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The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Warner Bros.

Cast: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr.

Rating: G.

Run time: 101 mins..

Genre: Kids.

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

Almost 70 years after it was made, this classic movie remains an astonishing achievement.

I've categorized it as a "Kids" movie because there's a kid in all of us, to the day we die, and whether you are nine or 90 you'll be thoroughly entertained.

However, there's nothing childish about this great flick, which came out during "The Golden Age" of Hollywood's greatest year - 1939. Consider the list of classics in theatres then: Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. . . and The Wizard Of Oz.

Hollywood's dream factories were really at the top of their game, and no film provided greater escapism than The Wizard Of Oz. Based on L. Frank Baum's 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, the movie follows the adventures of Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto after a huge tornado sweeps up her farmhouse and lands it in a mysterious, magical land called Oz.

Together with Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road to find the Emerald City. The songs are as fresh as ever and the peformances are spirited and true.

The first part of the movie is in sepia tone, giving the Kansas farm landscape a dull look. But when Dorothy steps out into Oz, the colour is absolutely dazzling. I caught an early restored version of the film during a brief theatrical tour about 10 years ago and the audience was still gasping over this transformation. Given advances in digital picture cleaning in the past decade, the current DVD incarnations are even better - you might require sunglasses!

Everything about this film exudes confidence and pride in film craft, from the wonderful sets to the still-amazing special effects. Look at that fearsome tornado for example: there were no computer generated special effects available so the technicians had to devize a mechanical tornado using a piece of fabric attached to an overhead crane in the studio.

Warner has several incarnations of this great film, from single disc to a special three-DVD edition. All have extra features including fascinating documentaries on the making of the movie. It belongs in every film fan's library.



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