THE JUICY CHOICE REVIEW: We reach the end with “The Wizard of Oz,” which stars Judy Garland (Meet Me in St. Louis, A Star Is Born), Ray Bolger (Babes in Toyland, The Harvey Girls), Jack Haley (Higher and Higher, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm), Bert Lahr (Ship Ahoy, Sing Your Worries Away), Frank Morgan (The Shop Around the Corner, The Great Ziegfeld), Margaret Hamilton (As the World Turns, Nothing Sacred), Billy Burke (Father’s Little Dividend, Topper), Charley Grapewin (The Grapes of Wrath, Captains Courageous), Clara Blandick (Life with Father, Romance), and Terry (Barefoot Boy, Fury ). It is directed by Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind, Tortilla Flat) and the screenplay is written by Noel Langley (Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table), Florence Ryerson (The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu, Everybody Sing), and Edgar Allan Woolf (The Mask of Fu Manchu, The Ice Follies of 1939). Based on the story by Frank L. Baum, this movie follows Dorothy (Garland), a girl from Kansas who is taken by a twister with her dog, Toto (Terry), and thrown into the land of Oz, a magical place full of munchkins, witches, and a powerful wizard. She wants to get back home, and is told to take the yellow brick road to Emerald city in order to meet with the Wizard of Oz, as he may hold the key to getting her back. It will be a rigorous journey, however, as the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) is out to get her, and along her adventure, she acquires three new friends: a scarecrow (Bolger), a tin man (Haley), and a cowardly lion (Lahr).
And so we conclude this Juicy Choice marathon with the classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” Most of you aren’t aware of this, but for almost the entirety of my life I have considered this my favorite film. When I first saw this movie as a young kid, I was captivated. Somehow this story drew me in and never let me go, and I was so fascinated by it that I developed a “Wizard of Oz” phase, collecting many things linking to the movie and it’s writer, Frank L. Baum. From books to posters, I had it all. Slowly, however, this obsession faded out as I got older, but the mindset of it being my favorite film remained. I can’t explain why; maybe it is because I like to keep close to my childhood. Truth be told, I haven’t even seen this flick in many years, and I was quite scared to do so, as I felt that if I did, I would find it unappealing being as how it isn’t much of an adult cinematic experience. I did plan to review it though, and I was going to reserve it for my 1,000th review, but decided it fits better in this marathon. So, blowing the dust off of my old DVD of the release, I slid the disc into my Blu-ray player and waited for the menu to arrive. As the title menu appeared, the classic song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” chimed in, and my heart sank. I am a man guys, but I will admit to feeling something over nostalgia. Hearing this was like welcoming an old friend, one I had long left behind in my short life. I then pressed play, laid back in my seat, and prayed for the great story I remembered it to be. Low and behold, this piece of cinema brought joy, comfort, and warmth to my mind and heart, and watching it again after so long felt special. Everything about this release was extravagant, from the beautiful costuming to the original storytelling. MGM outdid themselves, and for a movie being made in 1939, it looked stunning. Starting with the plot, it is what you would expect: innocent, loving, and full of life. Everyone should know the tale of this film, as it is referenced quite a bit in pop culture, and it has inspired many filmmakers. Seeing the opening shot of Dorothy running away from Ms. Gulch to a great, cheery musical score was awesome, and when she entered her family farm, we saw the fleshing out of this plot’s characters. It is simplistic, I get that. I mean, the writers basically feed you all you need to know in such a quick manner, but this isn’t a movie to pick fights with or get frustrated over. Yes, the standards of film writing should be set high, but not every release should be so complex. Some of the best storytelling is told with simplicity, as everyone can find joy in living in the moment instead of being caught up trying to pick apart the writing itself. This film was made for the people wanting to feel young again, and not having to worry about what goes on around them or get angry at how this release doesn’t have death, gloom, or sorrow. It even said on the opening credits that this flick was dedicated to those who were young at heart. Sometimes people do need an escape, and this is a great medicine. Although it is an easily told plot, it is so enriching, as it grabs you and doesn’t let go. I was taking in everything from this because of how calming and greatly captured it was. I’m not one to seek out musicals, but I enjoyed every song that was crafted and sung in this. Everyone had a good voice, and some of these songs are so memorable. The characters are just as so, as our ensemble cast presents a grand performance that is one to bask in. Judy Garland as Dorothy was perfect casting, giving a solid performance with such heart that it would be crazy not to like her. Ray Bolger portrayed the Scarecrow, my favorite character of the entire show. His gestures and movement symbolized the ones of a loose, rag doll man of straw, and it was nice to see him fumble around. Jack Haley was the Tin Man, and he did incredible as well. Like Bolger, he moved around like his character should, holding sharp poses and acting stuck by rust in many scenes. His presence was charming. Finally, there is Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, who was hilarious. I loved seeing him perform, and his song about being a king was very funny. The rest of the cast was equally as good, and even the most minor of characters brought something great to the spotlight. This release was created in such a grand scale, with terrific set designs and fun costumes. Munchkinland was eye candy, as the bold colors and small houses were swarmed with small figures who were all dressed in the most outrageous, but authentic, clothing. Emerald City and the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle were also great locations, and they all offered different tones and styles. Sure, you can tell that the backdrops were just boards painted on to look like more hills and buildings are in the background, but I don’t even see that as a problem. It is what gives this movie character, and it makes it feel like it can be a Broadway play. Plus, you gotta forgive a company when they made this in 1939. Some of the special effects were actually good, like the fire and red smoke effects, but I will admit to seeing some strings holding things up here and there. It didn’t happen often, though. This was such a well-orchestrated release, and just watching it was a treat. It’s like being teleported to a different world, where no one can reach you and you can just feel safe. This film is its own time capsule, full of crap that I can love and cherish (anyone who gets that time capsule reference is a champ). Our gang’s adventure proved to hold many memorable moments, including great songs and fun characterization. The chemistry amongst our characters is so genuine, and it was like I was taking the yellow brick road with them. Something I didn’t mention was the directing. I never viewed this from a directing aspect, but now that I have, I will say that it is unique. The director captures the essence of what makes this movie so touching and innocent, and I enjoyed many of the scenes crafted. Some mentionable ones are the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” scene, the poppy scene, and the scene where our characters are attacked by the flying monkeys. This release is handled with care, as it should. When looking back on issues, it is hard. Like I said before, this is a simply made story, one that doesn’t offer that deep of thinking, and it can create instances that could come off rather dumb. One would be when the Wicked Witch of the West turns over an hour-glass, telling Dorothy that when the sand runs out, she will die. I don’t know what death will take of her, and it seemed like all her friends had to do was take her out of the room to survive whatever death awaited. I assumed that she would just…die? But, looking at the time that this film was released, and how it was made for the young of heart, death was a light subject in this. No one discussed it, and when the matter came up, it was worded differently, like when Ms. Gulch said that she would take Dorothy’s dog and have him “destroyed.” Movies were written differently back then, and weren’t as punishing as they are now. The mindset has changed, and for those who grew up around the films of today (and with their grit), they may not enjoy this. I for one loved this movie, even for its simplistic values. Sure, problems were glazed over for our characters and unexplained instances were skipped over, but the point of this release wasn’t to mold a cohesive story. It was to give back to the young at heart, offer them something to find happiness in and restore the inner child in them. It’s hard to decide if this film is perfect or not, but then again, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” wasn’t the easiest film to give the 100% to either. Heck, I even stated in my review for the film that it had some slow parts. I guess it all comes from the gut more so than the mind. Then again, no movie is perfect. Sorry for that deep thought right there, but I have decided what to give it. And to sum it up, I ask of all of you to see this film if you haven’t, for it is a classic, not because it’s old, but because it is timeless. FINAL SCORE: 100%= Juicy Popcorn
This movie has been inducted into The Juicy Hall of Fame.
Here is the trailer: