Like It’s A Wonderful Life, The Wizard Of Oz became an enduring all-ages favourite not on the back of a successful theatrical run showered with awards (an expensive bomb for MGM, only two Oscars), but after being sold cheaply to network TV in 1956. Frequent repeats built up a cult around Dorothy Gale’s Technicolor fantasy, leading to 15 VHS editions since 1980.
This latest release comprises little more in the way of extras than the comprehensive single disc released in November 2001. Most of its featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes, home videos and newsreel footage reappear, along with galleries and audio tracks. The unique selling point is the movie itself, which has been restored from an original print using Warner Bros’ new digital ‘Ultra Resolution’ process. Every single frame of the 101-minute film has been digitally scanned and cleaned – and the final result is truly astonishing. Minute details from the soft-focus 66-year-old feature (such as a tiny rivet between the Tin Man’s eyes) are only now visible. Also, unlike Spielberg and Lucas’ approach to their old movies, the purity of the content has been preserved. What you get is unadulterated, incredibly bright, crisp and clear Oz.
Of the new extras, Oz and Judy Garland expert John Fricke’s commentary is a fabulously informed history lesson, while featurette Prettier Than Ever documents the restoration process. We Haven’t Really Met Properly is an After They Were Famous-style look at the leads’ subsequent careers. A couple more retrospectives fill out disc two.
On disc three, are five earlier versions of the tale, one featuring a pre- Laurel Oliver Hardy. L Frank Baum: The Man Behind the Curtain tells the tale of the turn-of-the-century Roald Dahl who wrote 14 different stories set in Oz. The Collector’s Edition also comes with reproductions of contemporary promotional material, souvenir programmes from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater première in August 1939 and vintage portraits and press shots. Oh, and the packaging itself plays ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’. Digitally definitive.