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Movie Review

The Wizard of Oz

Reviewed by: Carrie Rostollan

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All Ages
101 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 25, 1939 (wide)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe / Director: Victor Fleming

Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

“A little girl is whirled from her home in Kansas by a cyclone which deposits her in the magical land of Oz. There she meets a number of strange companions who accompany her to the city of the Wizard who rules the land, and with his help she returns to Kansas.”—1938 MGM synopsis of L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wizard of Oz.”

I love this movie. I’ve seen it 100,000 times. Who hasn't? It is the movie that launched a thousand cliches into our popular culture, and I would bet that most of us grew up seeing it once a year on television. The principal actors agree (in the book called The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz) that the film was not a smashing success at the time of its original release. But almost 60 years after it was made, having been placed constantly before our eyes, it is almost unanimously labeled one of the greatest movie classics of all time.

The plot is well known, so I won’t belabor it. I only deducted one point in my Moral Rating because of the good witch/bad witch philosophy, but “The Wizard of Oz” is a beloved part of America. L. Frank Baum himself wrote of his story, “[It] aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.” The sad parts aren’t too sad, and the scary parts aren’t too scary. At one theater I even saw a little boy in a homemade Tin Woodman costume. No matter what your age, if you are one of the Young in Heart to whom the picture is dedicated, you cannot help but enjoy it every time you see it.

It was a tremendous treat to see this film in the theater, and I’ve seen it in two different theaters recently. The only disappointing thing was the soundtrack for this rerelease, which advertisements refer to as a “Special Edition.” The film is supposed to be presented in Dolby Digital, but the sound still seems to come mostly from the front speakers. The music doesn’t surround you as it does on other films, and the cyclone doesn’t blow all around you like the tornadoes of “Twister”. Now, maybe there’s little these Hollywood sound masters could do with the soundtrack of this film, old as it is, but my laserdisc version sounds better at my home than it did in the theater. In my opinion a little digital technology should have been used to update the soundtrack, or the Dolby Digital point of pride in this presentation should have been dropped.

The dialog is witty and flowery, a joy to listen to, as there is not a crude word in the script. All the characters are engaging to watch, and I dare you to resist singing along with the Winkies (the Witch’s guards). See it on the big screen at least once. Take your whole family. Let Hollywood know how much we miss the clean quality family films like MGM Production #1060, “The Wizard of Oz”.

P.S.—Harmetz records in her book that Professor Marvel’s coat, purchased from a second-hand store by the wardrobe department, was discovered to have been made for L. Frank Baum himself by a tailor in Chicago. After the picture was finished, the coat was presented to his widow, Maud.

Viewer Comments
Not only is the movie a classic, but to think that it really is also a history lesson which never gets in the way of entertaining, is phenomenal. L. Frank Baum was a storyteller who used his characters to depict the events happening in the world around him, i.e. The Wizard, McKinley and Emerald City, Washington, D.C. When one teaches the children that the historical significance of the Populists as depicted in Baum’s story, it becomes an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Mary Catherine, age 47—(proud to have been born in a town L. Frank Baum once lived in)
Gosh, Jim, I was a little shaken at your comments, until I realized that you were being very funny! Am I safe to assume that you were making a point about our cultural decline and using a bit of creative dialog to do just that? I like it! Oh how I long to erase our recent history of disgraceful movie making. What can we do??
—Nancy, age 45
My mother took me to this movie when I was quite young, about 5 years old. I was so frightened she had to take me out of the theater. I was afraid of the dark and had nightmares until I was a teenager. I didn’t even remember the incident until my mother told me a couple of years ago. Don’t underestimate the power of representations of evil in movies to affect small children. There hearts are tender and open, we must protect them when they are young and teach them to protect themselves as they grow. They need to know that Jesus IS real and will protect them at all times and in all places. They also need to know that evil movie characters are NOT real. This is probably a great movie, but I still have difficulty watching it today. It brings back the feelings of that frightened child.
—Dale, age 48
When I was young, I was “off to see the wizard with Dorothy, Toto, The Lion, The Tinman and The Strawman. But I was also unsaved and uneducated about my what things is should set before my eyes. Even though the movie quality, songs, and acting are great, I cannot understand why you gave this movie such a high Christian Rating. Yes, there is no sex, violence or profanity, but what about the overt witchcraft that lies as a central theme. The Good Witch of the North, Ha! Ha!. The bible says “You shall not allow a witch to live.” This movie is full of witchcraft and new ageism. Practices that Christians should not reinforce even in its “nicest” form. I strongly discourage this movie and would give it a Christian rating of negative 4.
—Rodney Darville, age 37
…Many of today’s children have already seen this movie, and I’ve never heard of one that didn’t like it. Most would be able to handle the witch (and other possibly scary) scenes. Certainly they are no worse that those found in most Disney movies. If I had young children (mine are grown), I would allow them to watch this movie before I would your average Disney movie.
—Debbie James
I took my 12 year old son to this movie and was very upset. It is not relevant to today’s youth. The absence of vulgarity and sex caused us to almost leave the movie before it ended. Mostly, where there could have been bloody violence and gore, there were merely apples being tossed about. Also, a great opportunity for the falling house to explode in billows of rolling fire was overlooked. This movie will never become a classic.
—Jim, age 51
Negative—Regarding this site’s review of the Wizard of Oz. Please be aware that this movie is anti-Christian. The author of the Wizard of Oz was a member of the Theosophical Society. One of the main teachings of this philosophy is that we can save ourselves by what is already within us (i.e. The main point of the movie). The movie is full of occult symbolism and double meanings. The most obvious anti-Christian symbol in the movie is “the Wizard,” who is supposed to represent God the Father.

In the end, Dorothy and her friends find out that the “wizard” is just a hoax—something invented by a man. They don’t need God the Father or Christ to save them, they always had that “power within”. No Christian family should be exposing their children to this deceitful, though nicely wrapped, new age false gospel. A quick web search on this topic will confirm what I have said here through multiple sources.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Steve, age 42 (USA)