Let’s Talk About… ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)

Film #32 in FilmExodus’ AFI 100 Movies.  

Every week FilmExodus does a review/analysis of a different cinematic masterpiece from AFI’s 100 Movies 2007 updated list. For a complete overview and how you can participate, click here.

I find it hard to believe that nobody knows at least something about this film, but if you have not seen it, go remedy that and come back to this article after.  This film was ranked #10 on AFI’s list of greatest films and it surely deserves that honor.  I will mostly focus on its influence and productions that were born from and influence by it and a few things that lie over the rainbow.  However, I first have to talk about its impact at the time that it came to be and my personal experiences with the film.

I cannot remember the first time I saw this iteration of “The Wizard of Oz” as I grew up on it just like Star Wars, but I will always remember the amazing way that film transfers from black and white to color which was revolutionary in cinema.  I remember hearing stories about how the black and white confused people and they thought their color T.V. sets were malfunctioning.  Although this was not the first adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz” to a film as there had been plenty preceding it, but it is the one that instantly comes to mind whenever anyone thinks of “The Wizard of Oz“.  Come with me as we follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road.

“The Wizard of Oz” played a huge part in the evolution of technicolor.

It is a very beloved film for a great many people and deserves to be recognized as such and popular culture did not ignore it.  Not only were there several different film adaptions, but the music of this version carried on through decades and generations.  I have no doubt that in some way the Wizard of Oz has touched almost everyone that would look at a film blog or if they only had a brain.

Here is a cover of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” (that is also mixed with “What a Wonderful World” made famous by Louis Armstrong) and in addition, a dialogue from Archer to illustrate the lasting impression of the film has on pop-culture.  Alright, I’ll be honest,  I’m mostly including these because I personally think they are both great references that reflect how the Wizard of Oz has influenced things in different ways.

“Meet Joe Black” (1998, Martin Brest) made this version popular.

As for the “Archer” reference….

Archer:  Okay. A., The Tin Man is not a robot.

Trexler:  The Tin Man is –

Archer:   A magical being, like a leprechaun, Pinocchio, an enchanted Nutcracker.

Trexler:  Whatever! He doesn’t have a heart!

*From Archer Season 8, Episode 7:  Gramercy, Halberd! (2017)*

The book is a very different story that the movie only shows shades of.

The original book written by L. Frank Baum (1900) that it is based on is very different than the classic film such as the slippers being silver rather than ruby, the tinman’s origin is completely ignored, the Good Witch of the North is combined with Glinda, The Good Witch of the South, the Emerald City is only green because of glasses that the Wizard demands they put on as another one of his illusions and infinitely more differences.  The book is a very different story and if you have not had a chance to read it, I suggest that you do.  It will completely change the way you view the story and universe of Oz, while also giving you better insight on how they adapted it for film.  Here is an excerpt from the OZ Museum about why the changes were made:  https://ozmuseum.com/blogs/news/43742788-why-is-the-movie-so-different-from-the-book

This is some weird Disney adventure and magic.

I have a soft spot in my heart for “Return to Oz” (1985), which is indeed a very strange film that was directed by Walter Murch, who is more known as an editor and sound designer for films such as “Apocalypse Now” and “The Godfather Trilogy”.  It was even nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects!  This film is kind of  a sequel to the classic movies as it borrows elements, but it truly is its own thing.  Personally, I think this film is excellent with its crazy steampunk design and insane story.  The first time that I found this film was an old VHS in a video store (those still existed at the time) and I have loved it ever since.  If you are looking for something in the style of old Tim Burton mixed with the Wizard of Oz, then this very different move is for you.  Look at that poster, how can you not want to know what is going on with that?

This trailer will give you a glimpse at how bizarre this movie is.

The musical that would define a generation for Broadway and stage musicals as a whole.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention ‘Wicked”, a musical play based on the book “” by Gregory Maguire.  I have personally not read the novel, but I understand that it is very different from the play version.  This a  new story that puts an alternate spin on the tale and makes the original one to seem to be propaganda.  It focuses on the two witches’ relationship in a comical way that places them in a Hogwarts-esque school that they both attend.  I have seen the play performed live twice, once in Chicago and once in Denver.  The Wicked Witch is presented in a very different light as she is the protagonist of the story and the other characters’ origins are twisted and changed from the traditional narrative.  There has even been rumors of two separate film adapations, one a musical and one that is not, but I have not seen much about them recently if they are still in development.

My personal favorite song from the play is “No Good Deed”

There is no doubt that this film is what made “The Wizard of Oz” universe popular and made sure it influenced many generations to come.  If you were wondering, no, I have never seen Sidney Lumet’s “The Wiz” (1978)  or any form of that particular version/interpretation.  Although I have heard good things, I have never become familiar with this version in any way.  That is the reason that I have left it out of this article, but I would encourage people that have to speak about it in the comments.  I do not think that it is hyperbolic to say that we would not have fantasies, like “Harry Potter“, “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings“, in film like we do now if it was not for this film.

What else is there really else to say aboutThe Wizard of Oz”?  I’m pretty sure most people have seen at least once, but my late grandfather never did for no conceivable reason.  However, he did see “Wicked” on stage and loved the production.  Personally, my father made sure I watched it multiple times as a child and we still pull it out every so often.  This is a very personal film for many in a plethora of ways because of my different experiences with it in life and film and television.

I will leave you with by bring you back to the “black-and-white” performance of the original version of the most iconic song from the beloved film that has inspired so many covers:

  • ResonanceCascade

    Yep, all my most beautiful blu rays are old movies. Lawrence of Arabia in 1080p is still the best looking movie I own, including over my 4K discs.

  • Poppity⛄

    I agree! I just watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s the other day just because I got it on Blu-ray and the HD Technicolor image is absolutely breaktaking. In fact, I watched it more for that reason than the actual story!
    I wish I could get all my fav Technicolor films in HD over standard DVD. It makes the experience all the more dreamy! 😀

  • Poppity⛄

    Joe, you’ve done an outstanding job with your write-up! I’m will be checking out the videos later on, particularly the one about Technicolor. Thanks so much for providing some really great information, details and opinions on the film! 😀

    I, too, was not a great fan of The Wizard of Oz in my younger years. The did a school production of it when I was around 5 years old and my brother was playing one of the monkeys. It scared me senseless! In regards to the film, it was actually the Tin Man that scared me the most, followed by the Cowardly Lion and then the Scarecrow. Still, to this day, I have a hard time finding affection for them even though they are very nice to Dorothy and are upfront about their shortcomings. Whenever I see Ray Bolger (Scarecrow) in other films, I never forget him from Oz. This film was most definitely an epic, groundbreaking production that has become a motion picture reference.
    As for Judy, I admire her work in this film but I must admit that I like her in other roles compared to that of Dorothy. She was very sweet and had a wonderful voice.

  • King Alvarez

    We watched this not too long before the holidays. By golly does it hold up well. Such a good movie from beginning to end.

  • ResonanceCascade

    The Wizard of Oz is so visually appealing. I really miss Technicolor and the some of the early highly-saturated single strip stocks that followed. It is amazing how much better movies looked in the 30’s-60’s than they did in the 70’s and 80’s, when cheaper new film stocks took over.

  • This movie scared me as a kid (those monkeys… *shudder*), but I can now appreciate it.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    1. Wizard of oz is one of the greatest adventure films ever made
    2. The original silent films are also worth a watch

  • Manuel Orozco

    I wouldn’t call Wizard of Oz a favorite of mine. But it was my first exposure to the Golden Age of Hollywood outside the Disney Animation archives. The visuals were astonishing for it’s time especially the transition from Black and White to Technicolor. Somewhere over the Rainbow truly matches the story’s beauty. Growing up, I thought it was another Beauty and the Beast because of how Dorothy’s costume inspired Belle’s gown she wears for most of the plot. I felt bad for Dorothy how she didn’t get her way the home the way she originally expected. But the premise’s message of inner strength is surprisingly powerful and adds to the movie’s magic.