Sunday, September 22, 2013

Original "The Wizard of Oz" in 3D Imax

One of the favorite - if not THE favorite - children's movies of all times, "The Wizard of Oz" is being re-released for it's 75th anniversary in a new cleaned up, restored, high definition, 3D IMAX edition, before being released on Blu-Ray/DVD.

When I first heard about it, I was, in order: ecstatic, concerned, skeptical. How could I not be excited at seeing one of my all-time favorite movies again on the big screen (I've been lucky to see it five times in a theatre)? Then, I have to question, why? Isn't being one of the world's most popular films, that has won the test of time for almost a century, and filled with iconic characters that are immediately recognizable by most people, enough?! Does it need to be "modernized?" Then, will all the special bells and whistles overpower what is basically a small, simple story of a girl who just wants to go home?
Well, let's get the negatives out of the way first: this re-issue is only running for one week - which is not NEARLY enough time for all the people to see it who should see it. This definitely could have been a summer blockbuster!
From the opening black and white scenes, the cleaned up and restored print shows every stitch on the costumes and the 3D shows depth and adds interest in every scene. You see things you don't remember ever seeing before. The inside of Professor Marvel's caravan never looked as magical to me. You actually see/FEEL the cyclone moving closer to the farm, and Dorothy's visions out the window into the cyclone really seem to be flying past her - but behind her - as only 3D can achieve.
There is the legendary story of the studio execs who wanted to cut the number "Over the Rainbow" from the film because they felt the song slowed down the movie at that point. In this version, blasphemy though it may seem, I agree. There's lots of action - we're getting accustomed to the brilliant and clarity of the print - the 3D aspects and the IMAX larger-than-life images - and suddenly everything stops for this child to sing this plaintive - albeit gorgeous - song. I am a real Wizard of Oz purist and fan, so I'm not for a moment suggesting this song ever be cut! However, I'm wondering if perhaps later in the film might not be a better spot for it to show up (maybe after the Wizard's hot air balloon flies off without her?).
Then, of course, the moment we all wait for: when Dorothy opens the plain and simple door of her black and white world into the technicolor splendor of Oz. Well. It's there. Everything you hoped/wished for and more. It is amazing seeing every single prop and set piece set into 3D - and you can see that some of it is molded something-or-other, heavily lacquered to a sheen and some of it is formed fabric and organza, transparent and magical. 

Now the clarity becomes amazing. You can count the freckles on the young Garland's face and count the checks in her frock. Without seeing it, it's impossible to describe the feeling of seeing the movie for the first time, even though you know you've seen a hundred times before! When Glenda arrives in her shimmering magical bubble, you can see every single sequin sewn onto her gown, and see the shape of every design on her crown. Positively amazing. Again, all of this merely supports and enhances the story and doesn't distract from it.
  
Some mention must be given to the new awareness of the make up used in this filming - and how it has never really been able to be seen before.
 
  
 The Scarecrow's face actually looks as if it were made of burlap - at first I thought perhaps they had latexed burlap onto his face, but then realized that all Ray Bolgers' facial lines and expressions were perfectly clear, so this had to have been a special make-up procedure. Awesome result!

Jack Haley's silver make up wasn't quite as successful. Knowing that originally Buddy Ebsen was to play this part, until he became allergic to the aluminum dust that was being painted on him and had to be put into an iron lung to be kept alive, no doubt the studio went out of their way to protect their new Tinsman. But the make up was often smudged and his regular skin showed through clearly at times. It was not enough to be distracting - but, certainly was never visible before the enormity and clarity of IMAX. 

Alas, the witch just looked like she had on green make up. The upside of this is that every nuance of acting is visible on screen and nothing is obscured by the fact that she is green. But, nonetheless, she doesn't look like a green woman, she looks like a woman with green make up on. However, she's still as evil - or even more so - as ever and can scare the socks off of you!
  
Another thumbs up to the sound technicians who have cleaned up the soundtrack. Crystal clear and marvelously pitched to the story so that it always enhances the film and doesn't distract.

There are hundreds of other details that I just can't mention - there are too too many. The flying monkeys (oh, the faces!), the witch's crystal ball, the stunning costumes on the Winkies, the depth and fearsomeness of the great Wizard head in the Hall of the Wizard - even Aunt Em's yummy looking cruellers! Every scene has something you never really noticed - or were able to see - before.

A final shout out to the backdrops. Now that the screen is in 3D and has real "depth," you are really able to focus on the magical and fantastical backdrops used in the movie and all the props that are contained within the scenes!

This should be seen by every "The Wizard of Oz" fan. Find the nearest IMAX theatre and get tickets! We're lucky - we have an IMAX only 15-20 minutes from home - but for this I would have made a day trip out of it - it was that good! If you're not a "The Wizard of Oz" fan, this edition is not going to change  your mind. It's the same movie, enhanced lovingly beyond measure, but the same nonetheless.

Then, after you see it, go home and make something beautiful!
♥´¨)
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(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan


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