The Wizard of Oz appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Across the board, this turned into a highly satisfying image.
Overall sharpness worked well. Due to the source, a few slightly soft shots emerged, but these remained negligible, so the majority of the film boasted appealing delineation.
Indeed, the new version made “hidden” elements of the source more apparent. Over the many times I watched Oz across the years, I never noticed the lines from the bald caps worn by the Munchkins, but the 4K UHD made these obvious. Frank Morgan’s wig as Oz also stood out more clearly.
Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed absent, and the film came with a nice layer of grain.
Colors were excellent, as the broad palette appeared lively and dynamic throughout the film. This was the kind of flick that could show off the Technicolor, and the transfer did so. Expect the disc’s HDR to add punch to the hues and give hem real impact.
Blacks were dense, while shadows appeared visible and clear. Contrast showed nice range, and the image felt balanced and smooth. This became a splendid presentation.
The Wizard Of Oz brought a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. In terms of soundfield, the new track didn't tamper terribly with the basic elements.
The sound still stuck pretty closely to the center channel for the most part, so mainly it used the sides and rears for music, though some effects spread out as well. Check out the tornado sequences for some of the most prominent examples of that usage.
While the extra channels served the effects acceptably well – and even tossed out some stereo material in the rear – the music seemed less successful. This wasn’t a real stereo mix for the score and songs.
The track faked it in some ways but usually stayed with broad mono. This worked okay in that it wasn’t a distraction, but I can’t say it added anything to the experience. It simply spread the elements across the channels.
Quality seemed good for its era. Dialogue lacked tremendous clarity but was reasonably distinctive and concise.
I noticed no edginess and found the speech to seem consistently intelligible. Effects showed pretty good definition, while bass response complemented things well; a few of the louder scenes offered nice low-end.
Music showed the track’s age the most clearly but remained acceptable. Some of the songs were tinny, and there wasn’t a lot of range to the score and tunes.
Still, this was to be expected of material recorded in 1939, and I thought these elements came across fine for their age. I couldn’t rave about this remix, but it acted as a fairly natural extension of the original monaural material.
How did this 4K UHD compare to the most recent Blu-ray? Both came with the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, so audio remained identical,
Visuals became a different story, though, as the 4K UHD delivered a notable upgrade. This version looked better defined and better balanced, with a smoother, cleaner image that boasted superior colors. The 4K UHD offered a considerable improvement.
Note that although the Blu-ray included the film’s English monaural mix as a “bonus”, it does not reappear on the 4K UHD. Only the 5.1 version comes alongside the 4K UHD presentation.
On the 4K UHD disc, we find an audio commentary. This combines a running, screen-specific chat from film historian John Fricke along with archival clips from actors Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen, Margaret Hamilton and Jerry Maren, producer Mervyn LeRoy, makeup artist William Tuttle, assistant/extra Dona Massin, Barbara Freed-Saltman (daughter of associate producer Arthur Freed), John and Jane Lahr (kids of actor Bert Lahr), and Hamilton Meserve (Margaret Hamilton’s son).
Fricke dominates the chat. He covers pretty much everything you would want to know. Fricke talks about the adaptation of the story and contrasts the movie with the original book and other versions, casting and concerns in that area, the problems confronted by the actors, makeup and costumes, sets and visual design, songs and music, issues related to the directors, and many production notes. Fricke clearly knows his stuff, and he makes sure we get a fine education in all things Oz.
The archival interviews sprinkle between Fricke’s comments well. They let us know some behind the scenes elements and provide quite a few fun stories.
Hamilton proves especially entertaining as she chats about her casting. All of this adds up to a terrific little commentary.
Also on the 4K UHD, we seeThe Wonderful Wizard Of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic. Produced by Jack Haley Jr., this 51-minute, 38-second program comes hosted by Angela Lansbury and provides a nice look at the project.
The piece combines early 1990s interviews with older clips. We hear from Oz actors Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Jerry Maren, and Meinhardt Raabe plus director King Vidor, special effects supervisor Arnold Gillespie, producer Mervyn LeRoy, and composers Harold Arlen and EY Harburg. We also hear from actor Robert Young, Garland's kids Liza Minelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft, author’s grandson Robert A. Baum, and actor’s son John Lahr.
The program looks at the novel’s path to production, casting, the background of author L. Frank Baum and his Oz books, its adaptation and the script, the score and songs, directors, the exploits of the Munchkins, special effects, costumes, makeup and the rigors of the shoot, publicity, the film’s reception and awards, and its legacy.
Though “Classic” definitely advocates the notion that Oz is a legend, it doesn’t make out the project to have been a rosy experience. Early on Jack Haley tells how everyone thinks it must have been delightful to make the flick and responds “like hell it was fun!”
We learn many negatives attached to the shoot in this solid overview. It's an excellent and entertaining overview of the film's creation and its legacy.
The set includes a Blu-ray copy of Oz. It duplicates the 2013 release, and it comes with more extras.
For another alternate audio experience, we can check out Oz with a music-and-effects track. It should come as no surprise that this eliminates the dialogue to leave solely score, songs, and effects. It presents these with monaural audio and offers an intriguing way to examine Oz.
Let loose your Karaoke side via a Sing-Along Track. This simply takes the movie’s standard audio and plops some lyrics on screen.
The words light up at the right time to help us croon along with them. I have no use for this feature, but maybe someone will like it.
Next we get a documentary called The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In this one-hour, nine-minute, two-second show, we hear from Fricke, Ebsen, composers/lyricists Marc Shaiman and Stephen Schwartz, author’s great-great-grandson Robert A. Baum, film critic Michael Sragow, film historians Leonard Maltin and Sam Wasson, filmmakers William Friedkin and Rob Marshall, Bert Lahr’s son John, actors Ruth Duccini and Margaret Pelligrini, author William Wellman, Jr., costume designer Ruth Myers, makeup artist Charles H. Schram, cinematographer Peter Deming, visual effects supervisor Craig Barron, and sound designer Ben Burtt.
“Wonderful” examines the life of L. Frank Baum and how he created the book series, early film adaptations and the 1939 version’s path to the screen, music and songs. We also hear about cast and performances, developments/problems during the production, costumes and visual design, shooting Technicolor, various effects and audio, editing, initial screenings and the film’s reception.
After all these decades, there’s probably nothing left to say about Oz that’s not been said, so I doubt fans will find anything new from “Wonderful”. Nonetheless, it offers an enjoyable overview of the production.
It touches on all the appropriate subjects and does so in a tight, involving manner. “Wonderful” brings us an enjoyable examination of the film.
Continuing on the Blu-ray, we find The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook. In this charming 10-minute, 27-second feature, Angela Lansbury reads parts of the original L. Frank Baum book while we look at its illustrations. It offers a nice way to check out the story.
In We Haven’t Really Met Properly…, we get information about the movie’s primary supporting players. Taken via the “Play All” option, these last 21 minutes, 23 seconds.
We learn more about actors Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick and Terry the dog. With nine participants packed into 21 minutes, we don’t get a lot of detail, but these snippets offer a decent overview of the various performers’ careers.
Some of the material in “Memories” also appears elsewhere, but we get plenty of fresh information. The show particularly emphasizes the Munchkins, so that adds a new perspective. I also like the notes about merchandizing and the glimpses of Oz props and costumes in other flicks. This turns into a useful little program.
In the Audio Jukebox, a ton of alternate takes of songs and other music-related piece can be found; all in all, there's more than four hours and 45 minutes of audio in the "Jukebox". Some of this is fun for more casual fans - I particularly enjoyed the clips of Munchkin vocals that hadn't yet been altered - but most of it will most likely appeal mainly to die-hard Oz fans. The variations tend to be pretty small for the most part, so you have to be very well acquainted with the film to notice the differences. Still, it's a great addition and one sure to be fascinating to some.
Leo Is On the Air offers a 12-minute, 25-second program that essentially acts as a long radio ad. It's a promotional piece and nothing more, but it's funny how interesting old bits like this are; it's cool to check out the advertising techniques of old-time Hollywood.
Another audio program called Good News of 1939 appears. This one-hour, one-minute and one-second radio show was part of a running series from the period and it's a comedy/variety program hosted by Robert Young.
We hear many of the main cast members - Garland, Bolger, Morgan and Lahr - perform songs and routines, and we also find pieces like Fanny Brice's "Baby Snooks" bit. It's kind of an odd little show, but it's fun to have as a historical piece.
The audio ends with a 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast. In this one-hour, 48-second piece, we get a recreation of Oz. It features Garland and no other original cast members. The movie doesn’t translate well to radio, mainly because it was such a visual flick, so here Garland has to describe much of what we see in the film.
She also oversings “Over the Rainbow” something fierce and kills the original rendition’s lovely simplicity. The radio show is cool to hear for historical purposes but it doesn’t work well on its own.
As we move to the “Stills Galleries”, we get many more components. One note before I detail them: many of these sections include brief text discussions of the material.
I found these helpful as they explained what it was we were about to see. The tone could even get a little catty at times, such as when an early look for Dorothy referred to her as "Lolita Gale".
Oz on Broadway includes 17 shots related to that old production, while Pre-MGM offers 17 screens of book art and photos from pre-1939 films. Sketches and Storyboards presents 14 screens of information, with some concept drawings and basic storyboards.
Costume and Makeup Tests gives us 54 screens that entertainingly depict the evolution of the characters' appearances. (That's also the section that provides the majority of the snotty comments I described earlier.)
Richard Thorpe’s Oz provides 32 photos of scenes from that director’s early stabs at the production, while Buddy Ebsen has eight shots of that eventually-replaced actor as the Tin Man.
The 273 photos of Oz Comes to Life follow the characters on the Yellow Brick Road and in Oz along with some other components. Behind the Scenes provides seven simple candid shots of the participants. Portraits gives us 73 frames of publicity stills; I really enjoyed all of these, even the unretouched photo of Garland, which offers a neat look at a little studio trickery.
Special Effects gives us 29 screens of materials that relate to the effects; these are mainly documents that discuss the effects and different aspects of them, and were the least interesting aspect of this area. Post Production Stills gives 10 more frames of work on the movie after shooting completed.
Deleted Scenes looks at 18 shots from cut sequences. The section goes ahead with 32 Original Publicity shots, 14 photos from the movie's New York premiere, 11 pictures from its Hollywood premiere, nine from the 1940 Oscars ceremony, and 11 posters from foreign countries in Oz Abroad. Finally, Oz Revivals includes seven advertising and merchandise shots.
The Blu-ray ends with six different theatrical trailers. We find a teaser called "What Is Oz?" which was apparently used prior to the 1939 Hollywood engagement of the film, and it's a trippy little piece. The 1940 “Loew’s Cairo Theater Trailer” was used to promote some new Egyptian theaters and shows some unused bits of Oz.
Next come two ads from 1949. The first is a fairly traditional preview, but the second is much more unusual; it was aimed at the adult audience and tries - in many odd ways - to attract an older crowd. A "Children's Matinee" trailer from 1970 appears - which is as patronizing and condescending as the "adult" clip is odd - as does another reissue preview from 1998. We end with a 2013 reissue trailer.
Even as a bitter, hateful adult, I continue to find The Wizard of Oz enchanting and delightful. Oz has endured over all these years for a reason: it's a completely fantastic movie. The 4K UHD looks amazing and sounds good, and it comes with a nice mix of bonus materials. Due to the stunning visuals, this winds up as the best Oz on the market.
To rate this film visit the prior review of THE WIZARD OF OZ