How does a film made almost 75 years ago still look so great and inspire so many people today? It ranks highly amongst many people’s top 10 lists, the songs and characters are so familiar to us that they have become ingrained into our culture.
It’s hard to say much about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t been said before. One of the great delights of the film is going back to revisit it as an adult when you can perhaps appreciate different levels of the film that elude younger viewers. That in itself is part of the great appeal of the film, the ability to connect to younger and older audiences alike. As an adult you may wonder does Dorothy create the whole world of Oz in her own mind due to her inability to cope with the situation she is in?
We join Dorothy (Judy Garland) at the start of the film and are introduced to her fairly modest, rural life on a Kansas farm. Drawing from the novels written by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy lives with her Uncle Henry and Aunty Em. It appears to be a fairly lonely existence with only her dog, Toto and farm labourers for company.
Dorothy seeks out more from her simple existence. She believes there must be more in the world for her to experience and decides to run away from home, bringing about a chance encounter with ‘Professor Marvel’. It is at this stage the film begins to move into the more surreal universe for which it is best known, a sudden hurricane sweeps through the farm and Dorothy is transported into the magical and beautiful world of Oz.
The screen bursts into colour as Dorothy steps into Oz for the first time and soon meets with a host of increasingly bizarre characters. She learns she has inadvertently killed The Wicked Witch of the East, much to the delight of the local Munchkin population but in doing so creates an enemy in the form of the witch’s sister, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Dorothy vows to return home but is told in order to do so she must follow the yellow brick road to visit the all powerful Wizard of Oz and along the way she meets the scarecrow (in need of a brain) the tin man (in need of a heart) and the lion (in need of courage) These characters and symbols have become so familiar in modern culture and so frequently parodied that it’s easy to forget how well crafted and developed the character arcs are.
The story continues to a meeting with the great and powerful Oz, although all does not go to plan and the viewer is left unsure if Dorothy will make it back to Kansas at all.
The legacy of the film has hung over cinema for the past three quarters of a century and promises to do so well into the future. There are bound to be further updates to join the underrated Return to Oz (the wheelers are a particularly unforgettable creation) and the more recent Oz the Great and Powerful, but surely none will come close to the majesty of the original.
What are your thoughts on The Wizard of Oz? Does it rank amongst your top 10?