Thursday, 24 February 2011

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

No 172 - The Wizard of Oz
Director - Victor Fleming

My.... what a visually beautiful film. It is amazing how even after 72 years, this film can look so crisp, so sharp. A lot of it is due to the beautiful magic of Technicolor, but that's not all of it, as even the sepia moments look crisp. The film has aged splendidly.

What I didn't remember was just how long the Sepia moment is, as we're introduced to everyone before we meet their Oz alternatives. The film just rambles along, letting us settle into the world of Kansas and get accustomed to Judy Garland's whining wide eyed Dorothy.

The film settles you in nicely enough, so that when you finally step into the glorious technicolor splendour of Oz, it is a proper breathtaking moment. Sure, it all looks like a set..... but it looks like a splendid enchanting set.

The world of Oz is enchanting - I want to talk about the little treats I'd forgotten about such as the talking trees. I also want to talk about two remarkable performances. Maybe it comes from my unashamed love of pratfalling.... but Ray Bolger's Scarecrow really shines throughout the film. His performance is both the warmest and funniest of the companions and his fluid movement is remarkable to watch. He is.... after all.... playing a character with no skeleton, nothing to hold him up, and as he flips and flops and falls around he is just a joy to behold.

The other performance which has to be mentioned is Margaret Hamilton's joyous performance as the bitter, cackling Wicked Witch of the West. She is hamming it up so much, but she is clearly having a lot of fun as she stomps around stealing scenes and being a bit ridiculous.
However.... it is with the arrival of the Wicked Witch of the West that we have a problem.... I think the film, or at least Oz, is racist towards green folk.

I mean.... besides her evil looking appearance, what has the Wicked Witch of the West done to be viewed so dimly. Her motive throughout the film is pretty understandable. I mean a stranger murders her sister and there is no trial. Not even a funeral. Instead there is just the longest munchkin song ever.... And as she comes to claim the one remnant of her sister - the slippers - they are stolen by that same murderer.
If that happened to me, and I had an army and flying monkeys, I would dispatch them to make the murdering thief's life living hell..... It only makes sense. I agree with Douglas Smith's view of the whole thing.
In fact, the Wicked Witch of the West gets a rum deal as everyone tries to kill her. However..... here is a little tip for anyone in a similar predicament.

But these are minor foibles when compared to the glorious nostalgic joy of the film. After a meandering start, it zips along and has a jolly dream like nonsense running through it.

As the film ends and we realise it was all a dream (or was it)..... one question remains unanswered though. There is still a sheriff summon saying that Toto has to be put down. Just because Toto ran away doesn't mean he escaped the law!

But I presume all is fine - because Toto is still about in the frankly terrifying Return to Oz....

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