‘THE WIZARD OF OZ’
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Somewhere over the Rainbow
This is a classic, magical, fantasy, musical movie that stands up to this day!
‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a family favourite and has cherished millions of people across the world with its spectacular music; songs; colourful characters and settings. I remembered seeing this film when I was small; being enchanted with the story a lot and was also frightened of the Wicked Witch herself.
But this isn’t a film meant for scaring. It’s an uplifting, feel-good film about a girl named Dorothy with her little dog Toto who wants to get back to her home in Kansas. She’s joined by the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion to reach the Emerald City and also meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Based on the works of L. Frank Baum, this film was made in 1939. It doesn’t look like it was made in 1939 at all! Really! I look at it and think it’s so glossy; well-made and cleverly done for its time. This is what you would call ‘The Lord of the Rings’ of its time with ground-breaking movie effects and such.
Produced by MGM, this film was won over by another classic film called ‘Gone With The Wind’. But it’s because of Judy Garland’s star performance and her award-winning song ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ that it has managed to capture people’s hearts and it is still being watched even to this day.
I like how the film opens in sepia black and white where we see Dorothy and her dog Toto in Kansas at the farm with her Aunty Em and Uncle Henry (played by Clara Blandick and Charley Grapewin). This sets the movie on a dismal tone where Dorothy is in a place where she’s unhappy and unsettled early on.
Dorothy wants to seek a new place ‘over the rainbow’ and to get away from where she won’t get into trouble. The way the film opens in sepia black and white is a clever approach. This technique was reused again when Sam Raimi directed the prequel Disney film ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ in 2013.
Eventually the house gets whisked away by a tornado. Tornados really scare me, even when I saw ‘Twister’ which I don’t want to see again. The house soon crash lands with a bump as it ends up in the land of Oz and we’re into colour. I liked how Dorothy opened the door and entered the land of Oz.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a rare film to be in colour especially in 1939. I absolutely enjoyed the colourful world of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which is so rich with magical settings and characters. This reflects Dorothy’s wonder of it all when she sees the world of Oz first time, compared with being in Kansas.
Eventually Dorothy is met by the good Witch of the North, Billie Burke as Glinda. She’s also welcomed by the Munchkins of Munchkin Land who are grateful to Dorothy for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. I like Glinda who happens to be a Good Witch, which is tricky to imagine as Dorothy points out.
Glinda mentions that only bad witches are ugly. This is a contradiction as Kathleen Turner played a bad witch in ‘A Simple Wish’ with Mara Wilson. But I liked it when Glinda appeared in her pink bubble and helps Dorothy out, especially by the end of the film when she speaks and sings in musical tones.
The Munchkins were a pleasure to watch. They must have got plenty of little actors and actresses to play these parts. The range of characters from the Mayor to the Coroner was extraordinary to see. I liked it when they had their little songs and spoke in high-pitched and sometimes silly, funny voices.
There are little groups of Munchkins including the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild which was funny and sweet. All of the Munchkins are grateful to Dorothy for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy appreciates their gratitude, even if some of the Munchkins make her feel a bit nervous.
The celebrations are soon over when the Wicked Witch of the West arrives to claim vengeance and steal the ruby slippers that her sister wore. But the slippers soon end up on Dorothy’s feet. The Wicked Witch vows to hunt her and her dog down to get those slippers back. This terrifies Dorothy.
In order to escape the Witch’s wrath, Dorothy must take a journey on the yellow brick road to reach the Emerald City. There she must find the great Wizard of Oz and seek his help and advice in order to get her back home. This will be a fun and exciting journey also riddled with danger and darkness in it.
The film’s cast is led by the amazingly talented Judy Garland as Dorothy. This was the first film I saw Judy Garland in before seeing her other works with Mickey Rooney. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a film that won Judy her fame and what she’s well-known for. I love how she portrays Dorothy with her curious nature.
Dorothy makes friends with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. She loves her dog Toto and has a fiery spirit when she doesn’t like seeing people do terrible things. She’s easily upset when the Witch does some very nasty things. Judy plays this young girl well and has an amazing singing voice.
On the yellow brick road, the first person Dorothy meets is Roy Bolger as the Scarecrow. I love the Scarecrow and how he starts with pointing which ways to go to confuse Dorothy. This Scarecrow is alive but can’t make his mind. He hasn’t got a brain, only straw. He can’t scare anybody, not even a crow.
I love how the Scarecrow sings to Dorothy ‘If I Only Had A Brain’ and seeing his physical comedy when he falls over. There was an extended version of ‘If I Only Had A Brain’ but it was cut from the final edit. You can see it though via the DVD/Blu-ray extras. The Scarecrow soon joins Dorothy to meet the Wizard.
Soon, after a disagreement with some talking trees with apples (the first Ents in 1939 😀 ), Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet…a
Cyberman, um, I’m sorry – the Tin Man with his axe. Jack Haley stars as the Tin Man, who is encased in a lot of silver and has his face painted in silver with a snout-like nose.
I like how Dorothy and the Scarecrow discover him before he tries to speak through his rusted mouth, asking for the oil can. When they squirt his mouth with oil, his mouth comes back to life and he talks again. Dorothy and Scarecrow think he’s wonderful, but the Tin Man says he is empty without a heart.
I love the Tin Man when he sings ‘If I Only Had A Heart’ and does his rusty metallic dance. The Tin Man is one of those Pinocchio characters who wants to have a heart and this is before Data from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ happened. 😀 The Tin Men soon joins Dorothy and the Scarecrow to meet the Wizard.
The new three friends soon enter the dark forest and don’t like the place, fearing there might be ‘lions, tigers and bears’. Oh my! Suddenly a lion appears; leaps and lashes out onto them. Dorothy and her friends become very terrified of Bert Lahr as the Lion, as he seems to be pretty fierce at first.
But after being hit by Dorothy when he tries to get at her dog Toto, he cries sobbing. He’s upset because Dorothy hurt him. It turns out he’s not fierce at all. Dorothy calls him a ‘coward’ and he admits it. This is a Cowardly Lion who doesn’t have any courage at all. He can’t sleep at night on this either.
Dorothy and the others offer the Cowardly Lion to join her; the Scarecrow and the Tin Man on their journey to meet the Wizard of Oz to ask for courage. The Lion agrees, singing ‘If Only He Had The Nerve’ before they all sing they’re ‘off to see the Wizard…the Wonderful Wizard of Oz…’ at the end.
One member of the company to see the Wizard of Oz is someone often overlooked…and that’s Toto, Dorothy’s dog (whose real name is Terry, despite the credits). Toto is one little dog full of adventure and is always loyal to Dorothy. He runs back to Dorothy when he’s taken away earlier by Miss Gulch in Kansas.
Toto even looks for Dorothy’s friends in the dark forest when they’re up against the Wicked Witch and need to rescue Dorothy. I enjoyed Toto’s scenes, especially when he eats one of Professor Marvel’s sausages or chases a cat at the end. A great little movie star and always fun to play with. 😀
Dorothy and the others eventually arrive at the Emerald City and run for it through the fields of dazzling, attractive, red poppies. These poppies are poisoned by the Wicked Witch, as they send Dorothy to sleep as well as the Cowardly Lion. They’re soon saved by Glinda the Good Witch herself.
The big star of the film is Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz himself. Oz, the Great and Powerful, is this gigantic head inside a huge chamber that’s almost translucent and scary. It’s amazing what they did with fire and smoke for the giant head in 1939. This reminds me of Zordan from ‘Power Rangers’. 😀
The Wizard seems omnipotent, terrifying and difficult to reason with, especially when Dorothy and her friends meet him. They’re easily scared by him. But it turns out that there’s more to this amazing Wizard than it first seems. The Wizard happens to be ‘a good man, but just a very bad wizard’ here.
Frank Morgan played five parts in the film. As well as the Wizard, he played Professor Marvel in the real world as well as the Doorman; the Cabbie and the Guard in Emerald City. I loved it when the Doorman demanded, “Who rang that bell?!” and hadn’t put the ‘BELL OUT OF ORDER’ notice in the first place.
The movie’s villain is Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s pretty terrifying with her green make-up and cackling laugh. She’s onto Dorothy and terrifies the living daylights out of her. I found it terrifying when she’s threatening Dorothy and her friends, especially the Scarecrow.
The Wicked Witch appears and disappears in a puff of red smoke as well as flying on her broomstick. I enjoyed the climax when the Witch threatens and locks Dorothy in her castle. She even threatens Toto the dog and also gets angry when she can’t get the ruby slippers off Dorothy’s feet in the film.
I enjoyed it when Dorothy’s friends, the Scarecrow; the Tin Man and the Lion get into the castle and rescue her by bluffing their way through the procession of guards. When they’re being chased by the Wicked Witch and her guards, it feels pretty epic, exciting and terrifying at the same time in the film.
Eventually when the Witch has trapped Dorothy and her friends at one point, Dorothy unintentionally has the answer in defeating the Witch by throwing water at her to save the Scarecrow’s life. It brings the Wicked Witch out in a rage when she’s melting and dying. Pretty terrifying stuff when I first saw that.
The music and the songs in the film are pretty spectacular and certainly well remembered. As I said, Judy Garland won an award for her song ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. The song ‘We’re Off To See The Wizard!’ is well-remembered in the hearts and minds of many people from seeing this film.
There are plenty of songs in the movie that people remember and love and only a few that didn’t made it into the final film. This includes ‘The Jitterbug’, also found in the DVD/Blu-ray extras, which would have been creepy if it was shown. The songs can now be purchased via ‘The Wizard of Oz’ CD album.
The film was shown at the cinemas and was a huge hit with many audiences. It was later shown on TV and later released and re-released on video as well as the cinema. I saw this film when Mum and Dad purchased the VHS and have seen it on a repackaged 3-disc collector’s edition DVD and the 75th anniversary Blu-ray edition.
The DVD special features of the 3-disc collector’s edition DVD are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a commentary moderated by Sydney Pollack with contributions from Oz historian John Fricke and archive interviews from Ray Bolger; Jack Haley; Margaret Hamilton; producer Mervyn LeRoy; make-up artist William Tuttle and orchestral arranger Ken Darby. There’s also ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook’ read by Angela Lansbury; the ‘Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz’ featurette and the ‘We Haven’t Met Properly’ supporting cast profile gallery.
On Disc 2, there’s the in-depth documentary called ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic’. There’s also ‘Memories of Oz’; ‘The Art of Imagination: A Tribute To Oz’; ‘Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz’ and ‘Composer Harold Arlen’s Home Movies’. There are also outtakes and deleted scenes; ‘It’s A Twister! It’s A Twister!’; ‘Off To See The Wizard’ and ‘From The Vault’, featuring three vintage featurettes with a PLAY ALL option including ‘Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power’, an excerpt from ‘Cavalcade of the Academy Awards’ and ‘Text Contest Winners’. There’s also the ‘Audio Vault’ including the ‘Jukebox’ and three radio broadcasts including ‘Leo Is On The Air – Radio Promo’, ‘Good News of 1939’ and the ‘1950 Christmas Day Lux Radio Broadcast’. There’s also a stills gallery and six theatrical trailers of the movie.
On Disc 3, there’s the documentary ‘The Man Behind The Curtain’ about Oz creator L. Frank Baum. There are also five previous ‘Oz’ films including the ‘The Wizard of Oz’ 1910 short film; ‘The Magic Cloak of Oz’ 1914 short film; the ‘His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz’ 1914 film; ‘The Wizard of Oz’ 1925 film and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ 1993 cartoon. There’s also a selection of productions from the 1939 promotional material celebrate the film premiere of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
The Blu-ray special features of the 75th anniversary Blu-ray edition are as follows. The commentary; ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook’; the ‘Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz’ featurette; the ‘We Haven’t Met Properly’ supporting cast profile gallery; ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic’ documentary; ‘Memories of Oz’; ‘The Art of Imagination: A Tribute To Oz’; ‘Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz’; ‘Composer Harold Arlen’s Home Movies’; outtakes and deleted scenes; ‘It’s A Twister! It’s A Twister!’; ‘Off To See The Wizard’; the three vintage featurettes including ‘Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power’, an excerpt from ‘Cavalcade of the Academy Awards’ and ‘Text Contest Winners’; the ‘Jukebox’; the three radio broadcasts including ‘Leo Is On The Air – Radio Promo’, ‘Good News of 1939’ and the ‘1950 Christmas Day Lux Radio Broadcast’; the stills gallery; the theatrical trailers; ‘The Man Behind The Curtain’ documentary and the five previous ‘Oz’ films can be found on there.
The new special features on Blu-ray include a sing-along with the movie; ‘Victor Fleming: Master Craftsman’; ‘Hollywood Celebrates Its Biggest Little Stars’; ‘The Dreamer of Oz’ TV movie; the ‘MGM: When the Lion Roars’ six hour documentary and a digital copy of the movie.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a true classic and a successful film that has become a part of movie history. It stands the test of time even to this day and is well-remembered for many things. It was one of first films to be in colour; has a magical music arrangement and features the ever-talented Judy Garland.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ rating – 10/10
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