Beyond Wonderful

The Wizard of Oz released six days before Germany invaded Poland – a last reprieve of fantasy escapism before conflict. It’s appropriate too. Wizard of Oz is about the man behind the curtain, the one who boasts about his power in a smoke and fire-laden show. In reality, he’s nobody.

Although Frank Baum wrote the source book 40 years prior, Warner’s colorful adaptation certainly formed a prescient message. That the Wicked Witch melts from mere water says so much of how weak those who only want power are. Their disillusion is more fantasy than Munchkins, flying monkeys, or living scarecrows. In that surreal, weird, and bizarre form come a trio of unknowing heroes. They only see their faults. No courage, no heart, and no brain. Yet, they overcome them all to rescue Dorothy, defeat the villain, and save Oz. Turns out, they all had what they sought. In reality, so too did those marching toward war in the real world.

Opening text thanks Baum’s “kindly philosophy,” and that’s a genuine phrase. Wizard of Oz doesn’t appear to carry any philosophical might, yet the depiction of false leaders and why they seek to rule does poke at human nature. “Kindly” it is, softened for kids like any fairy tale with inspired world design, characters, and song.

Wizard of Oz was inspiring at wartime, and universally relevant for all time

Even if the wartime fear floats by unnoticed, Wizard of Oz tells of togetherness. Where Scarecrow lacks a brain, the Cowardly Lion does not. Tin Man then stands in for the missing courage. What’s lost is soon found in others. And when combined, that’s mighty enough to squelch evil. Plus, a young girl from America’s Midwest only wishing to return home has enough grit to KO the Witch.

Consider too that anyone who claims to have it all is actually a fraud. The Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton) needs an entire army; Oz (Frank Morgan) is nothing without fireballs and light projection. Charlatans rule this land. The difference though it that Oz is willing to realize his faults. He admits to failing, and when exposed, begins to use that gained influence to inspire. The Witch though, she withers. When melted, her goons bow to Dorothy in thanks. Even they realized the Witch was brutal, but none had the guts to stand up to her rule.

Wizard of Oz offers the pathway to defeat evil, dictators and fascists alike. Everyone has the courage, the heart, and the brains. They only need to use them. Inspiring at wartime, and universally relevant for all time.

Wizard of Oz 4K UHD screen shot

Video

It’s a travesty true three-strip Technicolor no longer sees use. Technology grew. Color spectrums expanded. Yet, what’s here in Wizard of Oz is the pinnacle of raw saturated beauty. That moment as Dorothy opens the door, turning Wizard of Oz from gorgeous sepia to a full dreamland of perfect hues is as reference a moment as they come. Now with Dolby Vision, the intensity receives another boost. The Yellow Brick Road contrasting a pristine blue stream amid layers of green astounds. It always did, but here density improves by a factor of 10.

Things like flesh tones stick out on Garland or the powdered cheeks of Oz. The poppy field is pure magic. Emerald City’s menagerie of greens display a host of various hues, all separated and flawlessly rendered. And the Munchkins? Staggering in their clothes, layered with variety, accentuating an already candy bowl-like palette. Also note the purity in the book-end sepia scenes.

For the Blu-ray release, Warner created an 8K scan of Wizard of Oz. It looked fabulous then. Now, it’s ludicrously precise. Original cinematography does carry a natural softness, which this disc preserves. Precise, organic grain thinly sits over the image; clean encoding keeps the film look alive. When sharpness peaks, it’s easy to pick up on flakes in Tin Man’s skin or the cloth of Scarecrow’s face. Even individual bricks on Yellow Brick Road show whether at distance or not.

Dolby Vision primarily gives life to color. That doesn’t discount a boost to black levels. Nothing is lost in the Wicked Witch’s robe/hat. Inside her castle, shadows produce exceptional black, adding to the tone. A mild touch to brightness adds glimmer to Emerald City shots as the foursome approach, but this already perky, sightly image doesn’t need much else.

Audio

Borrowing the TrueHD tack from the Blu-ray, Wizard of Oz remains a testament to what great sources and careful restoration can do. This is not a showcase of surround use or LFE – obviously. Yet, the warmth from this analog source marks the best baseline when judging vintage audio. Clarity of the dialog, Garland’s singing voice, and the score resonate as if recorded within the past few years.

Some small flourishes of bass jump from the score and during the tornado. It’s enough to give Wizard of Oz a notable kick, without damaging that precious original material. The rest is fed by wonderful balance and controlled highs. A tiny hint of static is heard under a few lines, so minor as to barely warrant a mention.

Extras

Judy Garland/Oz historian John Frick leads a recycled commentary, bumped up with vintage interviews from the cast. From the Munchkins to lead actors, everyone has their say, and Frick is remarkable with his knowledge. Also on the UHD, a making of, stretching past the hour mark.

Angela Lansbury reads Baum’s original story over on the Blu-ray, nine actor profiles look into the lives of the film’s stars, three radio promos are preserved, a sing-a-long/jukebox are offered in tandem, with stills find themselves trailing at the end. This is excellent material if this is your first Wizard of Oz run on in Blu-ray era. Not so much otherwise since it’s the same stuff.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Wizard of Oz
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Wizard of Oz released days before World War II’s start, a last minute call to come together and defeat your own doubts.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 65 uncompressed full resolution 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: