Even more wonderful in 4K 5 Stars

In honor of the film’s 80th Anniversary, Warner Bros. has released the classic The Wizard of Oz on 4K UHD Blu-ray taken from an 8K scan of the original Technicolor camera negatives.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Released: 25 Aug 1939
Rated: PG
Runtime: 102 min
Director: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Musical
Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr
Writer(s): Noel Langley (screenplay), Florence Ryerson (screenplay), Edgar Allan Woolf (screenplay), Noel Langley (adaptation), L. Frank Baum (from the book by)
Plot: Dorothy Gale is swept away from a farm in Kansas to a magical land of Oz in a tornado and embarks on a quest with her new friends to see the Wizard who can help her return home to Kansas and help her friends as well.
IMDB rating: 8.0
MetaScore: 100

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Spanish 2.0 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: G
Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc UHD eco keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 10/29/2019
MSRP: $41.99

The Production: 5/5

What more can be said of MGM’s classic The Wizard of Oz? Released in 1939, the film received critical praise but was a disappointment at the box office (earning just over $3 million against a $2.7 million budget, in 1939 dollars). Although it eventually turned a profit following a 1949 re-release, it wasn’t until MGM sold the television broadcast rights to CBS in 1956 (marking the fist time a major Hollywood film was presented uncut on a national broadcast network) that the film started to become a beloved classic. So much so, that the movie has been referenced in several movies and TV shows, including Good Morning Vietnam, Wreck It Ralph, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Emperor’s New Groove, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Top Secret!, Stargate SG-1, etc. I had the pleasure of meeting Margaret Hamilton, who plays the Wicked Witch of the West, back in the late 1970s or early 1890s when she was interviewed for a locally syndicated cable access TV show that an after-school program I attended produced called Cinekyd Theatre. I distinctly remember her telling us of how she had been typecast as the Wicked Witch (and even appeared on Sesame Street as that character), the many issues in making the film (including the more caustic make-up they used in those days and the third-degree burns she suffered from during the fire-ball explosion during her exit at the beginning of the film), and being the spokesperson the Maxwell House coffee in her later years. Eighty years after its initial release, though, The Wizard of Oz is just as magical today.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The Wizard of Oz is, at the time of this writing, the oldest movie to be released in 4K UHD Blu-ray. Warner’s press release is a bit confusing, though, in that it states that a new 8K 16-bit color scan of the original Technicolor camera negative was the basis of this new 2160p release with all three flavors of high dynamic range, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HDR10+. What is confusing is the word “new” when mentioning the 8K scan. The previous Blu-ray release from 2013 (as well as that year’s 3D conversion) also used an 8K scan as the basis of their 1080p transfer, so it’s hard to say if the same 8K scan was used for this release but spruced up a bit with high dynamic range. Viewing this on an HDR10-capable display, this is a much more film-like presentation (not that the 2013 Blu-ray was a slouch by any means), with more balanced and naturalistic colors and much more controlled contrast (which often appeared boosted to some degree on the 2013 Blu-ray). Detail is also more refined, obviously from the increased resolution, as this is a true 4K release. This is the best The Wizard of Oz has ever looked.

Audio: 4.5/5

Good news, bad news here. The good news is that the included DTS-HD MA 5.1 track has been slightly remixed to boost some sound effects and dialogue in many of the key sequences and increase the LFE presence in those sequences as well (notably the fireballs during Wicked Witch’s exit from Munchkinland and the Wizard’s grand hall). It is still a fairly front-heavy track (as was the 5.1 Dolby True HD track from the original Blu-ray and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA from the 2013 releases), spreading the music across the Left, Center, and Right channels with occasional surround activity. The bad news is that the original mono track was not included on this 4K release.

Special Features: 4.5/5

The 4K UHD disc includes two special features. The remaining extras can be found on the included 2013 Blu-ray release.

UHD Disc:
Audio Commentary: Film historian John Frick hosts this commentary track featuring excerpts from archival interview recordings with Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, Buddy Ebsen, Jack Haley, etc. This track has been included on just about every single Blu-ray release since 2009.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic (upscaled 1080p; 51:38): The 1990 documentary hosted by Angela Lansbury that first aired on CBS returns in this release after being absent since the 70th Anniversary Blu-ray release in 2009.

Blu-ray Disc:
Audio Commentary: This is the same track as on the UHD disc.

The Making of “The Wizard of Oz” (1080p; 69:02)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook (480i; 10:27)

We Haven’t Really Met Properly (480i; 21:23)

Music and Effects Track

Original Mono Track

Sing-Along Subtitle Track

Audio Jukebox

Leo Is on the Air Radio Promo (1080p; 12:25)

Good News of 1939 Radio Show (1080p; 61:01)

12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (1080p; 60:48)

Stills Galleries

Trailers

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) from Movies Anywhere that also includes some additional extra features, such as It’s a Twister! It’s a Twister! The Tornado Tests, Deleted Scenes, Excerpts from 1967 TV Series “Off To See the Wizard”, The Magic Cloak of Oz and His Majesty, The Scarecrow 1914 silent films, etc.

Overall: 5/5

Many will likely agree thatjust the mere mention of The Wizard of Oz in 4K UHD with HDR makes this disc a must-have, and strong sales hopefully will let the studios know that we want more classic films from their vault in this format. Highly Recommended.

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Todd Erwin

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Albert71292

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For someone like me, who first saw the movie on our family's black and white living room TV, the most recent version I bought is good enough. On the regular Blu-ray, I noticed Judy's freckles for the first time. I was mad they digitally removed the wire holding up the Cowardly Lion's tail however. It was clearly visible on the VHS and DVD. Historical context was gone.
 
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Robert Crawford

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For someone like me, who first saw the movie on our family's black and white living room TV, the most recent version I bought is good enough. On the regular Blu-ray, I noticed Judy's freckles for the first time. I was mad they digitally removed the wire holding up the Cowardly Lion's tail however. It was clearly visible on the VHS and DVD. Historical context was gone.
Todd, thanks for your fine review.

As someone that first watched this great film on an old black and white TV circa 1960, I think this 4K/Dolby Vision video presentation looks terrific and is now good enough for me.;) Seriously, I watched it on Saturday in a Dolby Cinema theater and again today on my 65" LGOLED and was more impressed with the 4K/DV video presentation on the latter. My earliest recollection of TWOO was being scared of the flying monkeys so I had to be around 4-5 naive year old at that time.
 
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Will Krupp

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I was mad they digitally removed the wire holding up the Cowardly Lion's tail however. It was clearly visible on the VHS and DVD. Historical context was gone.
I think the original dye transfer prints would have hidden the wire and 1939 audiences would have missed it. I don't think it was even visible until VHS?
 
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Robert Crawford

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Mmmmm hmmmm.
Yeah, unlike the 4-5 years old today, we were very sheltered in 1960. Kids today would just laugh at those flying monkeys compared to what they're exposed to in 2019.
 

noel aguirre

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Was George Lucas involved with removing those wires?
 

warnerbro

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I hate that they digitally removed the wires. I always loved watching for those wires where the lion sings "If I Was King Of The Forest." I found it charming that the wires showed, but they're gone now. Not cool to mess with this. They also did that for MARY POPPINS. I loved watching for those wires, too, in the scene leading up to "Step In Time" where they pop out of the chimney.
 

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I settled in last night to sample only a few minutes of this 4K/UHD release and, of course, ended up watching the entire film. Like so many of you, I have many versions of this film: VHS, the Criterion CAV, the LD Deluxe set (in that gorgeous box!), the Blu-ray, and now the 4K/UHD. The only down side is that I am one of those losers who got stuck with an OLED prone to burn in from only normal day to day use of my TV over a period of a few months -- and the specific sepia tone for the opening sequences really brings out those compromised areas of my TV screen in ghastly clarity. Cloudy green splotches hover over Kansas and the cast of characters like a miasmic spillage...if only if only a Wiz there was who could solve that! Luckily the burn in disfigurements become less noticeable when we venture over the rainbow to full color. Wish I could send my TV over the rainbow, too.
 

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Removing wires - I'm not mad at that. I ge the historical context thing, but if the guiding principle in restoration is "What would the filmmakers have done if they had today's technology", then yes, they would have 86'd the wires in a heartbeat.
 
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David Wilkins

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My comment is in reference to what seems to be all relatively recent official reviews here at HTF. Why the change in formatting? Now on the main post we get a graphic, with an active link that leads to the actual review. The link doesn't spawn a new window, but it does switch to a different "format" for lack of a better word, and that different format lacks most if not all the features that are allowed on regular posts, such as the ability to "like" a comment or capture a quote from a comment. I don't live here, but I don't remember this being the case in the past. Reviews were presented in much the same way as other posts.
 

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Disregard my earlier post. Now I see what's going on, it's just a bit confusing where clicking the link to read the review is concerned.
 

noel aguirre

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Why is it sometime I only see “Reply” and other times I get the full “More, Quote, etc”. How do I get the later and not the former. Is it due to iPhone iOS and not regular OS?
 

Timothy A Goldich

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I hate that they digitally removed the wires. I always loved watching for those wires where the lion sings "If I Was King Of The Forest." I found it charming that the wires showed, but they're gone now. Not cool to mess with this. They also did that for MARY POPPINS. I loved watching for those wires, too, in the scene leading up to "Step In Time" where they pop out of the chimney.
I get where you are coming from. There should exist a maximally presented picture with mono sound, no changes. Such a thing would be the most authentic presentation of the classic. AND, I am very happy that the wires are gone.

This issue is only going to grow over time. In 20 years they'll be selling the 100 year anniversary addition. How will they sell it? By improving it---there's no other way. That's how they've been able to sell it over and over again. Each time, picture and sound have been improved. But, this 4K release makes further significant picture/sound improvements difficult or maybe impossible. This 4K is probably about as good as it can possibly be. And so now, to improve it further, looks like they're going to have to get creative.

Perhaps they'll add digitally fabricated strips on either end of the image to render it widescreen. Perhaps it will be completely digitally re imagined. Maybe the faces of the actors will be all that remains of the original image. Technology will also make it possible to up-graded the sound to modern levels. The original film as originally presented will also be available, but many, like yourself, will be horrified just the same. My ask of people with your sensibilities is please, be horrified quietly. Don't spoil it for those of us who are drooling to see WoOz presented in a whole new way. You who are horrified need never look upon the heinous thing. You can watch the exact same thing in the exact same way for the thousandth time, your eyes never tormented by anything fresh or new or improved.

As far as I'm concerned the worst possible outcome of a full re-imagining is a bad viewing experience, in which case, I won't watch it again, no harm done---no harm AT ALL. But, the best possible outcome is something wondrous---the product of film geniuses, a labor of love by people besotted by OZ, a fresh new experience, NOT identical to the experience I've already experienced a hundred times. Hate on it all you want, but please don't create such a hostile environment, do not protest so, that such projects get shut down before they begin. Don't prevents me, and others like me, from getting what we want.
 
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I get where you are coming from. There should exist a maximally presented picture with mono sound, no changes. Such a thing would be the most authentic presentation of the classic...
Wires or no wires, the fact that it's in 4K with HDR and 5.1 now means it's already far removed from anything authentic - this is nothing what it would have looked or sounded like to audiences in 1939.