“The Wizard of Oz”, which will tally its 75th anniversary in 2014 has been the recipient of many remasters over the years, but the most recent treatment finds it returning to theaters for one week only in glorious IMAX 3D. The limited engagement kicks off on Sept. 20, and is a must for fans of Dorothy, Toto and their companions. However admirable of an attempt this year’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful” was, all of the CGI on the planet cannot top the magic and wonder of the 1939 classic.
The three-quarter century old images are crisp and rich in towering IMAX size, and when Dorothy and Toto find themselves in the colorful land of Oz, lookout! Those ruby slippers glitter and pop right off the screen. The conversion to 3D was subtly and effectively handled, rather than having images constantly leaping off the screen, “Oz” primarily indulges the audience with depth of field, drawing attention to the meticulously created land of Oz as if placing them right alongside Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Toto as they follow the yellow brick road.
It is true that this level of clarity reveals some of the machinations of the film--attentive viewers can clearly see the trap door through which Margaret Hamilton makes her (dangerously) fiery exit from Munchkinland--and yet, this somehow enhances the experience. Knowing that the filmmakers couldn’t rely on computer technology to pull off the wondrous and impossible makes the immersive world of the film all the more impressive. The first man-made tornado on the silver screen was crafted from a giant muslin sock, and still looks respectably like a twister, kudos for days.
Yes, “Oz” looks, feels and sounds as lovely as our fondest childhood memories, and moreover, the performances remain as captivating as ever. Judy Garland is at turns melancholy and sweet, and even occasionally, snarky, while her companions are as charming and endearing as ever. As the titular Wizard and a host of other characters Frank Morgan is a pitch-perfect snake-oil con man with an air of lovability, and let’s face it, no one ever gave Toto enough props in the cute department; Dorothy’s loyal pal is worth all the trouble he causes.
It is Margaret Hamilton, as the detestable Mrs. Gultch and the alarmingly evil Wicked Witch of the West, who is, as ever, truly the tour de force of the picture. As one moviegoer simply and deftly described it, Hamilton is a presence. The green makeup gives her a bit of an edge to be certain (it’s quite masterfully done, appearing as a natural skin tone other than the lurid color) but the real power is in Hamilton’s uncanny embodiment of the character. Everything about the Wicked Witch of the West from her stalking gait to her abrasive cackle confirms that yes, her wickedness is beautiful.
Journey back over the rainbow and experience ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as it was meant to be seen, glittering on the silver screen.