THE WIZARD OF OZ
By Gary Murray
Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan and Ray Bolger
Written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Directed by Victor Fleming
Running time 101 min
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
What is there to say about The Wizard of Oz that has not been said in about 50 different film books? It is a classic of American literature which was turned into one of the most successful films of 1939. It is a work of art that stands the test of time. It is a film that truly has no equal. MGM has decided to re-release this work as a 3D adventure for only one week in selected theaters.
Everyone knows the tale of The Wizard of Oz. The story is of an orphaned Kansas farm girl who does not get her way so she kills one woman, goes on the lam with three strangers, gets stoned in a field and eventually kills the dead woman’s sister. This mayhem of death and violence was all for naught because she had the ability to achieve her ultimate goal all along. At that point, she should have decked Glenda the Good Witch.
Okay, that is one interpretation of the film….
The story is of Dorothy (Judy Garland) a Kansas farm girl who is trying to protect her little dog Toto from Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). After singing the classic song “Under the Rainbow” a twister happens. Dorothy gets a bump on the head and the house is transported to Oz.
The switch from black and white to very early Technicolor is still as impressive as it was in 1939. With the added element of 3D, the munchkins leap off the screen. The costumes are an array of bright colors and the depth of focus looks as if it were designed for the new technology. We eventually are “Off to see The Wizard.”
Dorothy eventually meets up with the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). This very unlikely quartet eventually makes it to Oz and sees the majesty of the Wizard. The palate of emerald greens becomes an inviting spectacle.
One of the aspects that stand out when watching the film in 3D and on a giant screen is how the make-up still looks impressive. The Scarecrow has a burlap face but is still an expressive mask. Burt Lahr is able to emote behind heavy sculpted wax and cotton. It is a compliment to great ancient make-up technicians and the skill of the actors behind the mask.
But on such a large screen, one can see some of the minor flaws in the Wizard of Oz. A lot of the voice syncing is not up to modern standards. More than once, the trap door that the Wicked Witch of the East travels down can be seen. The stage and painted backdrops are very obvious on a few occasions. I am glad that the people who re-released this work did not try and fix them.
When a film maker (Lucas and Spielberg) go back and change their films with modern technology; they are not just messing with their films, they are messing with our art. Once a film is released, it becomes a part of the collective whole of the masses. It a way, it becomes the world’s art. The imperfections sometimes make the work perfect.
And that brings up the quandary. As much as I love The Wizard of Oz, there is no reason (other than income) to put it in 3D technology. It is a superb cinematic experience that needs no modern little tricks for a new generation. I know that that is the new way to breathe life and profits into the back catalogue, but it just feels more and more like a showman’s trick.