This supremely iconic fantasy adventure film
produced by MGM during the height of Hollywood’s studio system was released in August of 1939
– eventually grossing nearly $300 million in adjusted dollars with the aid of several
re-releases. Perhaps more impressively, the Library of Congress named this the most-watched
motion picture in history, thanks largely in part to frequent broadcasts on TV since
the 1950’s. “The Wizard Of Oz” is practically un-reviewable… so stepped in lore, nostalgia,
and American culture, reducing it to nothing more than a fun kids movie is an insult. Judy
Garland stars as young Dorothy Gale: a wayward teen who following a traumatic opening act
where her dastardly neighbor attempts to forcibly euthanize her dog, is swept away on a violent
tornado to the magical land Oz: a brightly colored landscape littered with talking animals,
witches, munchkins, and many other unique features, like a yellow brick road, sleep-inducing
flowers, or the majestic Emerald City itself. While technicolor films had been around for
years, the breathtaking single shot when Dorothy enters the land of Oz, in bright beautiful
color, completely transformed the way audiences would look at film forever. Frank Morgan,
Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton round out the
giant cast: the majority of which undergo impressive make-up changes as well. As the
whimsical and plucky Scarecrow, Bolger was the last surviving principal cast member,
having died over 26 years ago. When asked if he received TV royalties from the film,
he often remarked, “No, just immortality. I’ll settle for that”. From Dorothy’s legendry
Ruby Slippers that now sit in the Smithsonian Museum, to syncing the picture to Pink Floyd’s
“Dark Side Of The Moon”, to a ridiculously insulting and absurd hoax involving a suicide
caught on film – this innocent 101 minute film has deeply permeated into society. Although
much of the dialogue is pretty hammy, and poorly delivered, three of this film’s lines
are featured in AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes, with Judy’s famous quip, “Toto, I’ve got a
feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” placing fourth. The playful characters frequently
sing catchy music, with Garland’s beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
scoring the well-paced advneture one of its two Academy Awards. Despite some terribly
rigid and formulaic scene progression, the incredible MGM sets and backdrops are breathtaking,
and the visual effects were revolutionary. The consequences are overtly established early,
but with no true sense of time or ticking-clock… much of the plot is advanced only because
the song is over, and its time to skip along to the next area. Under some scrutiny, a number
of plot holes hurt this picture as well, especially the more glaring example, involving the Wicked
Witch’s only weakness being readily stored inside her own castle. It’s also unfortunate
these characters are some of the most memorable in cinema, as none of them are truly developed
beyond very basic stereotypes and plot devices – it is a 74-year-old children’s film though,
so it’s easy to overlook these faults. Arguments can be made for “The Great Train Robbery”,
“Gone With The Wind”, “The Godfather”, “Star Wars”, or even “Avatar” but, for my money?
“The Wizard Of Oz” is the “Most important film ever made.”. But I’m certainly not saying
it’s the “best” film ever made. Lets check out some of your thoughts from the YouTube
comments. The rate-o-matic for “The Wizard Of Oz”…
a DOUBLE TEN. While many acknowledge some of the flaws, and dated visuals: it is difficult
not to recognize this as a truly remarkable, and timeless classic. We both agreed, this
film is simply AMAZING.