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Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz, Special Collector's Edition, on DVD

Dorothy’s fantasy trip to the Emerald City and environs looks better than ever in this restored version of Victor Fleming’s other big 1939 release.

We aren’t completely convinced it’s a better restoration than Fleming’s 1939 Gone with the Wind, which was spectacular and is a hard act to follow, but it’s excellent nonetheless, and neither Kansas nor Oz has ever looked so good.

Everyone knows the story by now of whiny little Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) who runs afoul of the local land baroness over her yappy little dog, Toto. She runs away from home rather than lose the dog then, after coming home again, gets knocked on the head and ends up somewhere over the rainbow in the merry old land of Oz.

Dorothy and her new friends the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) head for the Emerald City, home to the great and/or powerful Wizard of Oz, who they hope can send Dorothy home, give the Scarecrow a brain, the Tin Man a heart and the Lion some courage. Their journey and subsequent quest takes them through fantastic locations and frightening situations courtesy of the best wicked witch ever recorded on film, played wonderfully by Margaret Hamilton.

It’s an old story, but thanks to this new restoration and all the extras spread over the three discs of this Collector’s Edition set, it’s almost like seeing it for the first time (other than the fact that you know what’s coming next!).

The new transfer is wonderful. The Kansas sequences’ sepia tone are wonderfully sharp and clean, and when you get to the color section in Oz you’ll be glad you shelled out the price of admission. Watch at all closely and you’ll see details you may have never noticed before, or at least details that are now so rich and clear it’s almost like noticing them for the first time. Examples: the shiny floors of the Emerald City; individual grains of red sand in the Witch's hourglass, the textures of the bricks in the yellow brick road – the wonderful makeup of Dorothy’s trio of companions. It’s beautiful.

There’s so much detail and nuance here you could watch the film a few times just to pick out stuff.
They’ve also done a remix and restoration to the audio, though it isn’t as successful as the video – but what do you want from 1939 audio? The new mix is supposedly in 5.1 surround, though we noticed more surround in some of the supplemental material than in the movie itself. Mostly, it seemed like very clean and clear mono, and as much as we love 5.1 surround we were quite satisfied with Oz’s audio track.

If you have yet to own a DVD copy of Wizard of Oz, this is definitely the one to get if only for the glorious new life they’ve breathed into this classic.

But there’s a lot more to this package than just the movie. Spread over the three discs is a cornucopia of extras that run the gamut from talking about the movie itself to a salute to L. Frank Baum, the author who gave us Dorothy and her magic kingdom in the first place.
Some of the extra material is hosted by Angela Lansbury, who brings a lot of class to the material.

Here’s a list of the set’s features:
• Disc 1:
• the movie
• The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook
• Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz
• We Haven't Really Met Properly...: Character bios
• Music-only track
• Original mono track
• Theatrical trailers

That would be enough, but that’s only disc one!



• Disc 2:
• The Wonderful World of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic
• Memories of Oz
• The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz
• Because of the Wonderful Things it Does: The Legacy of Oz
• Harold Arlen's home movies
• Outtakes and deleted scenes
• Special effects sequences
• From the Vault: Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power (1938 MGM short), Cavalcade of Academy Awards (1939 newsreel), Texas Contest Winners 1939 trailer
• Audio vault (4 ½ hours of unedited musical numbers and more)
• Stills galleries, trailer gallery
• Disc 3:
• L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind the Curtain
Earlier visualization of Oz on screen, including:
• The Wizard of Oz (1910 short)
• The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914 short)
• His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz (1914 feature)
• The Wizard of Oz (restored silent version from 1925)
• The Wizard of Oz (1933 cartoon)

…and that still isn’t all there is, including extended musical numbers and supposedly deleted scenes. Suffice it to say that this is, at least so far (we’re cynical enough to expect more versions in the future), the definitive Wizard of Oz collection and we recommend it highly.

The Wizard of Oz, from Warner Home Entertainment
101 min. full frame (1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan
Produced by Mervyn LeRoy
Written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, directed by Victor Fleming

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November 3, 2005