A tornado whisks Kansas farm girl Dorothy and her dog, Toto, to a magical land populated by odd characters.
When it was released during Hollywood's golden year of 1939, The Wizard of Oz
didn't start out as the perennial classic it has since become. The film did respectable business, but it wasn't until its debut on television that this family favorite saw its popularity soar. And while Oz
's TV broadcasts are now controlled by media mogul Ted Turner (who owns the rights), the advent of home video has made this lively musical a mainstay in the staple diet of great American films. Young Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), her dog, Toto, and her three companions on the yellow brick road to Oz--the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), and the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger)--have become pop-culture icons and central figures in the legacy of fantasy for children. As the Wicked Witch who covets Dorothy's enchanted ruby slippers, Margaret Hamilton has had the singular honor of scaring the wits out of children for more than six decades. The film's still as fresh, frightening, and funny as it was when first released. It may take some liberal detours from the original story by L. Frank Baum, but it's loyal to the Baum legacy while charting its own course as a spectacular film. Shot in glorious Technicolor, befitting its dynamic production design (Munchkinland alone is a psychedelic explosion of color and decor), The Wizard of Oz
may not appeal to every taste as the years go by, but it's required viewing for kids of all ages. --Jeff Shannon
On the discs
The 2010 Wizard of Oz Two-Disc Special Edition DVD has the sharp 2005 restoration using Warner's Ultra Resolution process and an accompanying featurette on how it's done. The technicians also discuss how the sound was remixed, though that would have been more effective had it included surround-sound demonstrations (the featurette is in 2.0). Other features include a commentary track by critic John Fricke supplemented by vintage cast interviews (he offers a lot of trivia, and debunks the myth that Shirley Temple was ever close to getting the Dorothy role); profiles of nine cast members and clips of other movies they appeared in (including Toto); a lightly animated 10-minute storybook narrated by Angela Lansbury; the original mono track and a music-and-effects track; and a sing-along track that you can turn on as you watch the movie or you can select from 10 numbers to sing along with karaoke-style subtitles. The second disc has outtakes and deleted scenes, including Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" reprise and the home-movie recording of "The Jitterbug"; sketches and stills and composer Harold Arlen's home movies; audio underscores and radio programs; 1979 interviews with Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, and Jack Haley; 2001 and 2005 behind-the-scenes featurettes; a 1950 Lux Radio Theater broadcast; and other items too numerous to mention. Missing from this edition is the Lansbury-hosted documentary The Making of a Movie Classic. --David Horiuchi