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The Wizard of Oz (1939)

We're off to see the Wizard

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 101 minutes

US Certificate: Passed UK Certificate: U

It’s hard to imagine that there are people who, if they have a television or have ever seen a movie, have not seen The Wizard of Oz. One of the most universally iconic movies of all time, watching it again, through the eyes of a reviewer, doesn’t really change anything about the experience, and in fact, is a reminder of what makes a perfect movie.

For that one guy out there who’s inexplicably reading this, having never seen the film, the plot is as follows. Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) wishes she could see the world beyond her little Kansas farm, and then, as luck and Technicolor would have it, a tornado comes and carries Dorothy and her little dog Toto far, far away to a land “over the rainbow.” This is a land populated with singing Munchkins, apple-throwing trees, and new best friends in the forms of a Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man (Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley), but now that she’s seen the world—a world also full of flying monkeys and a Wicked Witch who wants her pretty red shoes (Margaret Hamilton)—Dorothy and her friends just want to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and get hearts and brains and courages and homes.

What was remarkable at the time about The Wizard of Oz was how much credit its filmmakers gave to young audiences. This was a children’s movie, made when studios saw the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but even with its glittery red slippers and happy soundtrack, it’s got some darkness and layers—and I’m not even talking about those nightmare-inducing monkeys. Even watching it now, after all those annual viewings and special screenings, this is an EVENT film, and it still holds something for every age. What doesn’t get mentioned as much is the effects—for the time, the color, make-up, and special effects were amazing, and they hold up 70 years later better than some stuff that was made in the last decade.

Then, of course, there’s Judy. Thank GOD that those Shirley Temple rumors weren’t true, or at least, even if they were, never happened. Knowing Garland as we do now, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is a whole different kind of sad, but in that moment, in that film, she sang a song so purely (a song that almost got cut) that she was absolutely a star. But every performance was superb, especially Hamilton, the epitome of screen villain who may never actually meet her match in scary. Few films can be considered “classics,” and even fewer can bear repeated viewings. The Wizard of Oz, though, is the perfect combination of star quality, universal story, and movie magic, and on the 70th anniversary of a year that spawned a gaggle of unforgettable cinema (Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Goodbye Mr. Chips), it’s the one that’s best withstood the test of time.

It's Got: Judy Garland, Technicolor, Munchkins, the best music, a terrifying witch

It Needs: To be watched 70 years from now

DVD Extras Audio Commentary by John Fricke and multiple cast and crew members; Biographies of 9 original cast biographies; Deleted Scenes; Documentary: “Memories of Oz-2001” (TCM documentary); Featurette: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook” (Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz; The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz; Because of the Wonderful Things it Does: The Legacy of Oz); Music Clips; Newsreel: “Cavalcade of the Academy Awards Excerpt” (1939 newsreel); Other: (Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power - 1938 MGM short; Leo Is on the Air Radio Promo; Good News of 1939 Radio Show; 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast); Photo Gallery: (Oz on Broadway; Pre-MGM; Sketches and Storyboards; Costume and Make-up Tests; Richard Thorpe's Oz; Buddy Ebsen; Oz Comes to Life; Behind the Scenes; Portraits; Special Effects; Post Production; Deleted Scenes; Original Publicity); TV Special: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic” (1990 TV special); Theatrical Trailer:1939 What is Oz? Teaser; 1940 Loews Cairo Theater Trailer; 1949 Re-issue Trailer; 1949 Grownup Re-issue Trailer; 1970 Children's Matinee Re-issue Trailer; 1998 Warner Bros. Re-issue Trailer; Texas Contest Winners [1939 trailer] DVD Extras Rating: 10/10


Perhaps the most instantly recognizable film of all times, and unquestionably one of the best, The Wizard of Oz still offers something new every time.