It’s one of the great touchstones of American cinema, and believe me, that’s not a phrase I get to use very often. But “The Wizard of Oz” is about to get some serious renovation in the form of a 3D conversion, and our friends out at Warner Brothers sent over a complete copy of the conversion for us to review.
“The Wizard of Oz 3D” has a storyline that really doesn’t require much explanation, but for the sake of those not already familiar with the title, explain I shall. Out in the dark, drab, sepia-toned world of Kansas, Dorothy is on her aunt and uncle’s farm, and things on said farm are not happy. The chickens are dying off thanks to a malfunctioning incubator, the property owner is demanding the death of Dorothy’s adorable pet dog, complete with sheriff’s order…things couldn’t get much worse. So Dorothy packs up her doomed little dog and runs off, where meets a traveling showman whose dire predictions send her actually running back to the farm. Good timing, too, because there’s a tornado inbound. Dorothy ends up caught up in the tornado, and lands in Oz, where she’s thrust in the middle of a good old fashioned faction brawl, and she’s just inadvertently killed a witch. This kicks off a series of events which may well lead to the Wicked Witch of the West taking over the entirety of Oz, unless Dorothy and newfound friends can stop her. Can she take down a witch, restore a land to freedom, and get back home to Kansas?
It’s worth noting that this particular translation is the 1939 version, which is the one people most often mean when they say “The Wizard of Oz.” There were several other related titles afoot, but the one we’re talking about is the full-bore Judy Garland color wonderland, the one that represents a major turning point in history. And the one that makes almost no sense at all.
Objectively speaking, the plot’s execution is just plain old catastrophic. I can’t tell if the plot is crammed full of holes or if it’s just too ludicrous to even resemble a coherent plot. Most of the first hour is taken up with two key points: 1. Dorothy goes to Oz and 2. Dorothy meets people who live in Oz. Given that the movie has 90 minutes to work with here, it’s blowing a lot of time on stuff that really doesn’t have much to do with the plot or character development. We’re literally mired in character introduction, which though it’s appropriately grandiose and often musical, is basically just meeting a lot of people. The action doesn’t get cranking until around 20 minutes of run time left, and that’s a shame. Granted, the costuming is impressive and the songs are a delight but we’re still talking about almost an hour of meeting characters. Some parts will turn out a little grainy–perhaps the inevitable consequence of trying to upconvert a movie shot in the late thirties to technology that even science fiction would have laughed at back then–but some of it is downright awe-inspiring.
Special features here are as abundant as Kansas wheat, including your choice of English, French, German, Italian, Castellan Spanish, and Portuguese language tracks. You’ll also get all of these as subtitles, along with Dutch, Latin Spanish, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian. Plus, there’s a commentary track, a making-of featurette, a storybook version, a sing-along track, a set of character featurettes, a music and effects track, the original mono soundtrack for that extra-authentic feeling, a pair of promotional tracks for the film, a photo gallery, and several separate trailers and teasers for “The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Wizard of Oz” is one of those movies that everyone should see at least once just for the sake of having seen it. It’s too big a part of film history to not, really, but for those looking for an impressive plotline, it won’t be had here. Naturally, those with 3D capabilities will do even better here by virtue of an even farther improved presentation–improved over an already impressive visual treat–but it’s still a childlike feast of wonder and grandeur for most anyone.