The Wizard of Oz Movie Review: TCM and Fathom Events Lovingly Present a Timeless Classic

Written by Kristen Lopez

It’s such a cliche adage but it holds true nonetheless: There’s something about seeing certain movies in a theater. I’ve watched The Wizard of Oz countless times on television, but I’ve never had the opportunity to experience the Judy Garland classic on a big screen. After making it their closing night film at the TCM Classic Film Festival last year – an event I missed! – Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. and Fathom Events worked together to bring the movie back into theaters in honor of its 75th anniversary. With another showing scheduled for this Wednesday stop what you’re doing and travel to Oz!

Recounting the premise of The Wizard of Oz is ludicrous – and if I had to I’d wonder if you were human. The Wizard of Oz remains one of the most beloved films ever committed to celluloid with countless television showings, festival screenings, and a recent 3D conversion. A bit unbelievable for a movie that, according to the introduction by TCM host Robert Osborne that bookends this presentation, barely broke even in 1939. The jokes on those 1939 audiences because after being rereleased to theaters in the 1940s the movie became a classic. I was fortunate to speak to a woman in my Sunday showing of the movie who attended that 1949 rerelease as a child. To say she was just as blown away now as she was then is an understatement.

Watching this in a theater is an unique experience, the likes of which I’ve only ever felt attending screenings at the TCM Classic Film Festival. I’ve watched classic films in theaters before, but there’s something about being surrounded by children – some who have seen it, some making it their first time – and the like that transports you. The crystal-clear audio and picture immerses you in a style of filmmaking long gone by. When Judy starts singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” you’re united with audiences who have experienced it throughout the years, whether in 1949, 1984, or 2014.

Shown in its original aspect ratio, the greatest element of seeing this on the big screen is the level of detail that goes by on a television viewing. I’ve watched this more times than I can count, and yet I found myself taking note of details like the Tin Man’s (Jack Haley) gloves and metallic pants under his tin suit; the fact that Margaret Hamilton’s nails are painted green both on top and underneath the nail when she’s the Wicked Witch of the West; the “witch remover” canister Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) is holding during the final confrontation with the Witch. And let’s not forget the fantastic handpainted sets the group are walking around. My movie buddy found himself adoring the plasticine look of Munchinkland and the fake rolling hills that lend an otherworldly quality; an otherwordly quality to him, the struggles of a Hollywood production in the 1930s to me.

It’s impossible to critique the movie itself because it’s such an indelible feature to us and that allows you time to notice those minute touches I mentioned above. The magic of the adventure and musical are still retained, amplified to a communal experience. Robert Osborne’s intro and outro provide a nice bit of context for new audiences – and possibly turn them into TCM viewers – and situate this as a true experience for the network’s fans.

Overall, there’s no reason not to see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen…short of you being completely soulless. I’ve enjoyed the few TCM/Fathom events I’ve seen so far, and I continue to anticipate what movie they’ll show next.

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