Have Your Dreams Been Answered?

Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke. Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (full-frame). Dolby Digital 5.1 and mono. 101 minutes. 1939. MGM/Warner Bros. 65123. G. $24.95.

Perhaps the most beloved movie of ever and ever is back, restored and with a remastered soundtrack, looking and sounding better than you remember it. And this Wizard of Oz is packaged with lavish extras befitting such a cherished film.

The restoration is truly stunning. The previous DVD release of Oz looked like its many TV showings: oversaturated colors everywhere and scratches evident occasionally. Now the colors are rendered both naturally and fantastically: Judy Garland's face no longer looks made up for a carnival, and Munchkinland sparkles surreally, as it should.

The sound, too, has been greatly improved. It's been remastered into the Dolby 5.1-channel format, giving separation to the bluebirds' chirping and Judy's singing that we've never heard before. (The soundtrack was originally in mono, of course.) Now you can hear her vulnerable voice shimmer and glow as it was meant to be heard.

One of the extras on the DVD is an audio track of a reprise of "Over the Rainbow," sung in the witch's castle. It was dropped from the film, and when you listen to it, you'll understand why—Garland breaks down and cries while singing it. It's absolutely heartbreaking to hear her sob while trying to sing that sad, beautiful song.

The DVD includes other audio tracks deleted from the film, including Buddy Ebsen's version of "If I Only Had a Heart." Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man, but had to leave the production when the aluminum powder covering his face made him gravely ill. Ray Bolger's inventive, extended dance sequence to "If I Only Had a Brain" (choreographed by Busby Berkeley) is also included. Because producers feared the movie was too long at its original two-plus hours, this sequence was deleted, as was the Jitterbug scene. That sequence took five weeks to film and cost MGM a bundle, but was dropped due to concerns about the movie's length, and because a new dance craze—the jitterbug—was sweeping the nation. The studio thought the Jitterbugs, pink-and-blue mosquito-like critters, were now inappropriate for the film.

There's loads of similar trivia in the accompanying documentary, The Wonderful World of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic, hosted by Angela Lansbury. Watching it will make you wonder if we'd love the movie as much had Shirley Temple played Dorothy, as many studio executives wanted, or had Gale Sondergaard played the Wicked Witch, or had W.C. Fields played the Wizard. (The part was apparently Fields' for the taking, but he asked for too much money and the studio settled on Frank Morgan instead.)

When The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, it was the most expensive movie MGM had ever made. Studio executives were horrified when it lost money, but it's pretty easy to see how even a magical movie such as Oz could have gotten lost in the crush of film greatness that was 1939—without a doubt, Hollywood's finest year. There were Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Beau Geste, Stagecoach, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Dark Victory, Gunga Din, Ninotchka, The Roaring Twenties, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Even though, in those days, 65% of Americans went to movies theaters once a week, in 1939 the competition was fierce, and one of the losers was Oz.

How The Wizard of Oz came to be considered a classic is due partly to its repeated showings on TV, which exposed it to hundreds of millions of people. More important is its theme of trying to capture dreams, expressed so perfectly in "Over the Rainbow." Each of us has, at times, longed to go over the rainbow. It's a symbol of the possibilities offered by another chance, another life, another set of circumstances.

The film's other main theme, that "there's no place like home," also resonates with just about everyone. Who hasn't dreamed of another life, then found themselves grateful for the folks and home they love?

If you've dreamed of seeing The Wizard of Oz restored to its original glory, your dreams have been answered. This is a must-have DVD for anyone who wants to go over the rainbow one more time.

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