Frustrated by vicissitudes of Depression-era life, Dorothy wishes she were somewhere else. She gets her wish in ways she couldn’t have imagined, as a tornado drops her into the magical world of Oz. Accompanied by the brain-free Scarecrows, heartless Tin Man and cowardly Lion, she sets out on a quest to return home. In order to be granted that wish by the all-powerful Wizard, she must first defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.
And so I conclude what must surely be the most superfluo…s synopsis on this site. This is one of the most popular and beloved films ever made, and it has lost not one iota of its charm. It remains one of the most perfect family movies ever, its pull utterly irresistible.
The original mono track is joined by a 5.1 mix. Though the surround elements are particularly powerful on this last, the ones that are present are always appropriate (the storm effects are very good), and there are no surround dialogue problems. The music sounds very good, belying the fact that the film is almost seventy years old.
The restoration work is most impressive. Naturally, there is some grain visible, but this is to be expected, as is some minor flicker. But the colours are as strong and vibrant as the day the film was first released, and the Kansas scenes are now not the familiar black-and-white, but the original sepia, which makes things that much more visually interesting. The image is extremely sharp.
There is a well-nigh overwhelming selection of extras. Disc 1 has a commentary by historian John Fricke (introduced by Sydney Pollack). Fricke’s discussion is supplemented by archival interviews with the cast and crew (and their relatives) of the film. Also on this disc is a presentation of the original storybook illustrations (complete with narration), a featurette on the restoration, and short featurettes on nine supporting cast members (including Toto). One also has the option of playing the film with the music-and-effects track only.
Disc 2 has a 50-minute documentary called “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic.” It is joined by three other docs: “Memories of Oz,” “The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz,” “Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz.” The titles are self-explanatory, but the first covers memories of viewers as well (and hence the presence of John Waters). Also here: composer Harold Arlen’s home movies of the set; five outtakes and deleted scenes; “It’s a Twister! It’s a Twister!” (tornado tests); three vintage featurettes; hours upon hours of radio features and unedited musical numbers; a still gallery; a theatrical trailer gallery; and cartoon excerpts that were used to introduce the movies aired as part of the “Off to See the Wizard” TV series.
Disc 3 is, from this writer’s perspective, the real treasure. On top of a documentary about L. Frank Baum, there are five early film incarnations of Oz: “The Wizard of Oz” (1910), “The Magic Cloak of Oz” (1914), “His Majesty: The Scarecrow of Oz” (1914), “The Wizard of Oz” (1925) and a cartoon version from 1933. Enough to make a film buff faint with joy.
The menu’s main screen and intro are animated and scored.
The film needs no recommendation from me. But the extras on this disc are to die for.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Restoration Featurette
- Supporting Cast Profile Gallery
- 5 Documentaries
- Harold Arlen’s Home Movies
- Outtakes and Deleted Scenes
- Tornado Tests
- Vintage Featurettes
- Audio Vault
- Stills Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer Gallery
- Early Film Versions