The Wizard of Oz - 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray) The Wizard of Oz - 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray)
Adapted from L. Frank Baum's timeless children's tale, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto are caught in a tornado and end up in the Land of Oz. In order to return home to Kansas, she must follow the yellow brick road to visit the Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan). Along the way she meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who wishes for a brain, the Tinman (Jack Haley) who's longing for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) in search of some courage.
The Wizard of Oz received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won twoBest Song, "Over the Rainbow," and Best Original Score. It sits at #10 on the American Film Institute's top 100 Greatest Films. Amazingly, the film was directed by Victor Fleming, who in the same year also directed Gone With the Wind, #6 on the AFI list.
The film was a critical success upon its initial release in 1939, and it was released again theatrically in 1949 and 1955. In 1956, it made its network-television debut on CBS with an estimated audience of 45 million, which marked the beginning of an annual tradition. For people in my age group (40s), these broadcasts led us to fall in love with the enduring classic. Thankfully, Warner Brothers has now given the film the ultimate restoration, as UAV Editor Scott Wilkinson explains in this report .
I won't rehash all the technical details of the restoration heresuffice to say, it is simply amazing. Details that were obscured on DVD over the years are clearly visible now, such as acne on Garland's chin and forehead, the oil squirting out of the Tinman's oil can, and the boundary between the yellow brick road and the matte painting! Color saturation is breathtaking, shadows are clearly resolved, and the sepia tones of the scenes in Kansas have never looked clearer. Some may think the print is on the soft side, but this was how the film was originally shot.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack won't be confused with a modern musical, but considering its age, it sounds great. The fidelity is very good, although slightly on the tinny side, the stereo spread across the front is wide, and the dialog is intelligible and rooted in the center speaker. Ambience is limited, but the occasional discrete effect emanates from the rear speakers in the Land of Oz and when the tornado whisks Dorothy over the rainbow.
Warner dubs this the "Ultimate Collector's Edition," and considering the swag and other video-based materials, the designation is understated. First, the limited and numbered boxes bear a silver label (mine is 44,281 out of 243,000); once they sell out, the studio says it will never again be available to consumers. Inside the box is a rendering of the original 1939 Oz campaign book that includes promotional materials such as full-color ad reproductions and press sheets. Also included is a replica of the original movie budget; "Behind the Curtain," a 52-page hard-cover book assembled by Oz historian John Fricke; and a collectible 70th Anniversary watch created specifically for this release.
In addition to the swag, the video bonus materials run over 16 hours, including four hours of never-before-seen footage. New features on this release include a sing-along track; a documentary on director Victor Fleming; a featurette on seven of the original "Munchkins of Oz"; "The Patchwork Girl of Oz," a feature-length Baum-produced silent film; and "The Dreamer of Oz," an NBC television movie from 1990 that chronicles the life of L. Frank Baum. Other supplements include numerous behind-the-scenes featurettes, a digital copy of the film, and "MGM: When the Lion Roars," a documentary exclusive to Blu-ray that runs six hours and chronicles the most powerful studio from the early days of Hollywood.
This is the most comprehensive Blu-ray set I've reviewed to date, and given the film's pedigree, it's more than justified, but it comes at a steep price of $85. If you just want the movie and aren't interested in all the swag, Target has a 3-disc edition for $35, and Wal-Mart has a single-disc version for $20. Highly recommended.
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector
Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics