The Wizard of Oz: Special Edition (1939)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 15-Nov-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-John Fricke (Film Historian) And Various Cast And Crew
Storybook-The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, Read By Angela Lansbury
Featurette-Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration Of Oz
Featurette-We Haven't Really Met Properly...
Featurette-Making Of-The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz: The Making Of A Movie Classic
Featurette-Memories Of Oz
Featurette-The Art Of Imagination: A Tribute To Oz
Featurette-Because Of The Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy Of Oz
Featurette-Harold Arlen's Home Movies
Outtakes
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-It's A Twister! It's A Twister! - The Tornado Tests
Featurette-Off To See The Wizard
Featurette-From The Vault - 3 Featurettes
Featurette-Audio Vault - 4 Featurettes
Gallery-18 Stills Galleries
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer-5
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1939
Running Time 97:34
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:58)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Victor Fleming
Richard Thorpe
King Vidor
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Judy Garland
Frank Morgan
Ray Bolger
Bert Lahr
Jack Haley
Billie Burke
Margaret Hamilton
Charley Grapewin
Pat Walshe
Clara Blandick
Terry
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music George Bassman
George E. Stoll
Robert W. Stringer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Score & Effects Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Bulgarian
Dutch
French
Icelandic
Italian
Romanian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, Just a pipe
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† It is sometimes strange that the films that really stand the test of time are not always the biggest successes on their initial release. The Wizard of Oz is one such example. While it would be erroneous to call it a flop on its initial theatrical release in 1939 it was actually not until the second theatrical release in 1949 that it eventually turned a profit. (Although this was in part due to the high production cost). It was subsequently on annual TV screenings in the 1950s that the film became the undeniable classic we know today.

††† In many ways the making of the film is as interesting as the film itself. Richard Thorpe was the original director of the film but was fired after only 12 days and replaced temporarily by George Cukor (who was around for 3 days) before director Victor Fleming took over the reins. When Fleming was needed for Gone with the Wind he asked his friend King Vidor to finish up shotting. His contributions include some of the Kansas scenes including the song Over the Rainbow which was almost cut from the film as executives felt it unbecoming of their star to be singing in a barnyard.

††† It wasnít only the directors being replaced. Jack Haley replaced Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man after Ebsen reacted badly to the aluminium powder in the make up. (The aluminium powder was replaced with a paste for Haley). There was also drama on the set when Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the East was badly burned during one of the takes of her exit from the Munchkin village. Even Toto was put out of action for a few weeks after being accidentally trod on by a crew member.

††† There are a few films for which a plot synopsis seems almost irrelevant as they are so well known. The Wizard of Oz is just such a film and I doubt there is much I could I add here which would affect whether you see this film again or not. It is rightly considered a classic and this new two disc special edition is certainly one that both fans and films buffs should definitely seek out.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

††† This new transfer of The Wizard of Oz is quite simply stunning in every way. I was lucky enough to see a dye-transfer restored Technicolor print of The Wizard of Oz a few years ago and this new transfer perfectly reflects the print and even improves on it in terms of film artefacts. The previous DVD release was very good but suffered from some minor Gibb effect (most noticeable in the opening credits) and I always felt the colours didnít fully represent the fully saturated Technicolor used for this film. These have all been fixed in this new release.

††† The DVD is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which matches the original aspect ratio of the film. Obviously it is not 16x9 enhanced.

††† The image exhibits outstanding levels of detail for a film of this age. Shadow detail is excellent, as are the blacks. The image has been digitally cleaned up and the resulting image is very clean, but if you look really closely some minor blemishes are still visible (however, you will have to be looking quite hard). Gone is the technicolour dirt I saw on the theatrical print. (Because dye-transfer prints are made from the 3 black and white negatives, dirt on the negatives shows up as multi-coloured dirt. In normal colour films dirt on the negative shows up as white specks.)

††† Colours are fully saturated and simply gorgeous. It needs to be understood that the colours in The Wizard of Oz are not meant to be naturalistic. They are meant to be more fully saturated than real life and should really jump off the screen at you. The colours here are a perfect representation of how they looked on the dye-transfer Technicolor print I saw. This is exactly how The Wizard of Oz is meant to look.

††† There are virtually no MPEG artefacts to be found anywhere. Even on my 90Ē screen the image is as clean as clean can be. This is very rare indeed.

††† The English subtitles are grey in colour and are easy to read while accurately matching the on-screen dialogue and songs.

††† The film is presented on a dual-layered disc with the layer change occurring at 49:58, which is a cut between shots during the scene where they meet the Cowardly Lion. It's reasonably well placed and should not be overly distracting for most viewers.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Two English soundtracks (and an audio commentary) are provided on this DVD; a nicely handled restored Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s and the original mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

††† The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very nicely handled with the surround channels used to subtly expand the soundstage and provided additional ambience while never drawing any undue attention themselves.

††† The subwoofer too is used very subtly but appropriately to expand the bottom end of the soundtrack.

††† The mono soundtrack is unrestored and of inferior quality to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack but its inclusion will no doubt be appreciated by both purists and film buffs alike.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† This two disc special edition has in incredible array of high quality extra material and will keep Oz fans occupied for more than a few sittings.

Disc 1

††† Disc 1 opens with the annoying Anti-Piracy message. (Our counterparts in Region 1 miss out on this). Thankfully, pressing the menu button will jump you to the menus which are animated with music and scenes from the movie and are all 16x9 enhanced.

Commentary (John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, John Lahr, Jane Lahr, Hamilton Meserve, Dona Massin, William Tuttle, Buddy Ebsen, Mervyn LeRoy and Jerry Maren)

††† This audio commentary is introduced by filmmaker Sydney Pollock but primarily hosted by Oz historian and author John Fricke. Interspersed with this are archival interview clips from members of the cast and crew as well as their family members. John Fricke clearly knows his stuff and I guarantee that you will learn some interesting information in the audio commentary. Fricke is warm and conversational and fans of the film are sure to enjoy this commentary. I certainly did.

The Wizard of Oz Storybook (10:28) 4x3

††† A truncated version of the book read by Angela Lansbury shown with original illustrations from the book. I think itís a little too truncated to be fully enjoyed, however I did find it interesting to learn of some of the differences between the book and the film.

Prettier than ever: The Restoration of Oz (11:27) 4x3

††† This featurette details some of the work done during the digital restoration of the film both in terms of the picture and sound. Itís clear from the enthusiasm of those involved that great care was taken in the restoration and that they had a lot of respect for the film. They also discuss the creation of the 5.1 soundtrack and how they used the format to provide the atmosphere filmgoers expect today while trying to remain true to the spirit of the original mono soundtrack. This featurette is well worth watching.

We havenít Really Met Properly Ö (21:25) 4x3

††† This is really a series of short featurettes on all the main stars of the film (including Toto) and gives a short history of the actors and the other work they did outside of Oz. It is interesting that a number of the cast members worked together in other films and fascinating to see them without their Oz makeup on.

Music and Effects Track

††† These soundtracks have never really interested me but if you enjoy them Iím sure you will appreciate its presence here.

Original Mono Track

††† While the restorers of the film have done a great job with the 5.1 soundtrack, the inclusion of the original mono soundtrack is still a very welcome one. Purists may favour this one to really experience the film as it was in 1939.

Disc 2

††† Menus are animated with music and are 16x9 enhanced.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic (50:54) 4x3

††† Hosted by Angela Lansbury, this documentary was originally put together for the 50th anniversary of the film and appeared on the previous DVD release of the movie but nonetheless should not be missed if you havenít seen it yet. It gives a thorough history of the production of the film and includes some very interesting information.

Memories of Oz (27:38) 4x3

††† This featurette includes the reminiscences of some people (mostly Munchkins) about their work on the film. It includes a number of interesting anecdotes not featured in the documentary above. This featurette also helps to put The Wizard of Oz in its historical context. Also interesting is the section that shows where Wizard of Oz props were reused in various other MGM movies and television shows.

The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz (29:46) 4x3

††† One of the few featurettes not narrated by Angela Lansbury, this one is in fact hosted by director Sydney Pollack. This featurette is primarily the observations of many modern film makers including Peter Jackson, Colleen Atwood, Sean Astin, Henry Bumstead and many more. One very interesting aspect explored in this featurette is the contribution of Arthur Freed who agreed to take an 80% pay cut in order to get an uncredited role of associate producer on the film. He was instrumental in choosing the song writers for the film and the use of dialogue flowing into the songs which was extremely uncommon in films of the day.

Because of the Wonderful Things He Does : The Legend of Oz (25:05) 4x3

††† This featurette begins by exploring the film's second life on television and then goes on to look at the film's impact on pop culture. It then explores the fan base of the film and some of the fanatical collectors. One interesting little tid bit to come out of this featurette is the fact that the piece of carpet in front of the ruby slippers at the Smithsonian Institute has had to be replaced over and over again because of the slippers' popularity with visitors.

Harold Arlenís Home Movies (4:39) 4x3

††† Angela Lansbury introduces this 16mm footage taken by the film's composer Harold Arlen during the filming of the movie. It shows some of the portrait sittings as well as some behind the scenes footage.

Outtakes and Deleted Scenes (14:20) 4x3

††† This consists of 5 outtakes/deleted scenes.

††††If I Only Had a Brain. This is an extended version of the If I Only Had a Brain song and dance number from the movie.

††† If I Only Had a Heart. The role of the Tin Man was originally going to be played by Buddy Ebsen but he fell ill due to the aluminium dust in his make-up and so was replaced by Jack Haley. This is Buddy Ebsenís version of If I Only Had a Heart accompanied by still photos of him in the Tin Man costume.

††† Triumphal Return to Emerald City. The return to the Emerald City was originally much grander in scale. Here we see some original production photos accompanied by the song and music.

††† Over the Rainbow. This reprise of Over the Rainbow was to occur while Dorothy is locked in the Witch's tower. This again is accompanied by stills and test frames.

††† The Jitterbug. This is a dance number that was deleted from the film after the first preview screening. The original footage has been lost so we get still images together with some of Harold Arlenís 16mm footage of the number.

Itís a Twister! Itís a Twister!: The Tornado Tests (8:17) 4x3

††† Introduced and narrated by Angela Lansbury, this shows some of the raw special effects footage used for some of the Kansas scenes such as the tornado footage.

Off to See the Wizard (3:57) 4x3

††† Again introduced by Angela Lansbury this features short Oz cartoon segments animated by Chuck Jones that were used in a 1967 television series for showcasing family movies.

From the Vault (14:10) 4x3

††† With obligatory introductions from Angela Lansbury these are vintage featurettes with some passing relevance to The Wizard of Oz.

††† Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power is about electrical power and includes some footage of the use of electricity at MGM including on the set of The Wizard of Oz.

††† Cavalcade of the Academy Awards: Excerpt is a short except from the Academy Awards of 1939 including Mickey Rooney presenting Judy Garland with an Academy Award for best performance by a juvenile actress.

††† Texas Contest Winners shows some Texas contest winners touring the MGM backlot including the set of The Wizard of Oz.

Audio Vault

††† These are audio only supplements.

††† Jukebox. This is a collection of the recordings of the studio sessions for all songs in the movie. It is quite interesting listening to some of the various ways they tried the different songs in the movie. There is a hell of a lot of material here I suspect only the most ardent of fans will listen to all of it, but I enjoyed listening to the various takes of some of my favourites from the film.

††† Leo Is on the Air Radio Promo. A period radio promotion for the film.

††† Good News of 1939 Radio Show. A radio broadcast from 1939 that includes the cast of film.

††† 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theatre Broadcast. This is a radio version of the story with Judy Garland as Dorothy.

Still Galleries

††† An exhaustive collection of stills sorted into 18 galleries. They are actually video streams but you can use your skip button to jump between the images.

Theatrical Trailers

††† These trailers all contain a brief introduction by Angela Lansbury.

††† 1939 What is Oz? Teaser (0:32) 4x3

††† 1940 Loews Cairo Theater Trailer (1:58) 4x3

††† 1949 Reissue Trailer (2:50) 4x3

††† 1949 Grownup Reissue Trailer (2:21) 4x3

††† 1970 Childrenís Matinee Reissue Trailer (1:35) 4x3

††† 1998 Warner Bros. Reissue Trailer (2:05) 4x3

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† As comprehensive as the extras package here in Region 4 is, the 3 disc version available in Region 1 includes even more extras. Prior to receiving this 2 disc Region 4 set I purchased the 3 disc Region 1 edition and so am able to make direct comparisons between the two. First of all, the Region 1 misses out on the annoying Anti-piracy commercial at the beginning of the disc. This alone is reason enough for me to pull out the Region 1 if I want to watch the movie over our Region 4 version. When will local distributors realise they are just pissing off paying customers with these loud and obnoxious ads? Both transfers are excellent and I guarantee that they will satisfy even the fussiest viewer. On close observation, however, the Region 4 is ever so slightly brighter (I donít know which is correct) and exhibits slightly improved image detail. This is most noticeable in some background detail. Again I stress these differences are very minor and both transfers really are nothing short of outstanding.

††† The extras from the 3 disc edition missing from the Region 4 edition consist of a few silent Oz based films which I found less than engrossing. They also include some earlier versions of the story including a 1910 version, a 1925 version and a 1933 cartoon version. These may well be of interest to true fans of the Oz series. The best extra is a 30 minute featurette about L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Oz books. This really is a fascinating little featurette that contains a lot of very interesting information about Baum that I didnít know. Rounding out the 3 disc version is a series of reproduction booklets, postcards and so on.

††† So overall, despite the excellent transfer and comprehensive extras of our 2 disc special edition in Region 4 I must give my overall preference to the amazing 3 disc Region 1 special edition.

Summary

††† The Wizard of Oz is a true classic that has been a part of almost everybodyís childhood and has a warmth and charm that keeps it enjoyable for adults and children alike.

††† The video and audio transfers are excellent and the extras package is comprehensive and thorough. It is just pipped at the post by an even more extraordinary 3 disc special edition from Region 1.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Friday, May 12, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS575-S Progressive Scan, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Shane A

Comments (Add) NONE