Now. I’m not going to sit here and say that The Wizard of Oz isn’t a good film because it is. It was ahead of it’s time technically and the Technicolor still looks magnificent after seventy years but The Wizard of Oz isn’t a great film. The story is so weak it is almost homeopathic and it also ranks as amongst the most annoying films I’ve ever seen. I seem to have a habit of slating films which other people love (see The Lion King, North by Northwest, BladeRunner) but I’m not doing it to be contentious. I personally think The Wizard of Oz is overrated and when you really watch it rather than just look at it, you start to notice all sorts of problems and plot holes.
Everyone knows the story. It is ingrained in our psyches and phrases such as “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, “Ding dong, the witch is dead” and “Fly my pretties” are sentences which are quoted in every day language. Similarly the characters are so well known that even if I described them as the green one, the hay bail, the robot or the furry thirties gangster, you’d know instantly who I was talking about. The Wizard of Oz is just something that we know inside out whether we’ve never seen it or have seen it a hundred times. But just because something is well known, it doesn’t mean it is good. After all, we all know who Hitler was and he wasn’t very nice at all.
I don’t want to come across as hating this film because I don’t and I think you’d have to have something wrong with you to outright dislike it. Oz is a magnificently bright and colourful place full of all manner of creatures. It’s like a dream following too much sugar but it isn’t somewhere I’d want to visit. For a start Munchkin Land has to be the most annoying place in film history. The Munchkins themselves are at waist height which is good because it makes it easier to knee them in the face as you’re running away from their irritating songs and high pitched voices. The rest of Oz though is slightly less irksome and features some fantastical locations and characters. I especially liked the angry trees who don’t take kindly to people stealing their apples. It is obvious to see The Wizard of Oz’s influence over the last seventy years of fantasy film too. At various times I was reminded of Labyrinth, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Pan’s Labyrinth but I’m sure there are countless other films which have Oz to thank for their style and design.
The story at first seems great but really it’s actually a bit crap. For a start the whole “It was only a dream” thing is something which we are told aged eleven at school was an easy way out and should be avoided yet here it is in one of the most popular films of all time. Other problems include a terrible Witch (and not terrible in the moral sense). She is really bad at her job. The Wicked With of the West is rubbish. When she first arrives she tells Dorothy that she will get her, yet my pretty, and then is asked to leave and just does. Later she is standing on the roof of a house and her grand scheme involves throwing a single fireball at the Scarecrow and then going again. Her sleeping Poppy spell is undone by a bit of light snow and her eventual downfall comes with a tiny drop of water which melts her! One word, Scotchguard. I don’t think I’ve ever come across such an easy way to defeat a film villain. Another big problem is the Good Witch of the North who instead of telling Dorothy she could use the slippers to go home on their first meeting, waits until she has nearly been killed to mention it. If she’d done that to me I’d be furious. The Cowardly Lion is a character who is extremely badly written. He is meant to lack courage but in his establishing scene picks a fight with the Tin Man and Scarecrow.
OK, that’s enough of me bad mouthing the film. It is better than I’m making it out to be but the problems with it infuriated me. The Wizard of Oz is a film which I look forward to showing any potential children I have someday. It’s a film that can be enjoyed by the whole family and if unlike me you’re heart isn’t made of concrete then it is probably very enjoyable. The adventure side of the story is quite fun but very thin and the songs are all time classics, though not to my liking. Even so I could probably sing most of them from start to finish which shows how deeply ingrained the film has become. I also have a soft spot for the If I only songs. Judy Garland can be accused of overacting a little but it fits with the world in which her character inhabits. Overall she is very good and fantastically watchable. The supporting cast are also great. I really like Bert Lahr’s Lion. I wish I spoke like that, I do, I do, I betcha, I do. The special effects still look incredible today and I was at pains to understand how they’d done the Scarecrow’s face. I couldn’t work out where the actor ended and where the makeup began. The apparition of the Wizard also looks brilliant today and there are countless scenes and shots which still stun me.
On the whole The Wizard of Oz is a fantastic children’s film which I’m sure will carry on being enjoyed for generations to come. It is responsible for creating some of the best known songs, phrases and characters in film history and still looks stunning after more than seven decades. Watching it as an adult who is dead inside and hates the world I noticed that it’s full of holes and problems but I’d still tell anyone who hasn’t seen it that they should and will be showing it to my progeny when they eventually hatch.