XenForo Template The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Directed By: Victor Fleming Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke Studio: Warner Bros. Year: 1939 Rated: G Film Length: 101 minutes Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian, Italian SDH, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish Release Date: September 29, 2009 The Film *****In The Wizard of Oz, a tornado transports Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale (Garland), her dog, Toto, and their farm house to the magical land of Oz. Due to her house landing on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, she is hailed as a hero by the residents of Munchkin Land, welcomed by Glinda, the Good Witch (Burke), who fits her with a pair of Ruby Slippers, and despised by the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton). Dorothy expresses her desire to return home, and is sent on a journey to "follow the yellow brick road" to The Emerald City to see if the mighty Wizard of Oz, will be able to return her to Kansas. Along the way, she is pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West and her minions and acquires three traveling companions who also seek something from the Wizard: A Scarecrow (Bolger) who wants a brain, a Tin Woodsman (Haley) who wants a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Lahr) who seeks courage. ...but then you already knew that. If ever oh ever a film impervious to criticism there was, The Wizard of Oz is one because... well, just because. Despite its modest box office success upon release, the film has grown in stature and popularity steadily over the subsequent 70 years, topping its original release with a re-release in the late 40s, becoming a perennial seasonal event on network and then cable television, and never seeming to fail to connect with a single generation of children (excepting small subsets of each generation that are understandably freaked out by evil green witches with flying monkeys.) Despite some stiff competition, it is generally regarded as the jewel in the crown of the classic MGM film library. If there were a formula for its success and penetration into the popular consciousness of so many people over so much of the globe, there would be more movies like it. That being said, at least part of its enduring appeal must be attributed to a perfect storm of talent and craftsmanship. The chemistry between the vaudeville-trained actors playing the four principal protagonists is as remarkable as the technical wizardry behind the elaborate make-ups applied to three of them. Nearly every aspect of the production was state-of-the-art for 1939. Elements such as special effects that should seem dated by modern standards, when integrated into the overall production design and combined with the pitch-perfect tone of the performances, contribute to the film establishing its own reality that feels timeless. In other words, while there may be no place like home, the filmmakers created an Oz that is a great place to visit again and again. The Video ****½The 4:3 windowboxed 1080p presentation is encoded via the VC-1 codec. While I maintain that there has never really been a bad video presentation of Oz throughout its previous DVD incarnations, I can also safely say that there has certainly never been one as good as this Blu-ray release. Despite having just gone to the effort of creating an "Ultra Resolution" digital master from the film's original three strip Technicolor negatives in 2005 that was generally acknowledged to be quite good, Ned Price and his team of technical wizards at Warner Bros. went back to the Technicolor negatives and scanned and combined them at even higher resolution - deriving the master for this Blu-Ray release from the result. Compared to the 2005 DVD, this Blu-ray presentation has an expectedly more refined appearance, with substantially resolved film grain. The 2005 DVD did not appear to be the victim of severe grain reduction, but the folks preparing this new video master applied an even lighter hand in terms of grain smoothing, with the result being pleasingly detailed and film-like. The cliche in these situations is to say that you will see things you never saw before. That is almost never the case and is not so here, but what does become increasingly apparent in this high definition presentation are surface textures of costumes and props that make them feel more tangibly real (and occasionally further reveal the artifice behind them if you are feeling analytical while watching). The monochromatic sepia-tinted first and last reels of the film have been the subject of much restoration work over the past several years as their negatives were lost to a nitrate fire. As presented on Blu-ray disc here, they look superior to any previous version of the film I have seen, and, more importantly, sit perfectly well next to the 3-strip Technicolor reels two-six. Grain and density have a uniform quality that makes for an appealingly consistent presentation. I suspect part of this is the accumulated grain of the three Technicolor strips converging towards the generational loss of the sepia segments with digital tools bridging whatever gap remains between them. The Audio ****The primary audio option is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track mixed from a combination of mono audio sources with music and effects stems. Fidelity is fairly remarkable for a film of its era, and wide stereo effects are employed at logical opportunities. Aside from those "opportune" moments when far-edge or off-screen characters or objects are making sounds, the mix remains focused in the center channel with the two directional music stems used to provide some spread and presence to the score. While I did not expect much due to the vintage of the sources, fidelity was noticeably improved on this lossless track compared to the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the 2005 DVD. A Dolby Digital rendering of the original mono track is also available, and sounds great with noticeably, but not excessively, reduced dynamic range and fidelity compared to the remix. Somewhat curiously, it is only accessible from the "Special Features" menu rather than through the "Set-up" menu. The "Set-up" menu does include dubbed mono tracks in French, German, Spanish (Castellano), and Portuguese. The Extras *****A large number of these extras are carried over from the 2005 3-Disc Collector's Editon SD DVD. Since that release has previously been thoroughly reviewed on the forum by Herb Kane (click for that thread), I decided that rather than reinvent the wheel, I would insert his descriptions/assessments of the features that remain the same. These recycled excerpts appear (with occasional minor edits for context) in shaded "quote boxes" below, so you will both see which comments are Herb's and also be able to easily distinguish the new supplements from the old. All of the video supplements are in 4:3 standard definition video, and audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 unless otherwise indicated below. Many of the vintage supplements also include brief helpful introductory voiceover comments from Angela Lansbury that put them into context and/or explain their significance: Disc One: Under the Heading of "Behind the Story", we find the following special features, all of which were available on the previous DVD release: A Commentary With John Fricke which is interspersed with various archival clips from various cast and crew members including 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. The track is introduced by Sydney Pollack. If you’re familiar with Fricke’s previous Garland commentaries, you’ll know that there is probably no one on earth more qualified to comment on Judy Garland and her career. A number of things are discussed including the location shoot as well as the various casting choices who were in line for various roles. You’ll even learn a great deal about Toto. A superb track. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz: The Making of a Classic is the terrific documentary dedicated to the making-of the film. Directed by Jack Haley, Jr. and narrated by Angela Lansbury, you’ll see archival clips of the cast-members who discuss their experiences working on the film. You’ll also see deleted scenes and hear the reasons they were edited. Duration: 50:52 minutes. The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz is another feature narrated by Sydney Pollack – discussed here is a brief history of the MGM studio and the production of the film. Duration: 29:44 minutes. Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz John Fricke and Drew Casper make appearances here as the discuss the airing of the film on network television and the impact it would make for years to come. Duration: 25:04 minutes. Memories Of Oz is a TCM production where various OZ fans, cast-member relatives and aficionados appear and offer their opinions as to why the film has achieved the level of status it has. Duration: 27:36 minutes. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz Storybook is read by Angela Lansbury accompanied by various illustrations. Duration: 10:27 minutes. In Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration Of Oz, Ned Price and Rob Hummell appear from Warner Brothers as they discuss the restoration process from start to finish, including discussion on the elements that were used as well as the Ultra-Resolution 4K process that was used for the CE of Oz. Duration: 10:27 minutes. We Haven’t Really Met Properly… is a series of brief biographies narrated by Angela Lansbury. Duration: 21:19 minutes. Under the heading of "Audio", we have the following features: An Isolated Music And Effects Track – a great inclusion for the film/music/effects fans of Oz. The Original Mono Track is included in this section which I comment on in the audio section. Jukebox – contains 18 various audio clips spread out over three pages consisting of various rehearsals, sequence recordings, voice tests and underscores. Duration: 4:46 hours. Leo Is On The Air Radio Promo is just that; a promotion of the “MGM miracle extravaganza”. Duration: 12:13 minutes. Good News of 1939 Radio Show is an installment of the ’39 show featuring the cast members from the film. The show is hosted by Robert Young and sponsored by Maxwell House. Duration: 60:53 minutes. 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Radio Broadcast features Judy Garland in the hour long episode. Compared to many of the previous WB Lux Broadcast inclusions on other sets, the audio on this version is crystal clear. Duration: 60:46 minutes. Sing-Along with the Movie - Offers a "karaoke style" sing-along video and text stream available to players compatible with BD Profile 1.1 or higher (i.e. equipped with "Bonus View") Under the heading of "Extras", we have the following features: Electrical Power is a vintage 1938 MGM short from the "Romance of Celluloid" series. It looks at how power generated at the Boulder Dam is transported to Hollywood where it is consumed in the production of movies. This is used as an excuse to preview some upcoming MGM production including The Wizard of Oz (10:29) Excerpts of ’39 Academy Award Presentations which features Mickey Rooney presenting Judy with hers (2:14) Vintage promotional footage of a group of Texas Contest Winners who wind up meeting the cast of Oz during a tour of the studio lot (1:25). Off To See The Wizard includes 4 cartoon segments that were shown on ABC in 1967, animated by Chuck Jones. Duration: 3:56 minutes. Stills Galleries contains dozen of various photographs all of which are contained in eighteen various sub-folders. Under the heading of "Trailers", we have: Six Theatrical Trailers. Duration: 11:20 minutes. The trailers are identified as: 1939 What is Oz? Teaser1940 Loews Cairo Theater Trailer1949 Re-issue Trailer1949 Grownup Re-issue Trailer1970 Children's Matinee Re-issue Trailer1998 Warner Bros. Re-issue Trailer Under the heading of "Additional Footage", we have: Harold Arlen’s Home Movies is a compilation of the composer’s own home movies. Duration: 4:39 minutes. Outtakes and Deleted Scenes contains 5 deleted scenes including the extended Bolger Scarecrow dance sequence shown in it’s entirety. Duration Total: 14:19 minutes. It’s a Twister, It’s a Twister: The Tornado Test includes actual raw footage of twisters, footage that was used for the Kansas sequence. Duration: 8:16 minutes. Finally, the disc is also equipped with "BD Live" which will connect to the Warner portal and present online interactive content for players equipped with BD Profile 2.0 or higher. My player is not so equipped, so I could not verify if any content has gone live as of this posting. Disc Two: The second disc consists entirely of extras presented in 4:3 standard definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio unless otherwise indicated below: Under the heading of "Behind the Story", we have: Victor Fleming: Master Craftsmen - This documentary from Gary Leva looks at the Director of "...Oz" and several other classic films, beginning with Flemings humble beginnings and continuing to cover such topics as his breaking into the movies, and his "reputations" as a ladies man prior to his marriage, as Hollywood's "Mr. Fix It" when it came to troubled productions, and as an actor's director. Fleming's career is traced beginning with his work in silent films, and continuing to his remarkable body of work in "talkies" including The Virginian, Red Dust, Bombshell, Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, Test Pilot, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Tortilla Flat, A Guy Named Joe, and Joan of Arc. On camera interview subjects include critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Biographer Michael Sragow, Author/Historian Rudy Behlmer, Biographer David Stenn, Director Francis Lawrence, William Wellman, Jr., Director William Friedkin, and actor Gene Reynolds. Duration: 34:07 L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind The Curtain - is an in depth documentary on the writer. The feature touches upon the hopeless-romantic and his numerous dreams. It’s interesting to hear the various childhood experiences that would eventually go on to influence Oz. Duration: 27:43 minutes. Hollywood Celebrates its Biggest Little Stars! (16:9 enhanced video) Looks at events surrounding the honoring of the actors who played the Munchkins of Oz with a star on Hollywood's "Walk of Fame". On camera interview comments or live comments at the event are provided by Clare and Robert Baum (L. Frank Baum's Great Grandson), Ted Bulthaup (the man who championed the campaign to honor the actors), Joe Luft (son of Judy Garland), and surviving "munchkin" actors Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover, Jerry Mareu, Mickey Carroll, and Clarence Swenson. This is an overwhelmingly "feel-good" featurette, with many fond reminiscences of their Oz experience by the actors, although a tinge of melancholy is added when a subtitle at its conclusion informs the viewer that Swenson and Carroll have passed away this year. Duration: 10:23 Under the heading of "Extras", we find: The Dreamer of Oz - A 1990 made for television bipoic starring John Ritter as L. Frank Baum. The film, which first aired on NBC, dramatizes how the author came to write "The Wizard of Oz" with a framing story involving his widow, played by Annette O'Toole, attending the premiere of the film. This is a very entertaining film. It appears to have been shot on film and finished on video, and this presentation is clearly sourced from a circa-1990 video master, so it looks a bit soft. That being said, Oz fans have been clamoring for this title on video for years, and they surely will see it as a welcome addition to this set. Duration (1:32:48) The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1910), a print from the George Eastman House. Aside from the amateurish looking sets and backdrops, this print looks terrific considering its vintage etc. Duration: 13:17 minutes. His Majesty, The Scarecrow Of Oz is another silent production written and directed by Baum. The print is fairly respectable looking, considering. Duration: 59:04 minutes. The Magic Cloak Of Oz (1914) appears, but unfortunately hasn’t faired quite as well in terms of its presentation. An interesting inclusion, however. Duration: 38:26 minutes. The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) - is another vintage silent "Oz" feature, previously thought to be lost. It suffers from quite a number of vertical scratches, but overall, the newly discovered source appears to be in better shape than the element used for The Magic Cloak of Oz. Duration: 50:42 The Wizard Of Oz (1925) is a restored silent version featuring Oliver Hardy and Larry Semon, with a new fully orchestrated score by Robert Israel. This is in reasonably decent shape showing marks and scratches as we would reasonably expect from a film of this age. Duration: 1:11:48 minutes. The Wizard Of Oz (1933) is an interesting Technicolor animated short. Although the colors look mostly good, the print is in pretty rough shape and is introduced with a brief history. Duration: 8:12 minutes. Disc Three A third disc contains a double-sided double-layered DVD-18 with the multi-part made for television documentary MGM: When the Lion Roars split across its two sdes. Other than being combined into a single "flipper" disc, this is bit-identical to the SD DVD released separately last January. Suffice it to say that this is an excellent overview of the studio's history, and my detailed Home Theater Forum review of the title is available at this link. Disc Four Finally, a fourth disc is packaged separately inside the box in a cardboard sleeve with a DVD that may be used to download an Apple or Windows Media digital copy of the film when coupled with an access code on a separate paper insert in the box. PackagingDeluxe packaging is the hallmark of the Warner Bros. series of "Ultimate Collector's Editions", and this 70th Anniversary UCE is no exception. All of the contents are contained in a sturdy carboard box with attractive glossy artwork. There are numerous physical extras contained within the box, all of them unique from the 2005 SD DVD Three Disc Collector's Edition. Contents are as follows: Discs One-Three are contained in a four panel tri-fold digipack with its own carboard slip cover. Disc Four (the digital copy DVD-ROM) is contained in its own carboard sleeve. Behind the Curtain of Production is a sturdily bound 52 page hardcover book assembled by John Fricke. It includes biographical information about the stars including quotes from contemporaneous critical notices as well as behind the scenes footage and reproductions of vintage documents with all kinds of information about the film's production. These include studio memos with early drafts of cast lists, documents about deleted sequences, and other rare treasures guaranteed to delight Ozaholics. Each of the reproduced documents also has a brief informative blurb explaining its contents and significance. Complete 1939 Campaign Book is a slightly downsized reproduction of the elaborate 58 page marketing campaign book for theaters showing the film upon its initial release. It provides all kinds of suggested graphics and text that could be used to promote the film in the media of the day. The book is inside its own carboard "pouch" which also includes a sheet on a faux vintage MGM letterhead with an explanation of the book's contents and how they were used. Complete Budget Sheet is a single sheet almost the same size width and height as the interior of the box that contains a reproduction of an itemized budget for the film's production. The large size of the sheet actually makes for somewhat awkward handling as it can easily be folded or wrinkled when certain items are removed from the box. Wizard of Oz Commemorative Wristwatch has an emerald colored band and a face featuring the characters from the film. It comes in a tin case with Emerald City art applied to its top. It is very tightly packed in a depression of an insert at the bottom of the box, and must be removed carefully if you want to avoid crushing/creasing anything. The case also contains a number of loose paper inserts including order forms for Oz themed merchandise (A charm bracelet and "Faeries of Oz" figurines), advertisements for other Warner Home Video products (Warner Archive Collection and Gone with the Wind 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition ), a BD Live information sheet, and a sheet with a code to unlock the digital copy on disc four. Note: Early press materials for this box set showed images with four color mini-posters of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, but they were not in my review set and have been airbrushed out of more recent promotional images. Summary*****When "The Ultimate Oz" laserdic set was released in late 1993, I was convinced that I would never see a more elaborately released presentation of any film. I have since learned to stop jumping to conclusions as they have now done it twice with the same movie, let alone with other titles. The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray set benefits incrementally from a new transfer and substantially from presentation in 1080p high definition with lossless audio. The supplements include everything that was released on the jam-packed 2005 3-disc special edition DVD with the addition of non-trivial relevant materials including "The Patchwork Girl of Oz", a silent Oz feature from 1915 until recently thought to be a lost film, and "The Dreamer of Oz", a feature length 1990 telefilm biopic of L. Frank Baum never before released on home video. Physical extras are all new and even better than the prior DVD box set. The price is a bit steep, but Ozaholics will certainly get value for their money.