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Retro Review: The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Retro Review: The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Stop for a moment, and think back to your childhood, to the films that made you laugh, cry, and smile, the ones that captured your imagination. At 75 years old, it’s highly likely that The Wizard Of Oz features among them. Now re-released with an inevitable 3D makeover, it’s time for a new generation to be swept away by this timeless tale, while for the rest of us it’s a chance to once again bask in the beauty of life over the rainbow.

In every sense, but particularly in a visual one, time has been kind to Victor Fleming’s film. Despite the many intervening years, Dorothy Gale’s journey from the monochrome milieu of Kansas to the Technicolor tapestry of Oz is as beguilingly bewitching to behold now as it ever was. The large lavish soundstage sets, which form Munchkin Land, the Emerald City, and everything in-between, enchantingly harking back to Hollywood’s Golden Era.
the-wizard-of-oz-01As gorgeous as it is to look at though, much of the film’s charm remains rooted in the characters. Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr all manage to exude warmth and wit – despite being stuck under countless layers of makeup – as Dorothy’s gracious companions, while Margaret Hamilton’s horribly hissable Witch imbues the film with a tinge of Panto that’s darkly magical. Her shrill and defining cackle remains unsurpassed by any who have tried to copy it.

However, it is Judy Garland who will forever be the film’s beating heart as its harmonious heroine. Her embodiment of adolescent naivety remains so easily relatable to all who are, or have been on that cusp between childhood and adulthood. Her pitch-perfect rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’ is a musical monument to the idea of dreams, while her desire to get back to those she has left behind will emotively resonate with anyone who has ever felt homesick in the slightest sense.

That said, The Wizard of Oz in no way feels like a weary-eyed weepy. It is, in fact, one of the most delightfully heart-warming films you’re ever likely to see, a pinnacle in well-rounded family entertainment that’s as joyous to watch on the hundredth viewing as it was on the first. The songs remain inordinately catchy, guaranteed to have you humming for days. The jokes are just as funny, the flying monkeys are just as scary, and though it is all undeniably sentimental, you can’t help but sit there with a huge smile on your face throughout.

If one were to try and find a gripe, it would be the 3D conversion, which fails to have any fresh impact on the film. In fact, given its extraordinary use of colour, you can’t help but think Oz would have rather benefitted from a far sharper 4K restoration.

But there is no way any such feelings are going to somehow break the illusion. As we watch Dorothy journey to the Land of Oz, we are all likely to take a personal trip back to our own childhoods, and to the time we were first introduced to this mesmerizing world. A place steeped in the most purist form of cinematic magic.


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