. Think of the juxtaposition of the relief of finding Emerald City and the surprise tension of the witch spelling out "Surrender Dorothy" in the sky above the city. There's still plenty to enjoy about this film today.