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The Wizard of Oz: Collector's Edition

Depending on how you approach this lauded 1939 American classic, you probably will regard The Wizard of Oz as one of the most hypnotic, magical movies ever made, or you'll think it's just a few shades short of downright creepy. This is due in part to L. Frank Baum's original children's story, which, in a strict Freudian reading, casts the innocent Dorothy as a hyper-repressed young female confronting her deepest fears in a dreamland of mythic conflicts; for those of you who got through Psych 121, the film at times can be almost as distressing as a week on the analyst's couch. However, on its most superficial (and intended) level, The Wizard of Oz is a largely entertaining romp through an implausible neverland, offering a clear battle between innocence and malevolence, and the simplicity of the story has made it a sturdy classic over the years, sustained by a few decades worth of prime-time television showings that brought several generations of youngsters under its Technicolor spell.

Judy Garland stars as the teenage Dorothy Gale, who (in the sepia-toned introduction) is caught up in a dispute with her spinster neighbor Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) that could cause her beloved pooch Toto to be taken away. But, after a brief, desperate journey away from home, a cyclone batters her family farm, and she is knocked unconscious. Awakening in the otherworldly Oz (in vivid primary colors), Dorothy meets the diminutive Munchkins and starts along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, on the way encountering the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley), and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), who join her on her journey. And, of course, she is pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton, again), a green-visaged shrew who wants the ruby slippers that adorn Dorothy's feet. If it's a tale that ruminates in the deepest depths of the adolescent subconscious, it's also an entertaining one. The four lead performers offer several lively musical numbers (Bolger's and Haley's broad physical work here borders on genius), and Garland's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" remains the definitive rendition of a timeless tune. What's more, Hamilton's set-chewing, over-the-top performance as the Wicked Witch has become a prototype of movie-house evil, scaring the utter bejeezus out of kids for decades — and most grown-ups too. Unfortunately, the Munchkinland segment hasn't fared as well over the years, and it can be regarded at best as an irritating selection of numbers (in sped-up voices that grate the nervous system), or at worst a politically incorrect exploitation of little people who prance about like minimum-wage workers at a third-rate theme park. Love it or hate it, The Wizard of Oz is a part of Hollywood history, and it's a must-have for fans.

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Warner Home Video's three-disc The Wizard of Oz: Collector's Edition expands on the already-impressive single-disc release, making it a choice item for completists, if perhaps a little bit too much for casual viewers. The solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) features the restored Technicolor print, which has been corrected to offer the black-and-white segments in the original sepia tint. The default audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track; a music-and-effects track and the original monaural audio are accessible from the Features menu (rather than the Languages menu, where they rightfully should be found). Disc One includes a new commentary presented by Sidney Pollack and featuring film scholar John Fricke, augmented with archival comments from cast, crew, and family members. The majority of the supplements across the set are introduced or narrated by Angela Lansbury — on this disc, they include "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook" (10 min.), "Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz" (11 min.), and "We Haven't Met Properly…" with brief portraits of five of Judy Garland's co-stars. Disc Two holds the bulk of the supplements, with "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic" returning from the original disc (50 min.), as well as "Memories of Oz" (27 min.), "The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz" (29 min.), "Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz" (25 min.), "Harold Arlen's Home Movies" (4 min.), five outtakes and deleted scenes (with a "play all" option), "It's a Twister! It's a Twister! The Tornado Tests" (8 min.), "Off To See the Wizard" (4 min.) with animation by Chuck Jones, three vintage short subjects, an "Audio Vault," which includes the 1950 Lux Radio Theater broadcast, 18 stills galleries, and six theatrical trailers. Finally, Disc Three includes "L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind the Curtain" (27 min.) and no less than five complete films and shorts based on Baum's books, shot between 1910 and 1933. Included in the package are a collection reproductions of Kodachrome publicity stills and vintage press materials. Three-DVD folding digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—JJB



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