When I was little, they showed The Wizard of Oz on TV once or twice a year, usually at holidays. Back then, genre fan that I have been since birth, I was fascinated and baffled by the change from black & white to Technicolor. I knew it was an old movie–what I didn’t understand was that it hadn’t always been shown on TV.
And if that’s the only way you’ve seen it, you haven’t.
If you’re a diehard Oz fan, feel free to skip this and come back tomorrow. You don’t need it. You’re already in the theater. But if you’re just a casual fan, an admirer in theory… or even if you think you couldn’t care less about the 75-year-old film classic, do yourself a favor and clear two hours some evening this week. Get thee to a SPECIAL ONE WEEK-ONLY FIRST-EVER IMAX 3D THEATER SHOWING and don your IMAX 3-D glasses. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
What have we missed, all these years of cramming Victor Fleming’s vision onto the small screen?
The special effects that stand up to any modern CGI. It starts with a tornado more terrifying and realistic than anything in Twister and continues with the appearances and disappearances of the witches in a plume of red smoke and ethereal bubble, flawlessly woven into the film. The matte painting backdrops throughout the film convey a sense of scale and scope to make Oz seem like a complete world, far bigger than just the parts Dorothy visits.
The sepia-toned Kansas scenes. They are, flat-out, gorgeous–easily rivaling the flashier Technicolor segments. Remastered for IMAX 3-D, you can practically taste the dust and reach out and touch the straw in the haystack Dorothy leans against for “Over the Rainbow.”
Frank Morgan. There’s a reason it’s called The Wizard of Oz, and that reason is Frank Morgan. On the small screen, it’s easy to miss the wonderful, rich, and funny performances Morgan brings–he’s overshadowed by the more colorful Munchkins, Wicked Witch, and Dorothy’s Brick Road Gang. But on the big screen, you really notice him, and he’s just as wonderful as they say! Not just the befuddled humbug pulling levers behind the curtain, the Wizard is warm-hearted, generous, and a little bit in over his head, and Morgan brings a texture, depth, and joy to the title role (and at least four other incarnations!) that has to be seen full-sized to be fully appreciated.
The scope and detail. Expect to see costumes, sets, and other details you’ve never noticed before–from the swoop of the flounce on Miss Gulch’s cycling skirt to the astonishing variety of eye-popping Munchkin costumes, to a field of poppies all the more impressive when you realize it would simply be rendered in CGI today. You’ve seen the Wicked Witch’s iconic hourglass–but have you ever noticed her astrolabe? How about the rainbow-hued Munchkin facial hair, or the fluff of the Cowardly Lion’s tail? Ever really appreciated Toto’s skillful performance? The grey-crowned crane stretching his wings in the background? Honestly, I thought the Munchkinland scenes alone (easily my least favorite part before tonight) were worth the ticket price.
The legacy. You see the inspiration for so many classic fantasy films to come: the surreal landscape of Oz became Disney’s Wonderland twelve years later. The crotchety talking apple trees foreshadow Peter Jackson’s Ents. The fanciful Munchkinland could easily be Willy Wonka’s homeland, too. And the daring attack on the Wicked Witch’s castle is the template for every siege from Star Wars to The Two Towers.
The magic. I’ll admit it: I’ve never read an Oz book (but now I want to!). I’ve seen the movie enough times to sing along (and occasionally dress up). I acknowledge its place in the pantheon of great films. But tonight, I got it. I dare you not to be swept away by the greatest fantasy film–and simply one the best films, period–of all time.
Here is a preview of this extremely limited theatrical release:
For screen times and to order tickets, go to the IMAX website.