Saturday, 20 July 2013

Film Review: The Wizard of Oz

Mr Click preordered Oz the Great and Powerful on blu-ray so partly because we knew that was on the way, and partly because we were having a sleepy Saturday afternoon and wanted to watch a suitable film, we ended up watching the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie.

Considering what a film fiend I am, it's probably a little bit sacreligious to say that I've never been a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz. I'm not entirely sure what it was about it that used to irritate me so much, it seems to be something that I'm growing out of now though. I can say that a huge irritant came from the fact that we used to have the soundtrack in the CD player which we used as an alarm clock. Every morning it would play a bit of Somewhere Over the Rainbow until one of us managed to hit the button to shut it up; it'd gradually get louder and louder until you got it to stop. One morning Mr Click accidentally hit skip so we got a rendition of Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead instead. Not a good start to the day.

If you've been living in a cave or have never seen The Wizard of Oz, it's the story of a young girl, Dorothy, whose house is hit by a tornado and whisked away from Kansas and into the fantastical land of Oz. Once there the house lands on a witch, killing her and transporting the witch's fancy footwear onto Dorothy's feet. Dorothy's only hope of getting home is to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and meet with the Wizard of Oz.

Along the way she meets with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion (in need of brains, heart and courage, respectively) who join her, and her little dog, Toto, in their trek to the city. The Wizard agrees to grant them what they want if they bring him the Wicked Witch of the West's broomstick. Dorothy, being well-versed in witchicide by this point, offs the witch, brings back the broomstick and is finally able to return home with some help from the Good Witch who she met at the beginning. Where it is revealed that it was all a dream... or was it?

There's probably a lot that I could say about this film that's been said before, but for now I'll just focus on how groundbreaking it was at the time. I'm coming to love how clever it was playing around with the sepia tones at the beginning and then breaking out into fantastic technicolour once Dorothy arrives in Oz. In 1939 terms that's probably up there with films like Toy Story for the CG element and Avatar with the 3D. I guess because I'm so used to modern films being totally in colour, it's easy to forget just what a big deal this sort of film would have been.

The special effects are also pretty good for the time. Okay, so you can see the strings on the flying monkeys, and the witch on the broomstick is just a jerky silhouette at one point, but when the witch throws the fire balls at the Scarecrow, that's something.

Something I hadn't really thought about until this viewing of it was the costumes as well. Particularly the Scarecrow; his face is meant to have been made out of a piece of sacking, and it looks like it. The sack effect goes right up onto his cheeks and it's seamless. That's something that lots of modern films still can't achieve totally well! I've been marvelling at the prosthetics in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but The Wizard of Oz was pretty advanced for its time.

It's a wonderfully simple sort of story which is easy for everyone to follow, no matter what their age. Mr Click likes to watch this one in the run up to Christmas, for much the same reason as I like to watch The Sound of Music around Easter; it was always shown around that time growing up so it's just become associated with that season. I think it's one of those films that has been ingrained in the national consciousness; someone can make a reference to a brick road, gingham or a tin man and you instinctively know what they're referencing. That's not bad for a film that's approaching seventy-five years old; with the exception of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs I'd struggle to name a film that's quite so well-known.

I'm glad that we rewatched this before watching Oz the Great and Powerful. It's never going to be my most favourite film, but I think that as I mature I'm coming to appreciate it more and more for what it is. It's a bit of an institution now and I think I'll probably enjoy future rewatches a little bit more.



    A thought........

    1. Mr Click is desperate to try this. I keep on meaning to put my Dark Side of the Moon mp3 tracks in the right order so we can try it out. ;-)


Let me know what you think. :-)