On the road againTHE WIZARD OF OZ

(1939)
With Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe, Clara Blandick, The Singer Midgets, and "Terry" as Toto
Directed by Victor Fleming (several other directors uncredited)
Reviewed by JB and JL

     We might as well face it, we now live in a world where a movie as perfect and good as the THE WIZARD OF OZ will probably never be made again.  Many of the people in charge of entertainment are no longer interested in Dorothies and Totos, but instead are fascinated by Wicked Witches.  In their quest to be edgy, hip and "adult", they have polluted everything, including family entertainment, so that now we have animated forest animals relieving themselves onscreen, Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat spelling out profanities and Willy Wonka making jokes about squirrels and their nuts. Yuk yuk... yuck.

     Luckily, THE WIZARD OF OZ was made at a time when movie people still lived and worked under some sort of recognizable moral code.  THE WIZARD OF OZ brings us back to a time when we could believe in such simple wonders as talking trees, flying monkeys and humbug wizards, when obvious painted backgrounds were perfectly fine at invoking the most magical of worlds, when songs as perfect as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" were still being written and sung, and when talking scarecrows, bipedal lions and men made out of tin conversed almost exclusively in vaudeville gags.

     The 1939 film of L. Frank Baum's American fairy tale was, in its day, one of the the best of all possible places to visit to forget the nastiness of the world for two hours.  Today, with the world getting ever nastier by the day, THE WIZARD OF OZ  remains exactly that.  Sometimes I think there may be no greater piece of popular art on Earth .5 - JB


The man behind the curtain     Everyone has their own personal WIZARD OF OZ story.  We can all describe the impact the film had on us as kids, and we all have an emotional connection with certain characters or scenes. It's not just that people love this film, it's that they regard it as a rite of passage, a member of the family, and a living, breathing entity possessing heart, brains and courage.  I doubt that anyone has ever been able to review the film and avoid the term "movie magic" (I know I can't).

     But why?  How could a children's fantasy with a somewhat muddled message become the most beloved American film of all time?  Maybe it's because no other film delves so deeply into the most basic emotions of childhood: love of family and fear of abandonment.  Or maybe it's because we need reassurance that "there's no place like home" after too many childhood nightmares of talking trees, flying monkeys, and Margaret Hamilton.  Anyone who's ever shed a tear over the film does so not because of any inherent emotion in the film itself, but because of the film's ability to tap into our own sense of self-discovery.  Even the fake sets and MGM gloss can't prevent THE WIZARD OF OZ from touching our hearts and kicking us in the gut in a most personal and primal manner.  We're all trapped in a cold, cruel world, longing to answer Auntie Em's call to return to her warmth and comfort. Even the most jaded and cynical types, those who usually deride anything that reeks slightly of schmaltz, are not immune to Oz's charms.

     I can't imagine anyone over the age of six needing a plot summary for the film, and I can't formulate any new adjectives to illuminate the perfection of the performances.  You don't need me to discuss the greatness of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Those more articulate than I have been doing so for 67 years, and they'll be doing so for at least another 670.

     And say, did you know that if you played Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon...oh, skip it. 5 - JL

Fantasy     The Secret Vortex


RELATED MOVIES

The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Journey Back to Oz (animated)
The Wiz
Return to Oz
Tin Man (Sci-Fi Channel Mini-Series)
and on into infinity probably...