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Review - The Wizard of Oz (1939) Collector's Edition (DVD-2005)
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The Wizard of Oz 3-disc Collector’s Edition (DVD-2005)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

 

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating.  We live in a wondrous age of abundance—a time when film lovers can view or own on DVD definitive versions of the great films and enjoy supplementary materials that allow one to deeply appreciate the artistry that went into their creation—amazing extras that educate and inform in the most exciting way possible—leaving the viewer with an exalted experience.

 

In the past several years, the Hollywood studios have outdone themselves in releasing, one after another, treasurable editions of wonderful movies: the extended DVDs in The Lord of the Rings series, the Criterion DVDs, the ultimate Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, The Kubrick Collection, Citizen Kane, all the Disney animated masterpieces, the Star Wars trilogy, the special edition of Ben Hur, E.T. and so many more including all of your own personal favorites, celebrated or not.  This year has been especially rich, and there is much more yet to come: The Titanic Special Edition, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith,  The Sound of Music 40th Anniversary, the King Kong special DVD edition, to name only a few.  All of these films vie for the title: the best DVD of the year.

 

One film which is certainly in the running is Warner Home Video’s special 3 DVD set edition of the most watched and possibly best loved film of all time:  The wonderful Wizard of Oz.

 

Combining drama, music, song and dance, fantasy, humor, metaphor and mysticism, The Wizard of Oz features teenaged Judy Garland in a classic mature performance far in advance of her years.  She is joined by a cast and production crew of seasoned professionals of the highest caliber, producing an amazing interplay of ensemble artistry.    

 

Let’s not mince words.  The Wizard of Oz is a near perfect film and it represents the zenith of the Hollywood studio system.  Filmed in three-strip Technicolor, the ravages of time have threatened the separate film elements—particular the picture registration.  Previous attempts at restoration have been difficult.  But advances in technology have now produced a restored version which will thrill and delight and produce a lump in your throat as the film reaches its climax.  You will notice details you have never seen before and the ruby slippers sparkle like fiery jewels.  A glorious restored picture image and a spectacular restored soundtrack make this the ultimate Oz ever.

 

That, and all the extras.  While this DVD set includes the excellent Angela Lansbury-hosted Making of Wizard of Oz feature documentary and some of the other extras which had previously appeared on earlier DVD releases of the film, there is so much here that is new:  a superb commentary by historian John Fricke and archival interviews with the cast, the restoration of the film, and a number of new documentaries paying tribute to the art of the film and its legacy (containing rare footage of the surviving munchkin actors).

 

There is as well, a wealth of radio material, song and music material and rare items from the film and television vaults.  Then there is an entire disc devoted to a fascinating biography of L. Frank Baum, who wrote the Oz books, entitled The Man Behind the Curtain.  There are even all of the rare earlier film versions of The Wizard of Oz, one from 1910, two from 1914, the restored silent film with Oliver Hardy from 1925 and a Wizard of Oz cartoon from 1933.  This is more material than you may think you can get to—but you will find it hard to pull yourself away. It is a set you can return to again and again.  

 

A leaner 2 disc DVD set of the film, which leaves out the L. Frank Baum documentary and earlier film versions, still contains all the behind the scenes and tribute material and, of course, the spectacular restored film print.  Either set is worth obtaining.

 

There may never be another film which succeeds on the number of levels of Oz—which brings drama and fantasy, color and spectacle, music, song, comedy and longing, together so engagingly.  Warner Home Video’s sensational three-disc collector’s edition of The Wizard of Oz will satisfy the most discriminating and discerning fan and provide one of the ultimate movie-going experiences.  It is this reviewer’s likely choice for the best DVD release of the year.

 

 

2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams

 

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