Sep 032012

Following the yellow brick road, Becca reviews one of the greats of the twentieth century…

This film was made in 1939. It doesn’t seem possible that a film this old could have stood the very test of time for so long, and yet, here I am expressing my awe and disbelief of it. It has topped many a-list of Greatest Films of all Time, and even now, it still has that certain charm and – well, magic about it, that films of today have lost.

You know the story: Dorothy Gale of Kansas is taken to the wonderful City of Oz, via the very efficient mode of transport that is a house caught in a tornado, and has to find her way back home. She lands in Munchkin-Land, home of the Munchkins, who until Dorothy arrived and flattened her with her house (by accident, of course), were being terrorised by the Wicked Witch of the East. And her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, ain’t too pleased about it neither. However, the Good Witch of the North is on hand to protect and guide Dorothy, giving her the deceased witch’s magic ruby slippers, and sending her on her way to the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz – the only one who can help Dorothy get home.

So along with her loyal dog, Toto, Dorothy meets a few friends on the way: a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) in need of a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) without a heart, and a cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), and together, they skip merrily to the Emerald City, wherein resides the Wizard who will (fingers crossed) grant their wishes.

I cannot tell you how much I love this film! Well okay, I can, but you’ll probably get bored, so I’ll try and keep things short n’ sweet. I watched this for the first time when I was six years old, after my sister had been given a copy of the video for her birthday. I believe this was the first time it had been in colour, but even though I have watched TV in colour all my life, to see Oz revealed through the opening of Dorothy’s front door is still truly mesmerising – just imagine what a momentous occasion it must have been for the adults who grew up having to watch it, completely in black and white! It’s so vivid, yet soft and dream-like, as if you’re walking through Disneyland (seriously!).

Judy Garland may have been only seventeen when she starred in this, but her performance is stunning. She comes across as a young girl only just stepping onto the threshold of adolescence, yet she is kind, gentle, and almost motherly in dealing with her companions, particularly the Lion.

The relationship between her friends is a touching one, and the boys play off each other with surprisingly quick wit and brilliant comic-timing. A good example follows after they are ambushed by the Wicked Witch’s Flying Monkeys, resulting in the capture of Dorothy.  The Scarecrow is a little worse for wear.

Scarecrow: They tore my legs off, and they threw them over there! Then they took my chest out, and threw it over there!

Tin Man: Oh, well that’s you all over…

Lion: They sure knocked the stuffin’ outta ya, didn’t they?

But as wonderful as the characters are (my particular favourite is Tin Man. He is absolutely adorable, with a great singing voice), no one can forget the songs. They too have stood the test of time, but none more so than “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, which has been covered numerous times by numerous artists, though none of them can best the original. Garland’s voice is both melancholy and sweet as honey to the ears, and it makes you want to listen to it over and over again.

Heck, I’d quite happily watch the whole film over and over again!

Rating: 5/5