Calling a movie a timeless classic has become a fast and lazy way of praising a certain class of movie that hits all the right checkboxes of superior production, endearment, and nostalgia. As hackneyed as that expression may be, is there a better way to describe The Wizard of Oz? The 1939 musical we all grew up watching and loving wasn’t the first adaptation of the Oz stories (look back to the short lived The Fairylogue and Radio Plays in 1908 for that), and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Something about Victor Fleming’s production at MGM would make that movie the most enduring, though, and it’s still the go-to version of the Oz stories after more than seven decades. With the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz upon us, Warner Bros has rereleased the film on Blu-ray in several newly constructed editions for fans and collectors alike.
The Wizard of Oz has become a part of modern mythology, infusing itself into our popular consciousness nearly as deeply as classical myths did in ancient times. The tale of the girl from Kansas who travels to a fantastical land full of strange beings and unusual creatures is a touchpoint for multiple generations who have Dorothy and her Oz adventures as an integral component of our childhoods and into adulthood. The Wizard of Oz in many ways parallels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but is a more contemporary and less abstract fantasy. Dorothy Gale’s accidental journey to Oz leaves her stranded and vilified in an alien world. Her journey back home and the things she learns about authority figures are common parts of anyone’s trip through adolescence, whether in 1939, in 1900 when L. Frank Baum’s original book was published, or even in the 2010s.
So relatable and beloved is The Wizard of Oz that it has inspired countless remakes, sequels, and prequels, some of which follow Baum’s original writing and others which eschew and even subvert the original contexts of the stories. Gregory Maguire’s Wicked respins the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West and became a bestselling novel as well as a landmark Broadway musical. 1985’s Return to Oz adapts elements from The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, creating an overall darker sequel to Wizard. But the core of the fandom and inspiration for all the Oz tales and adaptations that came later is the 1939 film that cast Judy Garland as the young farm girl who gets swept away to Oz.
With the movie turning three quarters of a century old, Warner Bros has marked the occasion with multiple versions of the anniversary Blu-ray release. Among them is an Ultimate edition similar to the previous ones Warner has released for other classics such as Singin’ in the Rain and Ben-Hur. The Ultimate package comes in an oversized box with additional disc content, as well as physical collectibles. If you’re less interested in the big bundle, you can pick up the movie in a two disc edition that offers 2D and 3D versions of The Wizard of Oz, along with the Digital HD Ultraviolet version.
The two disc Blu-ray release packs in over two hours of extras, as well as an audio commentary from a film historian and a good portion of the movie’s cast and crew. Other alternate audio tracks include a music and effects track that will play the whole movie sans dialogue and a retro track that presents the movie with its original mono audio that doesn’t have the remastered enhancements the standard version on the Blu-ray has. The first disc in the set houses the 3D movie with those special audio tracks, and the second disc has the 2D version with those same tracks plus a big selection of featurettes delving into the movie’s production, music, and origins. Finally and most significantly, the second disc includes a brand new feature length documentary about the making of The Wizard of Oz, hosted by Martin Sheen.
If you’re a die hard fan of The Wizard of Oz, the bulkier and more expensive Ultimate release likely will be worth the investment to add to your collection. If you are just interested in owning the movie in a gorgeous HD format, you can’t go wrong with the two-disc 3D / 2D version. Either way you’ll get the newly made behind the scenes documentary, which makes either package worth checking out even if you already got the previous Blu-ray release of The Wizard of Oz in 2009. The Wizard of Oz is a monumental piece of filmmaking, and it’s never looked or sounded better than it does on its 75th anniversary.