Wizard of Oz
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Wizard of Oz

There are a rare few films that manage to transcend mere popularity rising above popular culture to actually become infused into the fabric of our humanity. A film like this is much more than s movie; it becomes part of the collective audience and from there a piece of cinematic history. A list of films that meet this exalted criteria is naturally a very short one but there is on film that always makes the grade; ĎThe Wizard of Ozí. When the film was first released back in 1939 it was to the profound amazement if the audience not only for its incredible technological advancements but for the gentle story that has persisted in our hearts for almost a century. In large part because of this the movie has made its way over to more than a few home entertainment releases over the years from video tape to DVD and now to the high definition Blu-ray. I admit that that I have purchased several incarnations over the years and joyfully renewed the tradition of watching it with my daughter. The film was met with mediocre response during its initial theatrical run despite the novel transition from black and white to Technicolor. It managed to garner a new generation of loyal fans when it started to make annular television appearances around the holidays. This was the venue that first introduced me to this classic. Many younger folk out there may wonder why they should watch a film that is now celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The answer is simple; the entertainment value has never diminished over the decades. Many movie claim to be timeless but this is one that has proven it owns the description. You might wonder why someone would consider a repurchase of yet another release of the same movie. Once again there is rather simple. The latest re-mastering, this time in high definition is absolutely unbelievable. Both the audio and video are on par with any modern block buster release. Add to that many hours of completely new additional content all in a special collectorís edition packaging and you have something that will reside in a special place in your collection.

If you arenít familiar with the story welcome to our planet; you must have come from many light years away. Just how much went into this release is evident before you even open the shipping packaging; it has quite a heft to it. I get a lot of editions like this for review but this one stood out right from the start. The package it a bright emerald green box that hinges open to reveal the treasures within. Just outside the box is a poster of Dorothy on hard cardboard. The first item to pull out is the hard covered book ĎBehind the Curtainí this 52 page book details the production of the film including rare behind the scenes photos, production notes and cast biographies. This shows just the slightest peek and the attention to detail that was required to pull off this masterpiece.

The next level down in its own wrapper is a reproduction of the original campaign booklet. This was used in the promotion of the movie and a reproduction has been highly sought after by hard core memorabilia collectors. This is the first time such an extra has been made available for this film. Now we are up to a page that details of the budget for the movie. Donít let the apparent low figures mislead you. Keep in mind that the amounts are in 1938 dollars. The bottom line budget shown on this sheet comes to about $2.7 million.

Packed in a separate compartment in a metal box of its own is a commemorative watch reportedly with real jewel movement, I did not have this claim tested and didnít wind it up so I cannot attest to its accuracy.

This is a four disc set with one for the feature, two with extra content and the forth is a digital copy for transfer to your computer.

Disc One

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The Movie

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Commentary by film historian John Frike

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Dolby 5.1 sing-a-long

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The Wonderful World of Oz: the Making of the movie

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The Wonderful World of Oz: Read by Angela

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We Havenít Met Properly: Lansbury Supporting Cast

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Prettier than Ever: the Restoration. Memories of Oz: The Art of Imagination

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Memories of Oz: Tribute to the Film

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Itís a Twister: The Tornados test

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Harold Arlenís Home movies: Outtakes and deleted scenes.

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From the Audio Vault

Disc Two

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Complete version of 1914's The Magical Cloak of Oz than the one found on the previous disc, and the newly-added The Patchwork Girl of Oz, also from 1914. Both silent movies were produced by L. Frank Baum himself

Disc Three

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Six-hour documentary MGM: When the Lion Roared, a chronicle of the rise and decline of one of a legendary Hollywood movie studio.

Of course the absolute greatest thing about this release is the latest re-mastering. When Dorothy steps out of the sepia tinged farm house into the Technicolor world of Oz the impact is almost visceral. I could only wonder what it was like 70 years ago to witness this in a darkened theater. Like most people I have seen this movie more times than I can remember but this was like seeing it through new eyes with as greater appreciation for countless tiny details. You can make out the line of demarcation for the facial makeup demonstrating just how astonishing the make-up was. The colors are bright and not just vibrant but alive with the textures of the costumes evident. The Dolby True HD audio gives a remarkable depth to the sound track with every nuance of the performance audible. The original mono mix is also included. I set my 7.1 receiver to reprocess this to emulate an old fashion theater just to get into the spirit of the anniversary. Any awy you watch and listen to this film it will be like nothing you have experience.

Posted 11/29/09

Wizard of Oz 3D

 

To honor the seventy fifth anniversaries, celebrating the 75th anniversary in 2013, albeit a year early, the studio once again returned to the remastering bays to perform yet another high tech marvels. To this end they decided to bring this beloved movie into the new millennium by including the illusion of depth by releasing a 3D edition. I was of a divided mind upon receiving the review copy. Like millions of people this movie has held a place of honor in some cherished childhood memories. For many of us this was the first taste of a horror with the flying monkeys and danger around every corner. The thing is I have always been a staunch supporter of providing the original specifications of the film which is a position contrary to this magnitude of modification. Despite these reservations I tried my best to put them aside as I watch the ĎWizard of Ozí, a 1939 classic intended to showcase the cinematic use of color photography to now demonstrating the state of the art in retrofitting 3D. I was amazed beyond any expectation.

The film begins as always in black white but at this point the depth of the 3D planes is pulled back to being only marginally noticeable. When Dorothy opens the farm house door and steps into Munchkin Land the 3D effects are quickly dialed up. This had the effect that not only had Dorothy stepped out of her mundane black and white reality of Kansas but the world is now in full three dimension. Before moving on I found myself rewinding several times to watch it again and time again, each time still as amazed as the first. I realized I must have experienced the same elation and sense of wonderment as the audience 75 years ago felt when the color burst out at them. This demonstrated to me something that dissipated any trepidation I might have had. They didnít just go back and blindly added 3D like some of the conversion programs out there might, they put an incredible amount of time, effort and though into practically each from of the movie as to the optimal means of adding 3D consistent with telling the story in a fresh way using the new technology to enhance the experience of the audience not just to show off the new technique and pull extra money from the audience, you can get the above commemorative with the 3D disc included or, if you already paid a hefty sum for the 2005 deluxe set, you can  purchase the one disc 3D edition. Not only is this a sign of respect for the loyal; fans but the new disc and case fit perfectly in the box set as if they anticipated this move. Not every film should be retrofitted in this way but in this instance it added to the experience while retaining everything that has been loved by so many for so long.

Posted 01/01/2014

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