BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE WIZARD OF OZ 3D / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: VICTOR FLEMING / SCREENPLAY: NOEL LANGLEY, FLORENCE RYERSON, EDGAR ALLAN WOOLF / STARRING: JUDY GARLAND, FRANK MORGAN, RAY BOLGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
It’s a film almost everyone will be familiar with; its appeal, charm and longevity are unchallenged, but this new 75th anniversary HD edition has been remastered into 3D – so we certainly need to take a look and see how this modern tampering has affected the undisputed classic.
The story, for those who haven’t been lucky enough to catch one the numerous TV screenings that happen every year, follows Dorothy Gale (Garland) as she is swept up by a cyclone from her monochrome life in Kansas and planted into the glorious Technicolor world of Oz. A place inhabited by all manner of strange people, and one very wicked witch. She must travel to the Emerald City to find a way home, accompanied by some friends she meets on the way; a brainless Scarecrow, heartless Tin Man and a very Cowardly Lion. They all seek a property that’s within everyone, the moral naturally being you just have to realise it. Lots of singing, dancing and (still very terrifying) flying monkeys ensue along the way.
The film itself still holds up as stunning family-friendly entertainment after all these years, and no matter how many times you watch it. Surprisingly, the 3D rendering actually does give the film (literally) an extra dimension. Whereas it’s not completely necessary, and occasionally the results resemble the old View Master reels – giving a layered appearance which betrays the studio settings more than ever – it’s certainly works and is effective in several moments (Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch pointing straight out of the screen as she cries, “I’ll get you my pretty!”). It’s worth noting that there was no real noticeable light loss or reduction in image quality by the process, the film looking more stunning than ever. No doubt the re-scanning in 8K has something to do with this, because although it won’t actually effect the picture quality at home (by the nature of the format, we’re limited to 1080p) it certainly has allowed more precision work to be done in the 3D conversion, and is completely satisfying – even for the purists! Note, however, the 2D Blu-ray which is also included is the previous 2009 remaster, which – while almost perfect – still has some blemishes.
The new release comes packed with special features including a new 69-minute ‘Making of’ documentary, which covers everything one would need to know about the film – from the troubles of getting the film to the screen, right up to the eventual popularity. This replaces, and indeed covers most of the same ground as, the previous documentary produced in 1990 with Angela Lansbury hosting. This time, however, it’s filmed in HD and we have Martin Sheen doing the narration duties, and actually seems to reveal even more about the film we assumed we knew everything about. The other extras are all ported over from the previous Blu-ray release, but are still worth mentioning as they are plentiful and entertaining. These include a sing-along subtitle track for many of the great songs (as if you don’t already know all the words), audio clips (which are quite lengthy but immensely entertaining) and tons of behind-the-scenes footage.
A wonderful package, beautifully presented. What are you waiting for? Grab your ruby slippers, done those plastic glasses and take a fully immersive trip down the Yellow Brick Road…