Wizard of Oz (4KUHD/Blu-ray/Digital) – Review

Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton
Written By: Frank Baum (original stories), Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson (screenplay)
Directed By: Victor Fleming
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Original Year of release: 1939
Rated: G
Order the film here from Warner Archive

For many of us, it was our first film in which we were introduced to pure fantasy. MGM’s 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz may just be the greatest film of all time. It is untouched in its likeness and considered a perennial favorite by all. The adventures of Dorothy in the Land of Oz have touched countless generations of people and will continue to do so for all time. With each landmark anniversary the Wizard of Oz it gets polished up and re-released. This being its 80th year the Wizard of Oz makes its debut on 4K. By far it is the best in terms of picture quality, content, and special features to date.

“Prettier Than Ever” is a great place to start on this 4K edition of the film. Here a technical breakdown is made of the restoration process. Though considered to be the most protected movie in all of film history many times this film was cleaned with a simple brush. Now the film has been digitally restored and the first to use 4K film resolution. That 4K means that it is 4000 pixels wide per frame with 16-bit colors (65,536 colors available to each pixel). They were able to use the original camera negatives in this process, bringing the film literally back to life. It was a long and arduous process as one member of the team regales, “it took 91 hours to do the first 10 minutes”. All the time and effort are clearly worth it as the Scarecrow’s burlap face comes onto the screen and each rivet on the Tin Man’s face is once again glistening.  

There is a massive commentary track that includes John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman (daughter of Arthur Freed), Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, John Lahr (son of Bert Lahr), Jane Lahr (daughter of Bert Lahr), Hamilton Meserve (son of Margaret Hamilton), Dona Massin (MGM choreographer), William Tuttle (make-up artist), Buddy EbsenMervyn LeRoy, and Jerry Maren. Some of the commentaries was recorded for this Ultimate Edition but the true gems are interviews with the original cast members. It is a full fountain of knowledge that is as intoxicating as the Wizard of Oz. Everything is discussed from Toto’s ownership to the mysterious Nikko. As well as who is there or isn’t there and, of course, if a Munchkin hanging in the forest. 

The sixtieth edition encompassed a lot of the same special features most notably “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic” hosted by Angela Lansbury. Here that documentary is broken up and scattered throughout the discs allowing one to pick and choose what they want to see. Many of the commentators suggest looking for different pictures and alternate audio tracks on the discs. In this format, they are easier to locate. The full documentary is included just the same. 

“Memories of Oz”, a 2001 TCM documentary is a short and fun retrospective featuring many of the surviving Munchkins. Jane Lahr (daughter of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion) is also featured here as she looks back at her father’s performance and points out his history with Vaudeville. John Waters steals the show as he calls it “the most mainstream cult film of all time” and roots for the failure of anyone who tries to remake it. To do so would be blasphemy. 

Deleted Scenes from the Wizard of Oz are always great and here there is fourteen minutes worth. The best of these scenes include the fully restored “If I Only Had a Brain” dance number. Yet as one-pieces together and learns more and more about the Wizard of Oz’s production one cannot help but wish there was more to the Jitterbug dance number. It did, after all, take 5 weeks to shoot and was cut after the first preview screening. 

There are several trailers spotlighted here but it is the teaser and the Lowes Cairo Theater trailer that are truly unique. Both were created for individual movie houses. The teaser was solely created for Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. In 1940 a new full-length trailer for a theater in Cairo Egypt was produced. A strange addition to this set but one worth watching.

Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Elements

The Wizard of Oz Ultra HD Blu-ray contains the following previously released special features:

·   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.

·   1990 CBS Special “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic.”

The Wizard of Oz Blu-ray contains the following previously released special features:

·        Commentary- 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…

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Frank Morgan"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Ray Bolger"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Bert Lahr"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Jack Haley"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Billie Burke"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Margaret Hamilton"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Charley Grapewin"

o   We Haven't Really Met Properly: "Clara Blandick"

o   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

o   Oz on Broadway

o   Pre-MGM

o   Sketches and Storyboards           

o   Richard Thorpe’s Oz

o   Buddy Ebsen

o   Oz Comes to Life

o   Behind the Scenes

o   Portraits

o   Special Effects

o   Post Production

o   Deleted Scenes

o   Original Publicity

o   8/15/1939 Hollywood Premiere

o   8/17/1939 New York Premiere

o   2/29/1940 Academy Awards® Ceremony

o   Oz Abroad

o   Oz Revivals

·        Trailers

 

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