A question often brought up by curious critics, scholars, and fans is, Why wouldn’t Dorothy just stay in the merry old land of Oz? After all, she’s defeated the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West and earned the respect of the flying monkeys. She would be Queen of Oz! Though, her reign could only last as long as her coma. After that, it’s back to the farm…In the filmed version, Dorothy chooses to awake from her deep sleep and return to Kansas even before she can have true fun with her new freedom.
The Wizard of Oz, it seems, predicted the coming of the Boomerang Generation (that frightened crowd who leaves their parents’ home to “find themselves” and enjoy the world, only to head back soon after) 60 years before the phenomena. When Dorothy comes to, not a single person surrounding her--not Auntie Em or Uncle Henry, not the farmhands, and not the questionable fortune teller--cares about her make-believe adventure. They have chickens to count, pigs to feed, and tweens to con. She is in hell once again.
And that is where my snide (read: realistic) criticism ends. Up until those final moments, I, like millions of others, submit to the magic of The Wizard of Oz. We hear the soundtrack and sing along. We see the characters and imitate their every move. We feel the Wicked Witch’s snarl and tremble.
Mervyn LeRoy, Richard Thorpe, and King Vidor all provided input at various stages, but it’s Victor Fleming who gets credit for Oz, while it’s the cast and characters--a 16-year-old Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man (replacing Buddy Ebsen, allergic to the makeup), Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch--audiences remember best.
Sharing the screen with the players are some of the most vibrant colors ever put to celluloid, fully realized just before the 20-minute mark, when we’re taken from Kansas’ sepia tone to the three-strip Technicolor of Oz, in a transition as shattering to cinemagoers’ eyes as the millennia-jumping match cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It has never been groundbreaking for anyone to call The Wizard of Oz a monumental achievement or one of the greatest films in American cinema history. I can’t agree with both stances, but won’t ignore that The Wizard of Oz is indeed a horse of a different color.
Commentary by John Fricke: The late Sydney Pollack introduces this unique commentary, which features interview excerpts from historian Fricke, his daughter Barbara Freed-Saltzman, Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch), Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow), Jack Haley (The Tin Man), John and Jane Lahr (children of Bert Lahr, The Cowardly Lion), Hamilton Meserve (son of Hamilton), Dona Massin (choreographer), assistant makeup artist William Tuttle, original Tin Man Buddy Ebsen, uncredited director Mervyn LeRoy, and one of the last surviving munchkins, Jerry Maren.s
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook (10:27): Angela Lansbury briskly takes viewers through the original novel with the help of animation. This piece is a bit cartoony, but may inspire many to pick up Baum’s work.
Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz (11:26): Members of the technical team sit down to discuss the eight-month process of restoring the video and audio of The Wizard of Oz. This is an excellent addition to the disc, as it illustrates just how difficult it can be to properly restore a 70-year-old film while maintaining the artists’ original intentions.
We Haven’t Really Met Properly… (21:19) provides profiles for much of the supporting cast. Included are: Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz), Bolger, Lahr, Haley, Billie Burke (Glinda, The Good Witch of the North), Hamilton, Charley Grapewin (Uncle Henry), Clara Blandick (Auntie Em), and of course, Terry (Toto).
The Sing-Along lets fans share the microphone with the stars on ten tracks.
Also available are options to play the film without dialogue via a Music and Effects Track, and with its Original Mono Track.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic (50:51): This 1990 made-for-television documentary, hosted by Lansbury, is a thorough look at the production of Oz, covering the casting (Shirley Temple as Dorothy?), the many directors attached (uncredited input from Mervyn LeRoy and King Vidor), scrapped scenes (the fame Jitterbug number), Oscar night (losing Best Picture to another Victor Fleming film, Gone With the Wind), etc. There’s a reason this doc has been recycled from many previous DVDs.
Memories of Oz (27:36): This Turner Classic Movies original from 2001 gathers a number of notables, including filmmaker John Waters, Oz collector Willard Carroll, and several munchkins, who compare the film to the novel, analyze the themes, marvel at the special effects, recycled props, and much more. Another great addition.
The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz (29:43): Pollack hosts this 2005 documentary, which features interviews with Peter Jackson, Randy Newman, and other industry figures. The interviewees discuss a number of technical aspects to Oz, including the music, set and costume design, effects, and more.
Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz (25:03): Starting in 1956 when Oz made its television premiere, this documentary observes the impact the film has had on American audiences, as well as the many adaptations and merchandise that followed. Clips featuring Oz enthusiasts of all ages back up one commentator’s claim that the film is for those “from fetal to fatal.”
Harold Arlen’s Home Movies (4:38) shows off the 16mm footage the composer shot while visiting the set.
Outtakes and Deleted Scenes (14:19): There are five here, including an “Over the Rainbow” reprise.
It’s a Twister! It’s a Twister! The Tornado Tests (8:15) offers raw footage of the tornado sequence.
Off to See the Wizard (3:56) features clips from ABC’s failed 1967 spin-off.
From the Vault: Here you’ll find three archival bits: Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power (10:29), a short subject from 1938 that notes the impact electrical power had on filmmaking; Cavalcade of the Academy Awards Excerpt (2:13) was assembled by Frank Capra and shows Mickey Rooney giving Judy Garland an Oscar; Texas Contest Winners (1:25) offers footage of a lucky group who won a free trip to Hollywood.
Stills Galleries and Theatrical Trailers round out Disc Two.
Victor Fleming: Master Craftsman (34:05): This glossy documentary pays tribute to Fleming, who was responsible for The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Red Dust, Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, and many more. Interviewees track Fleming’s early days in the movie business, his great successes, and his legacy.
L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind the Curtain (27:43) is a fascinating doc on the life and times of the Oz author.
Hollywood Celebrates its Biggest Little Stars! (10:22) is, as you probably guessed, devoted to those that played the munchkins in Oz. Interviewees include Baum family members, fans, and, of course, the munchkins themselves.
The Dreamer of Oz (1:32:45) is a 1990 L. Frank Baum made-for-television biopic starring the late John Ritter as the author. This might be the only addition to the entire set that could be called “filler.” A very stale and poorly acted production with horrendous picture quality.
Baum Adaptations: There are two on this disc: 1910’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (13:17), and 1933’s animated The Wizard of Oz (8:12).
Disc Four houses the remainder of the Baum Adaptations. The four are: 1914’s His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz (59:04), 1914’s The Magic Cloak of Oz (43:11), 1914’s The Patchwork Girl of Oz (50:39), and 1925’s The Wizard of Oz (1:11:48).
Also included are a Limited-Edition 70th-Anniversary Watch with Genuine Crystals, a reproduction of the Original 1939 Campaign Book, a 52-page Commemorative Book, a Replica of Original Movie Budget, and a Digital Copy of Oz.