Film review: THE WIZARD OF OZ 3D, from Built For Speed

Just in time for the school holidays, The Wizard of Oz, the beloved Hollywood fairy-tale and original James Franco-free Oz movie is being re-released in 3D.

For those few remaining people who are unaware of The Wizard of Oz, the film, originally released in 1939, is based on one of the many the L. Frank Baum novels concerning the mystical land of Oz.  The film skates perilously close to being a cheesy piece of Americana as innocent, chirpy Kansas farm girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) is caught in a tornado and whisked away to the merry old Land of Oz.  Nearly 30 years before psychedelic drugs took hold in popular culture, the world of Oz presents a technicolour phantasmagoria with singing Munchkins, talking trees, shonky wizards and bad-ass witches.    In her quest to return to the good ol’ US of A Dorothy sets off to see Oz’s fabled wizard who, she has been led to believe, can grant any wish.  Along the way she enlists the aid of a talking scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly bi-pedal lion.  Her journey is, however, plagued by pants-wettingly scary green witch who commands squadrons of flying monkeys and an army of imperial guards who look like Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones.

Few films are as emblematic of Hollywood’s golden age as The Wizard of Oz and many people might consider it sacrilege that anyone would tinker with such a film classic.  Fortunately, the 3D transfer is tasteful and subtle and simply immerses audiences in the film a little more rather than reaching out and throttling them. The move to 3D has in no way diminished the look of the film with the sepia-toned scenes in Kansas still strikingly clear and the legendary reveal as Dorothy steps through the door into Oz as startling as ever.

As the film approaches its 75th anniversary, it’s remarkable how well it stands up today.  It’s lost none of its quirky charm and the special effects are still extremely convincing; in fact, with no cgi, the Kansas tornado sequence looks as good as anything filmmakers might conjure today. It will be interesting, though, to see how young, first-time viewers’ react to the obviously painted back-drops and plastic flowers that cover the Oz landscape.  People of any age, though, will still delight in the film’s songs which include the Academy award winning “Somewhere over the Rainbow” which, astonishingly, was later covered by Billy Thorpe.

With its white bread family values The Wizard of Oz could seem very dated but it delivers its messages with such innocence and sincerity that it never becomes an ugly anachronism.  The Wizard of Oz is still great family fun and an enduring piece of Hollywood history.


Nick’s rating: Four stars.

Classification: G.

Director(s): Victor Fleming

Release date: 5th Sept 2013.

Running time:  103 mins.


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