Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
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.
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:
Under the Heading of "Behind the Story", we find the following special features, all of which were available on the previous DVD release:
Under the heading of "Audio", we have the following features:
Under the heading of "Extras", we have the following features:
Under the heading of "Trailers", we have:
- 1939 What is Oz? Teaser
- 1940 Loews Cairo Theater Trailer
- 1949 Re-issue Trailer
- 1949 Grownup Re-issue Trailer
- 1970 Children's Matinee Re-issue Trailer
- 1998 Warner Bros. Re-issue Trailer
Under the heading of "Additional Footage", we have:
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.
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:
Under the heading of "Extras", we find:
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.
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:
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.