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M.J. Daugherty Written by M.J. Daugherty
Aug. 29, 2005 | 10:53 PM

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THE WIZARD OF OZ Collector?s Edition DVD set

by M.J. Daugherty

As a card-carrying member of the VHS generation, I watched The Wizard of Oz so many times over the span of my life that I pretty much have it memorized.  Not only that, I think I?ve probably got most of the original book burned into my brain, too thanks to an endless cycle of readings throughout my childhood by my incredibly patient mom.  So for me, watching Warner Bros.? newly restored version of the 1939 musical film, which will be released in a new DVD set this October, was like seeing an old friend.  Actually, to be more specific, it was more like seeing an old friend who has lost that extra 20 pounds and finally dumped her slacker boyfriend.  In other words, this film looks fantastic!

Most people in America have at least a passing familiarity with this treasured story of Dorothy, a little girl from Kansas, who finds herself whisked away by a cyclone to the magical land of Oz with her little dog Toto, where she inherits a pair of ruby slippers, befriends a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodsman and a Cowardly Lion, and has a final showdown with a Wicked Witch, before discovering that in fact ?there?s no place like home.?  The characters and story we have come to know and love are all still there, but the true star of this new version is the film itself.   

Employing the Ultra-Resolution process previously used on the recent restorations of Gone With the Wind, Singin? in the Rain, and The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Warner Bros. team has given The Wizard of Oz a treatment worthy of the Great and Powerful Oz himself.  Recent breakthroughs in digital technology have allowed for the development of software specific to the problems posed by the three strip Technicolor process, such as fringe color and the inability of previously used software to differentiate between a sparkle and a piece of dirt on the negatives.  The resulting image is even sharper than it would have been at the original screening at the film?s premiere, and for the first time, audiences can see all of the countless details that went into the production.  Even the soundtrack has been cleaned up for this restoration, and has been digitally enhanced to make use of contemporary sound systems. 

The Collector?s Edition three DVD set is also packed with extras, including a documentary on the restoration, additional documentaries on the original movie, radio broadcasts, newsreels, and even several previous film adaptations of L. Frank Baum?s Oz books. 

Casual fans of the film may find it hard to see the difference between this new restoration and the previous one done in 1991 in the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, but when the ?twister scene? hits, it explodes with a never-before imagined force provided by the new digital enhancements, and all previous versions immediately pale by comparison.  From that point on, every frame of this new restoration bursts with the sort of nuances that audiences raised on fuzzy older versions of this movie could never have imagined.  This is Technicolor at its finest, a lush fantasy for the child in all of us, and thanks to this new restoration, one that can be shared with generations to come. 

The Special Edition DVD and Collector?s Edition DVD set will be released on October 25, 2005 through Warner Home Video, and may be pre-ordered through the link in the Film Radar Studio Store.