1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” is and is still widely considered the definitive fantasy masterpiece that has barely aged after so many decades. Even film fans that don’t care much for older films still have a hard time turning down “The Wizard of Oz” and ignoring its indefinable charm, and sense of adventure. Victor Fleming’s “The Wizard Of Oz” remains one of the most influential and engaging masterpieces, one filled with awe, surrealism, and a healthy sense of mystery, even eighty years after its initial release.
Based on the timeless fantasy series from L. Frank Baum, Dorothy is a young girl who lives with her three uncles and grandmother in a farm in Kansas. After her loyal dog Toto gets in to trouble, he’s taken away by the mean Miss Gulch. Attempting getting him back and swearing to run away, she’s caught up in a twister and is mysteriously carried away in to the magical Technicolor land of Oz. Armed with her courage, heart, brains, and loyal Toto, Dorothy has to trek to meet the Wizard who may just be able to get her back home. That’s if she can avoid the Wicked Witch of the West, and her evil flying monkeys.
“The Wizard of Oz” remains the gold standard for classic movie buffs and fantasy buffs alike, it’s a simple narrative put in to an epic and elaborate fantasy adventure. Believe it or not, it even blurs the line between hero and villain, as Dorothy is the hapless intruder in Oz, and the Wicked Witch seeks vengeance for the accidental murder of her own sister. There isn’t a ton of exposition on the origins of the villains and side characters, and that’s why it’s so much fun. Much of it is left to our own imagination, while the holes can be filled through L. Frank Baum’s wonderful book series. Judy Garland’s performance as Dorothy is one of the quintessential heroine roles as she’s supported by a great cast of performers like Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr, respectively. Filled with comedy, charm, drama, excitement and some truly original monsters, “The Wizard of Oz” is still a mesmerizing masterpiece.
The new 4K UHD’s Video codec is 2160p/HEVC H.265. It can be viewed in Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+, subject to varying results. Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It looks vibrant and beautiful with its colors and grays bursting on to the screen. It’s almost a brand new experience. Nearly all of the extras from previous Blu-ray editions of The Wizard of Oz have been ported over to the 4K UHD release; whether or not that’s a deal breaker depends on the buyer/collector, so you don’t have to sell previous editions if you want to keep them for the sake of this new release.
On the 4K UHD Disc, there’s an audio commentary with late director Sydney Pollack, who leads a talk on archival reminiscences, analysis, and countless production facts and anecdotes from a host of notable Oz cast members and experts, including Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, the children of Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, producer Mervyn LeRoy, munchkin Jerry Maren (one of the Lollipop Guild boys), and John Fricke, arguably the world’s foremost authority on both The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland. There’s even original Tin Man Buddy Ebsen, who shares his memories of his brief Oz experience. There’s a wealth of information for this commentary and it’s a gold mine for fanatics of the movie. There’s the fifty one minute Documentary “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic.”
Here actress and former MGM contract player Angela Lansbury hosts this 1990 chronicle of the film’s colorful production history. There is discussion of on-set accidents, technical secrets, Munchkin myths, scoring, and deleted scenes. It is produced by the Tin Man’s son, Jack Haley, Jr. The Blu-ray Disc also includes the aforementioned audio commentary with Sydney Pollack. There’s the seventy minutes “The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” a 2013 documentary, narrated by actor Martin Sheen, which covers much the same territory as the Lansbury documentary. However there are a lot more new interviews with composer Stephen Schwartz, Oz and Garland expert John Fricke, film historian Leonard Maltin, two surviving Munchkins, and even the great-grandson of author L. Frank Baum, among many others.
It is absolutely essential viewing for anyone even casually interested in this masterpiece. The ten minutes “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook” is a wonderful illustrated video storybook as read by the wonderful Angela Lansbury. There’s the twenty one minute featurette “We Haven’t Really Met Properly…” with Lansbury returning to narrate nine beautiful mini profiles of Oz cast members. Included are clips from other films in which the actors appeared, as well as a few fun facts. Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick, and even Toto all get tributes, sans Judy Garland, inexplicably and bafflingly. There’s the seventy minutes Jukebox, which offers alternate takes and false starts of “Over the Rainbow” (even with Garland experiments with a faster tempo), as well as various rehearsal recordings, voice tests, deleted songs, and underscoring, and so much more.
“Leo Is On the Air” is a twelve minute Radio Promo from MGM’s weekly promotional radio program focusing on The Wizard of Oz. It includes excerpts from the film’s score, as well as studio hype. There’s also the sixty minutes “Good News of 1939” Radio Show with actor Robert Young hosting an Oz tribute in advance of the film’s gala release. Garland, Bolger, and Lahr appear on the MGM-sponsored program, along with composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y Harburg. In addition to the Oz content. There’s also a performance of “Over the Rainbow” by Garland, and a Baby Snooks sketch starring comedienne Fanny Brice.
There’s the 1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast, an hour long radio adaptation of Oz, with Garland recreating the role of Dorothy for a Christmas Day broadcast. There’s the Sing-Along feature, a Music and Effects Track showcasing the excellent score from Victor Young, and the original Mono Track with the soundtrack in its original format. Finally, there are eighteen Stills Galleries, with pictures including candid photos, promotional material, sketches, and storyboards relating to a wide range of topics from before the project’s inception all the way through production, the film’s premiere, and various revivals. Finally there’s the original theatrical trailer, a teaser, and six trailers covering myriad years from 1938 to 1998.