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The Wizard of Oz

December 29, 2006

This would be my last review for 2006, and this is of a classic children’s movie made some time back in 1939. To kids bred on a diet of Harry Potter and Spiderman, this movie might seem
some what odd, but it still is a movie to be seen with your kids and family. Its of course MGM’s 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. As far as fantasy musicals go, this movie is a masterpiece and touchstone, and if you are seeking to drive your blues away, and just relax, watch this movie preferably with your kids.

The Wizard of Oz based on Frank L Baum’s novel, is the story of a young girl Dorothy( Judy Garland) who stays in the vast praire lands of Kansas along with her dog Toto. Dorothy stays on the farm along with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. She wants to get away from her nasty neighbor Miss Almira, a foul mouthed spinster, after her dog. Fed up with the life, she dreams of a beautiful world in the memorable song “Somewhere over the rainbow”. When Miss Almira, threatens to have Toto put to sleep, Dorothy scared for his life, runs away from home. As she is about to return home after feeling guilty, a twister tears away her farm home, and Dorothy is left stranded alone along with Toto, and when the twister subsides, she finds herself in a totally strange land.

And she realizes she is in the Land of Oz. She meets a good natured Witch called Glinda, the Good witch of the North, who compliments her about having killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Actually the twister had deposited the home on the wicked witch and kills her in the process. She is made to be a heroine by the Munchkins who were oppressed by the Wicked Witch, in another memorable song “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”. However the dead Witch’s sister, The Wicked Witch of the West, swears revenge against Dorothy now. Scared Dorothy wishes to return to Kansas now, and Glinda suggests her to go to the city of Oz and meet the Great Wizard of Oz, who could help her to return back to Kansas. And she instructs Dorothy to take the Yellow Brick Road, and keep the ruby slippers of the dead witch always on. And during her journey Dorothy meets 3 memorable characters.

The Scarecrow( Ray Bolger)- He is a man without a brain, and is seeking a new brain.

The Tin Man( Jack Haley)- A Tin woodcutter, his problem is that he needs a heart.

The Cowardly Lion(Bert Lahr)- A lion with a strange roaring sound, and who desperately needs some courage.

The songs for the above three are same, for the Scarecrow it is “If I Only had a Brain”, for the Tin Man it is “ If I Only had a Heart” and for the Lion it is “ If I Only Had the Nerve”.

So the Scarecrow who needs a brain, the Tin Man who needs a heart, the Lion who needs some courage and Dorothy who just wants to go back to Kansas, set out to meet the Great Wizard of Oz. As to what happens on their adventures, just watch this enchantingly wonderful classic.The Wizard of Oz works as a perfect fantasy entertainer because it combines all the elements perfectly. You have memorable characters like the Witches, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion not to mention the supporting characters like the Munchkins and the Flying Monkeys.Again the coloring tone of the movie is near perfect. For the scenes in Kansas the tone is a drab sepia, in a way indicating Dorothy’s colorless life there. When the action shifts to the Land of Oz, the tone changes and you have a vivid palette of colors on display there. Also the characterization is spot on. Many have drawn allegories from the book and the movie to characters of that time.

For eg Scarecrow was the wise, but naive western farmers ,Tin Woodman was the dehumanized, Eastern factory workers and the Cowardly Lion – Democratic-Populist Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.But for me the best characterization is the way Dorothy’s friends on the journey to Oz are actually representations of her farm hands. For example Hunk the hard working but naïve farm hand is the Scarecrow, Zeke represents the Cowardly Lion who for all his bluster lacks the courage and Hickory is the Tin Man who is mechanically minded, but not very emotional. These three characters emphasize the importance of having a heart, a brain and courage.

Even if we overlook all the symbolisms, the movie more than makes it up with some top notch special effects, which for a movie shot in 1939, are top class. The most awesome one being the twister scene, where Dorothy and Toto find themselves in their farm house, moving around, and surrounded by other things like a cow, a woman in a chair etc.Other great special effects scenes which are top class are the attack by the Flying Winged Monkeys, Dorothy and her friends dozing off in a field of poppies and views of the fabled Emerald City of Oz. With top class special effects, excellent performances by all the main actors, some wonderful fantasy scenes, The Wizard of Oz is a movie that needs to be watched and enjoyed. This is a movie to be watched by all kids to know that there is something beyond Harry Potter.
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