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DVD Review: The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Edition

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In this charming film adapted from L. Frank Baum’s timeless children’s tale, Dorothy and her dog Toto are caught in a tornado’s path and somewhow end up in the Land of Oz.  “The Wizard of Oz” opened on August 15, 1939 and is ranked among the top 10 best movies of all-time.  The film received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and captured two Oscars – Best Song (“Over the Rainbow”) and Best Original Score – plus a special award for Outstanding Juvenile Performance by Judy Garland.

Now, the colorful characters and unforgettable songs of Oz come alive as never before when Warner Home Video brings this cinematic treasure into the digital age with the September 29 Blu-ray (and DVD) release of The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition. The commemorative edition contains nearly 4 hours of all-new and never-before-available bonus features and is housed in numbered collectible packaging, and will be available for a limited time only.

Head on over the jump to see my review of the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.

The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Edition

Available To Own On (click to purchase): DVD (2-Disc Special Edition and 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition with Digital Copy) and Blu-ray (70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition with Digital Copy)

Official Site Link: www.thewizardofoz.com

Release Date: September 29, 2009  

MOVIE

The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic, a fact more than evident in this stunning 70-year anniversary DVD set (also available on Blu-ray). Considering the film has been watched and re-watched countless times by multiple generations over its 7-decade history, there is little I can say that hasn’t already been said at one time or another.  However, I’m continually amazed by how wonderfully modern the film remains and because of this breathtaking remaster — using an 8K high resolution digital restoration process — it looks and sounds more amazing than it ever has.

Although this DVD looks and sounds great, you really must check it out in Blu-ray Hi-Def to get the full experience.  It’s extraordinary just how much clarity there is in the high-definition cut.

It’s a testament to everyone involved that the story, characters, imagery and music remains so poignant even today, a full 70 yars after its release. The Wizard of Oz is a joyful experience that conitnues to thrill both the young and the young at heart.  And quite simply, this DVD and Blu-ray is a perfect presentation.

EXTRAS

Most of the special features are re-purposed from past release, including the 2005 4K remaster, but never-the-less, this is an impressive set of supplements spread across the two discs in this DVD set (Note: The Collector’s Editions sets available in both DVD and Blu-ray format, include several more special features as well as bonus content).

Disc 1

  • “Commentary” – A highly entertaining and information commentary track running the course of the film.  The commentary track is by John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Borger, Jack Haley, John Lahr, Jane Lahr, Hamilton Meserve, Dona Massin, William Tuttle, Buddy Ebsen, Mervyn LeRoy and Jenny Maren.
  • “Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz (10:28) –  For those curious about the process that went into restoring the film again (they did a 4K master for the 2005 release, but this is an even more impressive 8K master), this is a great featurette.
  • “The Wonderful World of Oz Storybook (11:26) –  If you haven’t read the original books, this featurette does a great job explaining the various differences between the books and the film.
  • “We Haven’t Really Met Properly… (21:20) –  Detailed breakdowns of the principal cast, including even Toto (real name Terry, yes, Toto was a she).
  • “Music & Effects Track –  You can choose to watch the movie with just the music & effects track.
  • “Original Mono Track –  For the purists out there, the original (digitally restored of course) mono soundtrack from the film is presented.  After doing a quick switch between the new 5.1 and the original mono track, I prefer the new track.  Nothing is really changed, but the experience is more rich and full.
  • “Sing-Along –  The main songs from the film are bookmarked here.  Just click on the song you want to sing along to and it’ll go directly to the section of the movie and the track will play with subtitles (Karaoke style).

    • Over the Rainbow
    • Munchkinland Medley
    • Follow the Yellowbrick Road / You’re Off to See the Wizard
    • If I Only Had a Brain
    • If I Only Had a Heart
    • We’re Off to See the Wizard
    • If I Only Had a Nerve / “We’re Off to See the Wizard
    • Optimistic Voices
    • The Merry Old Land of Oz
    • If I Were King of the Forest

Disc 2

  • “The Wonderful World of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic (50:52) –  An informative documentary narrated by Angela Lansbury, featuring recollections by various cast and crew.  The documentary does a terrific job chronicling the making of the movie; from the characters, to the screenplay, music, directors, production, behind-the-scenes and the legacy.
  • “Memories of Oz (27:36) –  A TCM Production, this half-hour featurette delves into the classic film with recollections from various people, with a heavy focus on the Munchkins.
  • “The Art of Imagination (29:44) –  Another half-hour featurette with observations from Hollywood directors (including Peter Jackson), production people, composers (including Howard Shore and Randy Newman) and more.  The contributors each share their observations on various aspects of the film.
  • “Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz (25:04) –  As the title suggests, this featurette delves into the lasting legacy of the film, with a focus on the television medium where the film really broke out and found its wide audience.  On that front, there is discussion on the several TV events, including the network broadcast premiere on CBS on November 3, 1956, as well as its eventual first color presentation years later on NBC.
  • “Harold Arlen’s Home Movies (4:35) –  Introduced by Angela Lansbury, this nearly 5-minute extra features 16mm home video by composer Harold Arlen during the portrait sittings and visits to the set.  We see filming on the set plus all the principal cast in full costume interacting with each other and their surroundings.
  • “Outakes and Deleted Scenes (14:19) –  Also introduced by Angela Lansbury, this is a set of five outakes and deleted scenes

    • If I Only Had a Brain (4:37) – Ray Borger’s deleted dance of “If I Only Had a Brain”.  This was touched upon in Haley’s documentary presented in this set, but the entire dance sequence is presented here in full.  It’s a wonderful scene that was unfortunately cut from the film due to its length.
    • If I Only Had a Heart (1:36) – Buddy Ebsen was originally signed to play the part of the Tin Man, but was replaced after falling ill to aluminum poisoning.  Before leaving the film, Buddy pre-recorded several of the Tin Man songs, and this outtake presents his rendition of “If I Only Had a Heart” with stills of Buddy in tests and scenes from the film.
    • Triumphal Return to Emerald City (1:54) – The original soundtrack of this number, accompanied by production stills and technicolor frames.
    • Over the Rainbow (2:07) – Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” while locked in the witches castle.  This presents the number recorded live with only piano accompaniment.  Her rendition is accompanied by stills and test frames.
    • The Jitterbug (4:05) – This musical number took 5 weeks to film and cost thousands of dollars, but was ultimately cut from the film after its first preview.  The complete track is included.  About a minute of the track is set to stills of the cast, while the rest of the track is accompanied by some movies Harold Arlen made during a camera rehearsal.
  • “It’s a Twister! It’s a Twister! The Tornado Tests (8:16) –  This featurette focuses on the work Buddy Gilespie and his visual effects team did on teh creation of the impressive Tornado shots..
  • “Off to See the Wizard (3:56) –  During the 1967 TV season, ABC had a Friday evening primetime hour called “Off to See the Wizard”.  It was created to showcase family films and every episode was hosted by an Oz character animated by Chuck Jones.  Featured here are four animated segments that were shown during the middle of the shows plus four more segments that were shown at the end of the program and were meant to promote the next week’s movie.
  • “From the Vault (14:09) –  Three vintage shorts “from the vault” are presented:
    • Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power (10:29)
    • Cavalcade of the Academy Awards Excerpt (2:14)
    • Texas Contest Winners (1:25)
  • “Audio Vault –  This is an incredibly extensive collection of various songs, alternate takes and various other audio materials. There are more than four hours of audio material here, including a “Jukebox” section containing 16 tracks from the film and three programs/shows: “Leo Is on the Air” Radio Program, “Good News of 1939″ Radio Show and 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater” Broadcast.
  • “Still Galleries –  As with the audio vault, there are countless stills presented on the disc.  The stills cover images of the cast and crew as well as a “through the years” look at MGM’s marketing of the film.
  • “Theatrical Trailers (11:20) –  A collection of six trailers from the film’s original release in 1939 through the 1998 Reissue.
    • 1939 What Is Oz? Teaser (0:32)
    • 1940 Loews Cairo Theater Trailer (1:58)
    • 1949 Reissue Trailer (2:50)
    • 1949 Grownup Reissue Trailer (2:21)
    • 1970 Children’s Matinee Reissue Trailer (1:34)
    • 1998 Warner Bros. Reissue Trailer (2:04)

FINAL OPINION

A timeless classic, remastered in high definition audio and video, with an impressive assortment of special features. I highly recommend The Wizard of Oz on either DVD or Blu-ray and give this movie and DVD a score of 5/5.

IMAGE GALLERY


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