It’s the most-watched film in history, and unless you’re an extremely unusual person, you’ve seen it more times than you can count — but The Wizard of Oz still somehow never loses its ability to enthrall audiences of all ages. I’m old enough to remember the days when Oz was an annual television tradition for the whole family; I can’t think of it without imagining Thanksgiving celebrations, and thanks to having three younger siblings and a mother who fell under the movie’s spell as a girl, I knew the movie inside and out by the time I was in high school. After my daughter was born, The Wizard of Oz — both the movie and the original L. Frank Baum book — was one of the first gifts she received from my mom, and although we worried that the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys would freak Sophie out, we eventually caved in and let her watch the movie around her third birthday. Surprise, surprise — she loved it, and it’s become her own most-watched movie and favorite film.
Through her repeat viewings over the last year, I’ve rediscovered The Wizard of Oz myself (we’ve also read her the first 14 books in the series, but that’s another story). There aren’t many things that can hold up to seven decades of the kind of hype Oz has earned, but if there’s any such thing as a perfect movie, this is it — and if there’s a movie worth an incredibly lavish 70th anniversary box featuring books, a watch, and more than 16 hours of bonus material, it’s this one.
Boasting a brand new, utterly stunning remaster, the 70th anniversary edition of The Wizard of Oz comes in a number of configurations, including a two-disc DVD set, single-disc Blu-ray, and a number of deluxe boxes, among them the five-disc DVD box that Warner Bros. sent me, a Blu-ray box, and Amazon exclusive editions that come with character posters (one of which I have on order, but seems to have disappeared somewhere between Amazon’s warehouses and my house, thus delaying my review). In other words, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on the latest Wizard, which is smart on the studio’s part — this is a title that most film collectors already own, and one that’s been remastered before (in fact, as recently as 2005). If you do have the cash to spend, however — or if you’re trying to give the Oz fan in your life a thrill — this is one case where the folks who control the vaults have really done right by a film and the people who love it. Short of bringing Baum and the movie’s stars back to life so they can provide a new commentary track, I can’t imagine any way Warners will ever be able to surpass this edition. It’s the Oz to rule them all.
If you have any level of experience with the constant reissues (and reissues of reissues) that have flooded the home market over the last decade or so, it shouldn’t surprise you that quite a lot of the bonus material in this set has been ported over from the 2005 edition — and a lot of that was taken from earlier editions — but even if very little of what you’ll see here is truly new, there’s just so much of it that you can’t help but be impressed. If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about how Oz was made, from the directors who paraded behind the cameras, to the actors who starred (or, in Buddy Ebsen’s case, almost starred), to the music, to the special effects…well, the answers to your questions are all here, along with a truly incredible collection of supplementary features. You get various and sundry pre-1939 Oz films, including The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) and the original silent adaptation of Wizard (1910). Heck, you even get the 1990 made-for-TV Baum biopic, The Dreamer of Oz, starring John Ritter as the author — plus a six-hour documentary about MGM itself!
In the end, there really isn’t much I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said — and if you’re at all interested in The Wizard of Oz, you’ve probably already had your eye on this set (in fact, you probably already own it). If you’re on the fence at all, though, I can tell you that it’s worth every penny, especially if you’ve somehow escaped adding Oz to your collection until now. There’s no movie like it.
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