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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Literature > Musical > Comedy > Children > The Wizard Of Oz 3D (1939/MGM/Warner Bros. Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D)

The Wizard Of Oz 3D (1939/MGM/Warner Bros. Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D)

3D Picture: B 2D Picture: B+ Sound: B Extras: B- Film: B+

The original Wizard Of Oz is back, with an IMAX (if only digital and not 70mm) 3D release for a week before this new round of home video releases, including Blu-ray 3D for the first time even though the film was not originally made that way. To their credit, Warner has been pouring millions of dollars into the film since they acquired Turner Entertainment and Ted Turner himself had spent serious money at the time to save and preserve the film. If anything hardly any classic film of its time has been as preserved, protected and had as much money spent on it as this one. Not bad for a film that was a box office dud in its original release. It eventually turned a profit by the 1950s before becoming the beloved film and money machine it is today. All family entertainment, fantasy films and children's entertainment (even Spielberg/Lucas films of this type) all want to reach the platinum standard this film represents.

I have already made some of my basic comments and observations on the film were already stated in my previous coverage of the film at this link:


This time out, I should add that this new version is better than the previous ones, but more extended detail on that in a moment. This time, the standouts in seeing the film that deserve note include the visual effects team whom without any digital technology created some of the most enduring images of all time with simplicity that barely dates and is the way all such effects should be, invisible, in context to the narrative and not overdone. They should not be the star of the film. To George Cukor who saved the film by finalizing the design of Dorothy after early designs made her look like a Shirley Temple clone. Temple was first considered for the role, but Fox (the studio she was under contract with and made tons of money with) refused and it worked out. And to those set designers, production designers, costumers and people from Technicolor who pushed the color as far as they could without making the look a spoof of itself, by proving color on film could be great and added to the possibilities of world cinema and the moving image forever.

Converting a classic like this to 3D is rightly controversial and the film was never meant to be seen this way, especially since the film was shot in the classic studio style with plenty of depth and detail, along with its groundbreaking use of three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor. However, it is that very gran style of shooting that ironically makes the new 3D conversion (along with the Disney prequel from earlier in the year being issued that way) possible and as a result, the 1080p 1.33 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image is not bad. However, it also changes the look, feel and visual meaning of the film in ways even the converters may not have expected, which deserves a separate essay sometime, but there's no way it cannot.

For example, the 3D is able to hide the walls of the sets, so obvious in all previous copies, which some would rightly say is altering the film and others would point out strips it of some of its Great Depression context or Feminist context (i.e., potential heroine Dorothy is trapped in her own fantasy world, et al) so that is more than enough to always consider the 3D version a alternate version at best. Effects suddenly become more pronounced and other fakeness of the sets is slyly moved aside to make this seem more modern and surreal than intended. Nice, fun and interesting, it is not definitive and no one converting it has claimed so. Still, MGM produced a first rate big budget production and that is why this was possible 75 years later.

Even better is the 1080p 1.33 X 1 (both versions centered, of course, in a 1.78 X 1 frame) digital High Definition image transfer that may come from the same 8K frame-by-frame the previous releases, older Blu-ray (5 years old by now, issued for the first time in the Blu-ray format for the 70th Anniversary) as well as the color range best displayed by the best 3-strip Technicolor prints issued as late as 1998 during that format's all-too-short revival. That older Blu-ray (unreviewed) looked better than the DVD (reviewed elsewhere on this site) issued by Warner, yet I noticed it has color range limits and some grain that was acceptable, yet did not totally represent the film properly.

By comparison, this new version has the color range, less grain, more clarity, depth & detail, yet never looks like any details have been washed or worn away by some phony digital process or other bad judgments. For 1080p, the film will never look better, yet the best film prints in real Technicolor (especially 35mm prints going for at least $100K) will not be dropping in value, price, rarity or demand anytime soon. If anything, this amazing transfer will likely increase demand for such prints, even in 16mm. You can really see the money and color MGM put into the film like never before and it is incredible. This is now one of the best Blu-rays on the market to show you how great Technicolor is and shows without words why it was always referred to as Glorious Technicolor because it was!

As for sound, the film was originally monophonic, but attempts at upgrading it to stereo and multi-channel sound are more recent and the first Blu-ray had a lossless Dolby True HD 5.1 mix that surpassed the PCM Mono 12-inch LaserDiscs (including from Criterion) and any DVD Dolby Digital mixes, yet that TrueHD was nice. This new Blu-ray has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is a bit better than the previous TrueHD Blu-ray and not because one format may or may not be better than the other, but because this simply sounds a bit warmer, more transparent, slightly less dated and closer to original soundmaster materials. Too bad any isolated music and sound effects are still in lossy Dolby Digital, but this DTS-MA (on both the 3D & 2D versions of the film) is the best the film has ever sounded and likely ever will.

Combined with the great picture, especially on the 2D version, it is hard to see, hear or experience the film better anywhere save the best theatrical screenings.

Obviously if you want extras on this film, you can go bankrupt becoming a collector on it after 75 years and counting of tie-ins from the vintage releases to the pricey, detailed Mego Action Figures of the 1970s (including some remarkable playsets), you can get obsessive by picking up collectibles only hardcore fans would want (old VHS & Beta tapes, 12-inch LaserDiscs, including the Criterion Collection version, et) and Warner even issued two box sets that are very different between the 70th and 75th Anniversary releases in content.

For this single Blu-ray edition alone, extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the actual Blu-ray disc ads a feature length audio commentary track hosted by historian & scholar John Fricke with cast and crew audio throughout, a Sing-Along feature, all-new feature length documentary The Making Of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, Wonderful Wizard Of Oz storybook, a We Haven't Properly Meet... piece in 9 parts about the actors who played the nine main characters, Audio Jukebox, Leo Is On The Air radio promo for the film, Good News Of 1939 Radio Show promoting the film, 12/25/50 Lux Radio Theater version of the film with Judy Garland, several Stills Gallery sections and 7 Trailers including a 1939 teaser.

This reissue is a true upgrade that does not make all previous versions obsolete, yet stuns with amazing fidelity and accuracy of delivering one of the most important films of all time!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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