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The Wizard of Oz 3D(1939)
Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto are swept away by a tornado from their home in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. They set off on a quest down a yellow brick road to see the Wizard, who can help them return home. Along the way, they are joined by others seeking the Wizard's help: a scarecrow, who wamts a brain; a Tin Man, who wants a heart; and a lion, who wants courage.
For more about The Wizard of Oz 3D and the The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray release, see the The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Victor Fleming
Writers: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, L. Frank Baum
Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke
» See full cast & crew
The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray Review
A truly wondrous 'Wizard of Oz'...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 1, 2013
"For nearly forty years this story has given faithful service to the Young in Heart; and Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion. To those of you who have been faithful to it in return, and to the Young in Heart, we dedicate this picture."
So begins director Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz, a timeless, truly magnificent classic that's as charming and endearing today as it was seventy years ago. Born in an age when soul and spirit were invested in every frame, when digital effects had yet to be conceived, when craftsmanship sat upon the same cinematic throne as creativity, the seemingly simplistic story of a young girl's quest to escape a strange land of talking animals and sneering creatures has emerged as one of the most indelible, recognizable, and untouchable films in history. From actress Judy Garland's unforgettable rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to her cries of joy upon returning home, Oz has few equals. From the bustling land of the Munchkins to the frightening kingdom of the Wicked Witch of the West, it boasts stirring artistry and design. From Dorothy's declaration that she isn't in Kansas anymore to her first, hushed utterance of "there's no place like home," it transcends age, capturing the imagination of anyone, young or old, lucky enough to set their eyes on the majesty of its yellow-brick road.
My affection for The Wizard of Oz traces back to my early childhood, when I was much too young to fully appreciate what was becoming one of the first major components in my cinematic consciousness. I just knew it made me laugh; that its songs made me smile; that its monstrous villains gave me chills; that its heroes provided me with a thrilling adventure in a colorful world filled with magic and wonder. Is there anyone who isn't already familiar with the story? Based on L. Frank Baum's turn-of-the-century children's book, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," Fleming's film tells the tale of Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), a young girl swept away by a tornado and deposited in the mysterious land of Oz, an enchanting kingdom ruled by an all-powerful wizard (Frank Morgan) and besieged by two evil witches. When Dorothy's tumbling house kills the Wicked Witch of the East, her sister -- the cruel Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) -- swears to exact revenge. But the young girl has other things to worry about. Namely getting home, a quest that requires her to travel across Oz, enter the fabled Emerald City, and seek help from the Wizard himself. Fortunately, Dorothy befriends a trio of bumbling warriors along the way: a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who doesn't have a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) who was never given a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who lacks courage.
Oz has been an international sensation for seventy years now. During that time, it's become a part of global culture, influenced modern filmmaking as we know it, and solidified its place amongst the greatest films of all time. Even so, I didn't realize how timeless it had really become until I picked my son up from pre-school on a day when his teachers' had popped in The Wizard of Oz while the kids were eating lunch. Knowing his love for Pixar's finest, his affinity for comicbook flicks, and how much he enjoys watching the latest action-oriented, animated jaw-dropper, I was shocked by his sudden obsession with a 1939 Technicolor musical. Be it the songs, the characters, the world, or the exceedingly accessible storyline, he wanted to watch it again in its entirety. And again... and again... and again. My apologies if it seems like I'm drifting off target, but his instant attachment to Dorothy and her companions' story -- particularly in light of the faster, flashier, more expensive productions available to him -- is possibly the most telling testament I can offer about the still-palpable power of the film. Watching it with him is just as fulfilling. Chalk it up to nostalgia, delight, or respect, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Oz some twenty-five years after it first grabbed hold of my brain.
Modern cinelitists may scoff at its idealism and era-specific performances, cynics may balk at its rosy-cheeked exclamations and bursts of song, but The Wizard of Oz defies generation gaps, so much so that it's capable of surviving the harsh terrain of the 21st Century. In 1939, its clash between good and evil -- at a time when the world was recovering from one World War and gearing up for another, when the Great Depression was still ravaging the masses, when hope was a fleeting commodity -- offered a brief respite to weary peoples. Its visuals widened eyes and captured imaginations. Its songs left many in tears and many more with a sense that dreams just might come true. It's not so different today. In an age of widespread political and economic upheaval, The Wizard of Oz doesn't register as a naive relic of childhood or a featherweight fantasy. It's a reminder that anti-heroes, gore, pulse-pounding soundtracks, and grim-n-gritty cinematography don't explore the human condition as readily as cinephiles have convinced themselves such things do. Those skipping this Technicolor marvel in favor of bigger, badder fare (releases featuring three-clawed muties, battery-licking action junkies, or time-traveling assassins) will miss the opportunity to watch a film that has something to say; a film whose message is as relevant and legitimate in 2009 and is it was in 1939.
It may sound like hyperbole, or the skewed ramblings of a nostalgic thirtysomething looking to reconnect with his childhood, but the film's legacy and lasting appeal are a testament to its power and timelessness. Don't write off Warner's Technicolor masterpiece as a cinematic relic. Don't pass it by for lesser drivel lining the shelves. Don't assume it can't reach you in your twilight or captivate your children in their innocence. The Wizard of Oz is a true Hollywood treasure; a film that still has the ability to move, inspire and soften the most hardened heart and pessimistic scowl.
The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
"The 3D conversion was a long and complex project which Warner Bros. initiated with a very high resolution 8k scanning of the original Technicolor camera negative. The restored 2D image was then transformed by creating a depth-map of each frame to construct 3D imagery and determine distances from the viewer's vantage point. This was followed by the long process (with the use of a rotoscope) to further refine viewer distances and fully layer shapes and objects."
The burning question many of you are asking -- other than, "How does The Wizard of Oz fare in 3D?" -- is "just how much better can The Wizard of Oz possibly look?" Warner's 2009 Blu-ray release remains a stunning catalog standout. Does the film's new 8k scan produce a higher quality 1080p encode? The short answer is not exactly. For all intents and purposes, the 2013 Oz looks every bit as good as the 2009 Oz. Try as I might, I had a difficult time discerning much of a difference in quality... to which the informed among you are already nodding your heads. Whether scanned at 4k or 8k, a film still has to be downscaled to accommodate a relatively inferior 1080p Blu-ray presentation. So while combing through screenshots or comparing the two versions frame by frame will undoubtedly lead to discoveries of tiny improvements in the image, the human eye simply isn't going to perceive much of a difference when the film is in motion. What has been corrected and improved, almost entirely, are many of the minor issues that crept into the 2009 version. Additional print damage and blemishes haves been addressed and eliminated by the new restoration (not that there was much in the 2009 transfer to begin with) and the faint, altogether negligible artifacting I noticed in a few shots in 2009 appear to be absent from the 2013 edition. Grain remains intact too, and the utmost respect has been paid to the texture and intent of the original photography and film. It's enough to justify that last little bump in score (from a 4.5 to a 5), although I still wouldn't necessarily call the new restoration and transfer utterly flawless. Worthy of top marks, though? Absolutely.
As for the 3D experience, I was quite surprised. Still am actually. Depth and dimensionality are more convincing than I expected, and very rarely does the film resemble a pop-up storybook. Great care has been invested in making the actors and the world they inhabit look wondrous in 3D, and the film's elaborate sets -- already a hallmark of color, vibrancy and cinematic craft -- are more immersive than ever before; almost to the point of inviting the viewer to step into the screen and tour the MGM lot. There are some drawbacks, if you can call them that. Every now and then, a face, tree or background painting is too flat; the film's smoke, fire and practical effects don't always play well with the 3D conversion; and the fact that each locale is a large-scale set is made that much more obvious. However, Oz's 3D conversion comes close, so very close, to achieving the illusion of native 3D; as if the production were shot in 3D all those years ago. No small feat considering the challenges the restoration and conversion teams faced. Not only were they tasked with producing a magnificent 8K restoration, they were tasked with justifying the existence of a 3D release of The Wizard of Oz. After all, it's not as if fans were clamoring to see the 1939 classic in 3D. Add to that the precision of the 1080p/MVC-encoded transfer -- the lack of aliasing and other anomalies, as well as the image's near-immunity to ghosting (on displays that are prone to crosstalk that is) -- and you have a striking 3D presentation and a definitive transfer of the film.
It simply doesn't get much better than this. Of course, I shared the same sentiment in 2009. That's why the future of home video remains so exciting from decade to decade. Here's hoping Warner celebrates Oz's 80th anniversary with a True4k presentation that renders even the best of 1080p Blu-ray obsolete. I can't wait to see how much more the studio's 8k restoration has to offer.
(Note: Only the 3D disc (Disc 1) features the new restoration and MVC-encoded transfer. The 2D disc (Disc 2) features the same 2D VC-1 transfer as the 2009 Blu-ray release. Those with both a 3D Blu-ray player and 3D-ready display can switch off the 3D and watch the new presentation in 2D. Unfortunately, though, those who don't own a 3D Blu-ray player and display will not be able to view the new presentation in 2D.)
The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Virtually identical to its 2009 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 counterpart, Warner's new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track doesn't fail or falter for a second. Dialogue is clean, intelligible and largely free of air hiss or a noise floor, preserving the distinct tonal personality of the film's 1939 recordings while blessing each voice with a fresh, 21st century warmth. It only helps that prioritization is remarkable, and that each song blossoms and blooms beautifully. Lyrics and orchestration fill the soundfield in terrific harmony and the various score pieces and trumpeted fanfares are sharp and resonant. It helps that rousing LFE output bolsters each musical cue, every thoom of the Wizard's thundering performances, and all of the Witch's eruptions and explosions. The rear speakers are subdued, paying unspoken respect to the film's original audio mix, but still involve themselves in everything from the music to the swirling winds of Dorothy's tornado. Fire crackles with unexpected intensity, a menacing forest rustles with immersive activity, and scrambling monkeys smoothly scamper from channel to channel. Could Oz's lossless track stand its ground in a battle with a modern Blu-ray blockbuster? Of course not. The age of the production would limit the impact of any lossless track, no matter how well-crafted. However, as catalog classics go, it doesn't get much better than The Wizard of Oz. Anyone armed with appropriate expectations will be delighted.
The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 5-disc 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition release of The Wizard of Oz 3D offers all of the special features that were included with the 2009 70th Anniversary box set, minus a single documentary: "The Making of a Movie Classic," a 1990 behind-the-scenes special hosted by Angela Lansbury. Completists may frown upon the exclusion, until that is they see that the 75th Anniversary edition's newly produced high definition documentary, "The Making of The Wizard of Oz, covers the same ground and more, for an altogether richer, more informative trip down the MGM/Warner yellow brick road.
That said, those who already own the 2009 box set will have to determine if a small pile of collectibles is worth the cost of admission. The Wizard of Oz 3D is also being made available in a much more affordable 2-disc release that also includes the exclusive documentary. Long story short, the 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition box set should be reserved for those purchasing The Wizard of Oz on Blu-ray for the first time (and who want every bit of bonus content under the sun) and/or those who collect any and every book, trinket or piece of plastic that has the film's name stamped on it.
And as box sets go, this is a big'un. (Details and measurements can be found below. An image of the set can be found at the top of the page, by clicking on the "Slipback" link beneath the box set cover art.) Surprisingly heavy, not to mention ungainly and much, much too large, the behemoth's lone saving grace, at least from a practical standpoint, is that the discs themselves are housed in a standard 5-disc Blu-ray case, granting those with limited space more options and flexibility.
New and Exclusive Bonus Content
Packaging and Collectibles
Previously Released Bonus Content
Disc 2: The Wizard of Oz Feature Film & Bonus Content
Disc 3: Additional Bonus Content
Disc 4: Standard DVD Copy of the Film
Disc 5: MGM - When the Lion Roars DVD
The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you already own the 2009 Blu-ray release of The Wizard of Oz and all the special features that go with it, if you have no need or want of further Oz collectibles, and if you'd like to add the film's 3D presentation and new feature-length production documentary to your collection, allow me to redirect you to the more affordable 2-disc Blu-ray edition of The Wizard of Oz 3D. If, however, you haven't purchased the 2009 release, want to feast your eyes on (almost) every special feature thus far, and have a thing for collectibles, the 5-disc Collector's Set may be more to your liking. Either way, prepare yourself for a magnificent new restoration and surprisingly effective 3D experience, an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a sprawling series of special features, chief among them the new documentary Warner has wisely seen fit to include with both editions.
The Wizard of Oz: Other Editions
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The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
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To celebrate the classic film's 75th anniversary, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is re-releasing The Wizard of Oz for an exclusive one-week 3D IMAX theatrical engagement on September 20th, then bringing the newly remastered presentation to stores and online retailers ...
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