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The Wizard of Oz

USA 1939
produced by
Mervyn Le Roy for MGM
directed by Victor Fleming
starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe, Clara Blandick, Charles Becker, Billy Curtis, Prince Denis, Hazel I.Derthick, Shep Houghton, Charles E.Kelley, Jessie E.Kelley, Karly 'Karchy' Kosiczky, Johnny Maroldo, Bela 'Ike' Matina, Matthew 'Mike' Matina, Walter Miller, George Ministeri, Abraham Mirkin, William H. O'Docharty, Little Olga, Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Fredreich 'Freddie' Retter, Little Billy Rhodes, Betty Tanner, Victor Wetter
screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, based on the novel by L.Frank Baum, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y.Harburg, special effects by A.Arnold Gillespie

Wizard of Oz

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Rural black and white Kansas: 12 year old Dorothy (Judy Garland) feels misunderstood at home, especially since nasty neighbour Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) wants to take her dog Toto away and her foster parents Aunt Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) don't do anything to help Dorothy ... so eventually Dorothy runs away, and soon crosses paths with a travelling showman, Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan), whom she tries to persuade to take her and Toto with him, but instead he persuades her to return home by consulting his fake crystal ball. However, returning home, Dorothy has to face a twister that eventually either knocks her out and makes her dream about or actually takes her to the wonderful world of Oz - which is in colour of course.

In Oz, Dorothy strikes dead the Wicked Witch of the East immediately, is celebrated as a national hero by the locals, a tribe of dwarves called the Munchkins, and is granted the Witch's magic red slippers as a reward. However, all Dorothy wants is to return home, and the only advice anyone in Munchkinland can give her to get back home is to follow the yellow brick road and go to the Wizard of Oz, who is omniscient so he will of course be able to get her to Kansas.

On her way to the wizard, Dorothy meets a scarecrow with no brains (Ray Bolger), a tin man with no heart (Jack Haley) and a cowardly lion (Bert Lahr), all of whom she takes with herself and Toto to seek advice from the wizard as well. However, they are all pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton again), who desperately wants Dorothy's red slippers and tries to lure them into a variety of traps - but without any success.

Ultimately, our group of heroes makes it to the wizard ... but he promises only to help if they bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West - forcing them to fight the witch, her foot soldiers and her winged monkeys on her own turf, and pretty much losing the fight ... when Dorothy accidently poures water into her face and makes her disintegrate ...

With the witch's broomstick, our heroes return to the wizard, but now the wizard tries to wiggle out of his promise ... until they realize he is not at all the all powerful wizard but only a travelling showman (Frank Morgan again) who has just used his tricks-of-the-trade to make himself larger than life. However, he proves to the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion that they already have inside them what they thought they were looking for, then he promises Dorothy to take her back to Kansas in his hot air balloon - but by accident, he leaves without her, and since he has got no idea how to steer his balloon, he can't come back and pick her up. Then though Glinda the good witch of the North (Billie Burke) stops by and tells Dorothy she had the power to return home all the time, all she has to do is to click her shoes together and say "There's no place like home" three times - which Dorothy does, returning home to black and white Kansas, now having learned that, well, there's no place like home. Plus, she identifies her uncle's farmhands as her friends from Oz ...


The Wizard of Oz is quite probably the penultimate fantasy film of the 1930's: It boasts lavish sets, for its time impressive special effects, an elegant use of Technicolor (not a given in the 1930's), and some wonderful song-and-dance numbers (back then, fantasy films were more often than not also musicals). Plus, the direction is very elegant, and Judy Garland - who was actually 16 to 17 when this was filmed - is actually able to carry the film, both as an actress and as a singer.

Of course, watching the film almost 70 years later, one might feel overcome by the massive use of kitsch in everything, from lavish colours to sets to music to message, and the special effects today do seem of course far less impressive - that said though, if you do not take this film too seriously (it wasn't meant to be) and are still in touch with your inner child, you might still find The Wizard of Oz highly enjoyable and far preferable to the impersonal computer generated effect spectacles that make up modern fantasy.


An interesting note: The idea of having Kansas in black and white and Oz in colour was actually stolen from an earlier adaptation of the story, the 1933 Canadian cartoon short The Wizard of Oz by Ted Eshbaugh. However, for other than that reason, the film is pretty unremarkable ...


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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out now on DVD