Title: The Wizard of Oz
Genre: Adventure, Family, Musical
Director: Victor Fleming
Edgar Allan Woolf
L. Frank Baum
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
My early plan to watch Sam Raimi’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) has been successfully foiled by the tepid reviews and in fear of another ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) travesty, then it stroke to me that I had never even watched the worldly-famous 1939 version, it must be a presumably safe and better alternative.
I’m indisputably way past the age which will be exalting to watch this family-friendly vaudeville for the very first time, I wish I could have done that around my childhood year so I would be more in shock-and-awe admiration for this haute crowd-pleaser and ground-breaking studio-based product.
It all begins in Kansas, young Dorothy lives in a farm with his uncle and auntie, (after a melancholic rendition of OVER THE RAINBOW, still astounding and flawless) her tentative runaway with her cuddly puppy Toto has been persuaded by Professor Marvel (a very first introduction of multi-personae performance from Frank Morgan), en route, a twister rampages the farm and Dorothy and Toto (along with the house) has been brought to Wizard Oz’s wonderland with the casualty of a star-crossed wicked witch (crushed by the house accidentally), and the shoddy superimposition of the airborne journey may be cutting-edge 74 years earlier, sadly it barely works even under an uncritical eye.
The tangible visual transference from sepia farmland to the variegated Oz land grants a soothing refreshment and heralds a jovial adventure ahead, sing-a-longs with DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD (new entry at No. 2 in this week at UK Singles Chart in the wake of Thatcher’s death), it is just carefree and mollifying one’s hard-pressed nerves (if you have those). Then the classic characters (Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion) successively accompany Dorothy to meet the great and mighty Oz.
Despite of its all-comprising industry-reeking indoor design, it is a marvel how the film could be made in such a laborious scale and obedient order at its time, entering the second half of the film, when insouciant singing-and-dancing gives its way to the escapade of taking back the broomstick of The Wicked Witch of the West, all the set pieces are incontrovertibly stale and the logic of the story sags into an untenable farce (no specific elucidation of how the witch would succumb to a basin of water or what is so special about the red shoes the witch is hankering for, et al). The guarded-gate of the witch’s castle must be the recipient of the homage from Sauron’s gate from THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
Acting-wise, Judy Garland is humble, mawkish but naturalistic in delivering jejune lines, Bert Lahr’s Lion and Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow otherwise are the film’s best offers, also Margaret Hamilton’s heinous witch, simply wish she had more venom to spill.
Overall, it is a cartoon-ish adaption of children’s best-known bedtime story, may be predisposed to be an overrated sensation which stands flimsily after a serious filmic anatomy, but the bent of director Victor Fleming and his crew has been testified positively through the arduous endeavour, and one can still relish 75-or-so years after its inception.