Courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

As a child, one of my favorite musicals was THE WIZARD OF OZ and, at one point and time, I was completely and utterly obsessed with the story. I had bought the entire series by L. Frank Baum. I collected anything my little child self could acquire that had either Dorothy or Glinda the Good Witch’s face on it. At one point, my family had taken me to visit the Hotel del Coronado, which Baum had used to visually inspire him in the creation of the Emerald City featured in the series. Needless to say, I had become invested in the magic of the story. However, none of this could have happened without my mother showing me the MGM Studios’ classic THE WIZARD OF OZ. From the moment I laid eyes on Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale, my little heart soared.

Now, coming back to the film that has now received the 4K treatment, I wondered whether or not the film would still have that magic that had once hooked me in. Unfortunately, the critical grown up in me could only see how the 4K amplified the limitations of the production design available back in the ’30s and nostalgia couldn’t distract me from that. On the flip side, however, I could acknowledge that a child watching this for the first time would still be sucked into the magic and mystery that the creative team had constructed to bring the world of L. Frank Baum’s Oz to life on the screen. 

The story first follows Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, one day in Kansas. Trouble arises when Miss. Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) tries to take Toto away from Dorothy after the dog supposedly bit her. This prompts Dorothy to try to run away from home because a life without Toto is no life at all. After meeting the traveling Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan) and being scared by him regarding her Aunt, Dorothy tries to rush back home to make Auntie Em is okay. However, a tornado makes its presence known and, upon bumping her head after returning home in the midst of the storm, Dorothy finds herself transported into the magical land of Oz.

However, it doesn’t take long for Dorothy to find herself entangled in all sorts of mischief once she finds her bearings in Oz. She has been tasked by Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke) to protect the Ruby Red slippers of the fallen Wicked Witch of the East, which are being sought after by the Wicked Witch of the West (also played by Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy then follows the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, and meets a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) that needs a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) who needs a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who wants courage so that he can be the King of the forest. The wizard tasks the group to bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West to earn his help and accomplish their goals. If they do not bring him the broom, they will not be able to get their wishes granted. 

Margaret Hamilton and Pat Walshe in the Wizard of Oz

The most noticeable difference while watching this new 4K adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ was how clear every single detail was. The colors, especially once the film switched from the Kansas sepia tone to full technicolor were very crisp and noticeable. However, the ability to pick up every single detail with this new 4K edition isn’t entirely a good thing depending on how much the viewer does want to notice. I will admit that I had to remind myself many times that the film was ahead of its time for the time period it was released in, so things like wig lines showing, the obvious backdrops and the like were things that wouldn’t have been as readily noticed upon the movie’s release. That and by being able to see all of the details that we had missed in previous editions of the film’s re-release, I realized that this could be a very important tool for filmmakers who want to study the craft because some of the methods used in the film were, in fact, quite creative in achieving the effects that director Victor Fleming was going for.

In terms of what special goodies are on this particular 4K adaptation of the 1939 classic, there’s a fair bit so that you will get your money’s worth. The list of goodies on the Blu-ray and DVD is as follows:

– Commentary by John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, John Lahr, Jane Lahr, Hamilton Meserve, Dona Massin, William Tuttle, Buddy Ebsen, Mervyn LeRoy and Jerry Maren
– The Making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
– The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook (narrated by Angela Lansbury)
–  We Haven’t Really Met Properly…

  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Frank Morgan”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Ray Bolger”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Bert Lahr”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Jack Haley”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Billie Burke”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Margaret Hamilton”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Charley Grapewin”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Clara Blandick”
  • We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Terry”

– Music & Effects Track
– Original Mono Track
– Sing Along Tracks
– Audio Jukebox
– Leo is on the Air Radio Promo
– Good News of 1939 Radio Show
– 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Broadcast
– Stills Galleries
–  Oz on Broadway
– Pre-MGM
– Sketches and Storyboards
– Richard Thorpe’s Oz
– Buddy Ebsen
– Oz Comes to Life
– Behind the Scenes
–  Portraits
– Special Effects
– Post Production
– Deleted Scenes
– Original Publicity
–  8/15/1939 Hollywood Premiere
– 8/17/1939 New York Premiere
– 2/29/1940 Academy Awards® Ceremony
– Oz Abroad
– Oz Revivals
– Trailers

Overall, THE WIZARD OF OZ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray still makes it clear why the film is a much-beloved classic. While I personally found it a bit jarring to see how many details (and the more apparent flaws in those details) we could actually see compared to the preceding versions of the re-releases, the film still maintains the magical quality. A whole new realm was created 80 years ago for families and kids to enjoy. And, for kids like me, it will only serve to open their eyes and expand their literary and creative horizons as they think about how they too can bring themselves to remember there’s no place like home.

The acclaimed and beloved classic THE WIZARD OF OZ is now available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital through Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Sarah Musnicky
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