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|The Wizard of Oz
dir Victor Fleming
prd Mervyn LeRoy
scr Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf
with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, Clara Blandick, Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe, Charles Becker, Mitchell Lewis
release US 15.Aug.39, UK Dec.39
3D version US 20.Sep.13,
13/US MGM 1h42
Somewhere over the rainbow: Toto and Garland in Kansas (above) and in Oz with Lahr, Bolger and Haley (below).
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Any chance to revisit this film on a big screen should be seized, because that's how it was meant to be seen. And watching it in Imax 3D for its 75th anniversary re-release is simply irresistable. Not only is it projected into the biggest cinema image on earth in carefully rendered 3D, but the digital transfer is impeccable, capturing never-seen details in the film's outrageous design.
In sepia-toned Kansas, as Dorothy (Garland) is menaced by neighbour Miss Gulch (Hamilton) over her mischievous dog Toto. Then a tornado transports Dorothy to the lurid Technicolor land of Oz, where she inadvertently crushes the Wicked Witch of the East, much to the delight of the oppressed Munchkins. But her sister from the West (Hamilton again) declares war. So with the help of good witch Glinda (Burke), Dorothy heads to Oz to seek assistance from the Wizard (Morgan), along the way teaming up with a brainless scarecrow (Bolger), a cowardly lion (Lahr) and a heart-broken tin man (Haley).
L Frank Baum's story is heavy on symbolism, and the plot is frankly insane, but that only adds to the film's quirky charms: this is certainly not a formulaic children's movie. It's an often dark and nasty adventure in which the villainous Wicked Witch and her creepy flying monkeys are a truly terrifying threat, while the strange quartet of heroes is far out of their depth. And this is what makes it so involving: it's impossible not to want to join in their yearning quest.
Garland is transcendent in the role. Only 16 when the film was made, she radiates intelligence and vulnerability. Her singing (particularly Over the Rainbow) is especailly magical, and she develops startlingly convincing camaraderie with Bolger, Lahr and Haley, even though they're under layers of elaborate make-up and costumes. With this new level of visual detail we can see just how accomplished the make-up, costumes and sets are. The film looks remarkably fresh after all these decades, reminding us of the joys of pre-digital characters and effects. Thankfully, the 3D work is subtle, simply adding depth and sparkle.
But the real magic is in the story itself, with its stream of absurd gags (the horse of a different colour), non sequitors ("Bell out of order, please knock"), hilariously nutty songs and underlying subtext that transcends each character's personal journey. Along the way, the film grapples with diversity, bullying, child abuse, paranoia and, more overtly, loyalty to family, friends and "home". It's also a rare kids' movie that's genuinely distressing, thrilling and moving. And from today's perspective it's astonishing to see just how much of it has become an integral part of our everyday cultural lexicon.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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