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03 August 2011

The Wizard of Oz (1939) [Musical Film-a-Thon] 22#

Directed by: Victor Fleming
Genre: Fantasy, Musical, Family
Runtime: 103 Minutes
It is still timeless and I still love it. A sheer masterpiece that is sincere and warm and its wholesome have touched the hearts of millions. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has a cultural status that is overwhelming and there are few people who have not heard of names like ‘Dorothy Gale’ and the film’s title; it has become recognised throughout the world to film fans, critics, lovers, and people regardless if everyone has enjoyed it or not. At this point, I have watched the film at least 13 times but l still enjoy every time I see it because of its delightful music, warm characters and true emotion with a message that will be resonate forever. It is among the greatest films of all time and for good reason.

The story is not something people are unfamiliar with but if you do not you do not it goes like this. Dorothy Gale is a young girl who lives on a Kansas farm who is lonesome and bored and soon a woman called Miss Gulch comes to take Dorothy’s dog Toto after chasing her cat. Dorothy refuses and runs off and encounters professor Marvel who convinces her to go back home with false magic but suddenly a tornado comes. She runs home to find that Aunt Emme and the others are in the underground hut and she runs into the house where she is knocked unconscious. Dorothy then enters the dream world of Oz that may make you forget it is not reality. She steps into the wonderfully colourful Land of Oz; it is a journey for her to get back home. Along the way, she meets munchkins, a scarecrow, a tin man, a lion, and of course an evil witch.

The movie's storytelling device of a dream is just precisely obvious enough to appeal to younger viewers. The film begins in a sepia toned black & white film and once Dorothy takes her first step into the wonderfully (but psychological) Technicolor Land of Oz you get the same impact every time. Suddenly everything is colourful and bright. Just seeing Judy Garland in her sepia tone moment singing ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ brought a tear to my eye, not of sadness, but because of how beautiful it was. Let alone the Blu-ray restoration version was overwhelmingly beautiful and the good thing about it was it still felt like the classic film it is. The story is something no less than monumental. They're touching on the key lesson of childhood, which is that someday the child will not be a child, that home will no longer exist, that adults will be no help because now the child is an adult and must face the challenges of life alone. But that you can ask friends to help you. In addition, that even the Wizard of Oz is only human, and has problems of his own.

In addition, what I loved was the performances given that were wonderfully eccentric. You truly do not get actors and actresses like this any more. You may have Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and even Johnny Depp but there is something different with actors of the 1960’s and below. Regardless, I am not calling every other actor today dumb. Judy Garland is young here and you could say it is her first leap of acting. Unmistakably she had talent from she began, and Garland is easily my favourite actress. The most unfortunate thing of her career was her early death as she passed away at only 47. Garland in this film is only 17-18 and was gracious as Dorothy.

Another thing that makes this film what it is, is the important message it really has and it is something that connects with millions. There is no place like home. L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz story is almost like a lesson and his characters are sincerely bright. The three characters, tin man, the cowardly lion and there unforgettable Scarecrow are all wonderful characters that clearly represent a part of humanity. The Cowardly Lion represents how you should always have courage in the darkest of times and when Oz gives the lion the medal saying on it ‘courage’ that is in reference with how soldiers and generals are awarded them for bravery. The tin man represents the humanity of every person and that you should always have heart. The Straw Man’s character represents there are great thinkers in the world that are no smarter than you are, but have one thing you do not have, a diploma. This is obviously a bit of sneaky humour from writer Baum that is not completely true but is still funny.   

The children's novel written by L. Frank Baum in 1900 was considered one of the most popular childhood stories. His characters are wholesome and the story is simple, but the execution of book-to-film is where this film’s greatness lies. The chemistry of the actors, the beautiful set design and of course, the characters played by talented people, all these things make this film artistically monumental.

Ray Bolger who originally was offered to be the tin man gratefully played the Scarecrow, but I am glad he got this role, as the voice and face of the scarecrow is memorable with his flare. Let alone he also plays Dorothy’s friend who works at the farm Hunk. Jack Haley whose performance was divine as the soft-hearted tin-man played the tin man. He also plays Dorothy's uncle Hickory. Finally yet importantly is Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion who was lovable and funny.  Then we have Margaret Hamilton as the wicked witch, a character universally known. She is on several greatest villains lists and she is undoubtedly a scary one. Anyone who recalls watching this at a young age will have been scared a little when the witch made her entry. The characters are completely solid in this film with how sincere a charming they are.

‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Gone with the Wind,’ both released in 1939, stand together in the American collective consciousness as the two greatest Hollywood films, one ostensibly for children, the other for adults. However, the influence of ‘Wizard of Oz’ on three generations of adults, who first saw the film as children, may be greater than that of ‘GWTW.’ One thing that is remarkable about this film is on its initial release it was not a heavy grosser like ‘Gone with the Wind’. In its 1949 re-release, it earned an additional $1.5 million (equal to $13,819,327.73 today). Since then after it appeared on TV in the 50’s it became a Christmas film and is when the film begun to become the cultural phenomenon. Millions know it even if it was not talked about as much now as it was. 

It is the ultimate must-see film for the young and old. The film at the time was the most expensive MGM where making. The two things ‘Wizard of OZ’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’ are they films have are they both come from director Victor Fleming, a true cinematic genius who has taken a step into every genre. What overwhelms me is they are bot colossal films and ‘GWTW’ and at almost 4 hours. Originally, this film was given to someone to direct but they dropped out weeks into production, so in came Fleming, who at the time was considered a film-making hero at MGM, and ‘GWTW’ is very much considered Fleming’s work. 

MGM has had magnificent success over the years with having films such as ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and Fleming holds several of MGM’s wonderful films. It is hard to give this film less than a 9/10. It is one of the warmest, but simplest stories in cinema, yet it has a universal power. The music is delightful; the set pieces are colourful and colossal and as long as the film’s legacy lives on so will Victor Fleming’s artistic efforts with the film. It has one of the greatest messages of cinema and is a timeless film. There is not a film-maker in the business who has not seen this film and like this and many other significant films, they have wanted to create something of its magnitude. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is one of the most inspiring and sweet films that as crafted ever so uniquely. . It may not be my favourite film of all time but I cannot deny it’s artistic significance and it is a wholesome film. Furthermore, it is THE must see film by young and old and it will be cherished forever.

My Rating: 9.5/10


  1. Excellent review! I am rather jealous that you got to see it in the Blu-ray format, and I really want to see it in that format!

  2. @Chris Cinephile
    Thanks Chris it looks brilliant. I was amazed to find out it was 50mb a frame, making the total size of the film 20 terrabytes. o course it was compressed to the blu-ray, but isn't that huge for a film!?



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