Friday, 17 May 2013

Classic Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This is probably the greatest family film of all time. For generations this film has charmed youth and families together. Everyone can remember the first time they saw this film, I'm sure of it. So it is the perfect film to review and ponder on.
 The Wizard of Oz (1939) Poster 

Let us go back to 1937, Walt Disney has just released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to huge critical success (not to mention financial too). Louis B. Mayer wanted to create a film that would equal the runaway success, of Disney's  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which had become the most successful film of all time in a few months. Mayer and his studio MGM wanted the very successful child star at the time Shirley Temple to play Dorothy but Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox turned down the offer for his biggest star, so Mayer took a chance on Judy Garland. Miss Garland could sing, dance and act, she also had proved box office success with fellow child star Mickey Rooney.

Now with our star in the role the film can begin. The film starts in a little Kansas farm scene, not in color tho in Sepia (brown and white), we meet Dorothy and her dog Toto running from a horrible old woman whom wants to take Toto away. We meet her Aunt, Uncle and the three young men who work on the farm too. Judy plays her character quite strongly for a young girl, she comes across very strong willed for a young person. She ponders leaving the farm because she feels so bored, there must be something better "Over the Rainbow", which happens to be our first song. You can see why this song became Judy's most succesful song that she always performed, later in life, it just feels like its hers.

A storm comes to their farm, the house including Dorothy is picked up in the storm and taken to the land of Oz. This is where the film hits its master stroke Oz is shown in full "technicolor". For 1939 the color is amazing it jumps straight out at you. We meet the Munchkins, the little people of Oz. Dorothy has somehow manged to save them from the tyranny of the evil witch, but all she wants is to get home, she is sent on the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, to see the Wizard of Oz, whom she hopes can send her home. So her journey through Oz begins, she meets new friends, a Scarecrow whom wants a brain, a Tin-man whom wants a heart and cowardly Lion who just wants to be brave. This journey is dangerous because there is a evil Witch out to stop them.

What comes is a sheer delight of a movie to behold. The color and cinematography is just breathtaking for the time, they totally pushed the boundaries of what was possible in 1939. The makeup and costumes could not of come cheap, from what I have learnt off the documentaries on the Blu Ray I have, every Munchkin costume was unique and made to measure, the Scarecrow really does look believable too, Tin-man costume looks cleverly made and Actress Margaret Hamilton just disappears behind her green make up and black costume. The set design in this film is still amazing to this day, the way they make the Yellow Brick Road twist and turn in the background, the various scenery on route to the Emerald City and the city itself just look amazing.

The cast are spot on in this film. Judy Garland is such a joy to watch, what with her singing and her very strong acting talent, you can tell this is a Star that is going places. The rest of the cast are great too, especially for me Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch, I'm sure she scared me when I was a child!. Margaret is just so strong and powerful in the role she plays, easily for me one of the greatest movie villains of all time. This film was directed by Victor Fleming (after much changing of directors). Mr Fleming had a unique year in 1939, he not only directed this but also finished the directing of 1939's other big hitter and a personal favorite of mine Gone with the Wind.

This film needs to be watched every generation, the sheer spectacle and fantasy of it, just opens up imagination in people, this film changed fantasy cinema forever!. There is not many films that after 70 years can still look great and be great to watch. Re-visit this film you owe it to your inner younger self.
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