Some of the most iconic things my wife and I saw at the Special Effects 2 exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry back in 1996 were the movie matte paintings. Long before CGI was affordable, movie special effect wizards used matte paintings to fool audiences. Matte paintings are highly detailed paintings typically done on glass with spots cut out of them. Cameras then shoot through the matte paintings with the actors behind them to give the illusion of depths, or placed in front of them either using a projector or a green screen for sets that were too expensive of impossible to build.
I’m sure you all recognize this one from the Wizard of Oz. As you can see, there is a section missing in the middle where the actors actually walked down a yellow brick road. Everything else in that shot is actually a painting.
Here’s another iconic location that only existed on glass.
That is, of course, the reactor shaft that Darth Vader ultimately throws the Emperor in to at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Matte paintings are still used today, although by and large they have been replaced by computer graphics.
After L. Frank Baum’s death in 1919 and the publication of the last Oz book in 1920, L. Frank Baum Jr. sought to keep the series alive by teaming with comedian/director Larry Semon and newcomer Oliver Hardy. The result was the 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz which focuses on comedy rather than fantasy. Hardy would go on to pair with Stan Laurel and become half of the world’s most beloved comic team. While different in tone than the Oz movies of a decade before, the 1925 Wizard of Oz reinvents the story of Dorothy, the scarecrow and the tin woodsman in a slapstick and humorous light.
I have always been a a big “Wizard of Oz” fan. So when our local movie house started showing it on the big screen, I was there on opening night. Of course this triggers all sorts of nostalgia in my brain and got me looking for some Oz stuff I had as a kid. One of the earliest Oz related toys I can remember was a damaged Wizard of Oz boardgame, that was hand-me-down from my older sisters. I would spin that wheel and play for hours, each time looking at the great illustrations and reading along with the narrative, like it was my first time playing it. I am pretty sure my family thought I wasn’t right in the head, but who cares, I was in Oz.
Hake’s is selling a great looking copy of the game in what look like excellent condition (the above photos are from their copy of the game.) According to Hake’s:
9.5×18-7/8×1.5″ deep yellow box has choice color painting on lid of Dorothy and friends walking through flower field. Cadaco #406 copyright 1974 Chicago. Box bottom is factory sealed in cellophane but visible is colorful game board w/different nice painted images of characters and Emerald City of Oz. Exc. with Mint contents. Nicely done.
I got my copy of the Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Two Disc DVD and all I can say is “wow”. I should have prefaced that by saying that I have always been a fan of the “Wizard of Oz.” So it was a but of a no-brainer that I would pick up this move in one form of the other and I have had many over the years, but this newest edition is the best I have owned so far.
I have a decent HDTV and the film looked great. Which is a must for me with the Wizard of Oz. I mean its built right into the story that you should be wowed by the sparkle and color of Oz and I was. Now, I would love to see this thing on BR, because the DVD remaster and transfer turned out so well. That in Blu-Ray it must be like visiting Oz in person.
I am admittedly not an audiophile, but the film sounded great on my home 5.1 setup and as a cool bonus they included the original mono track. Now I have heard a lot made about Mono audio tracks revealing a lot of nuance that is lost in a remix. I have it a shot, but found it difficult to do when I knew I had a more familiar feeling stereo track just a click away. I will need to go back and give it a shot later.
The DVD is chock full of special features. This is just on disc 1:
* Sing-along Track (NEW)
* Commentary by John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman (daughter of Arthur Freed), Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, John Lahr (son of Bert Lahr), Jane Lahr (daughter of Bert Lahr), Hamilton Meserve (son of Margaret Hamilton), Dona Massin (MGM choreographer), William Tuttle (make-up artist), Buddy Ebsen, Mervyn LeRoy, and Jerry Maren
* The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook
* Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz
* We Haven’t Really Met Properly
* Music and Effects Track
Plus you can get a 2nd disc that had the following –
* The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic [1990 TV special]
* Memories of Oz [2001 TCM documentary]
* The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz
* Because of the Wonderful Things it Does: The Legacy of Oz
* Harold Arlen’s Home Movies
* Outtakes and Deleted Scenes
* It’s a Twister! It’s a Twister! The Tornado Tests
* Off to See the Wizard
* 3 Vault Shorts
* Audio Jukebox Selection
* Leo Is on the Air Radio Promo
* Good News of 1939 Radio Show
* 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast
* Still Galleries
* Six Theatrical Trailers
Whew what a great set and what a great addition to your collection. So if you do not own the Wizard of Oz or have been sitting on a copy waiting for a reason to upgrade, jump on over to Amazon and pick up a copy at the bargain price of 6.99. It is also available in crazy awesome looking Blu-Ray version.
Do you recognize this photo? Probably not. It is an image from the 1985 nearly great sequel to “The Wizard of Oz”, “Return to Oz”. I remembered liking this as a kid so I thought I would watch it again and I was pleasantly surprised. When you sit down you really got to try and forget that it is the sequel to one of the most memorable films in American Film history.
Its a hard act to follow and its flawed to be sure, but the imagery is great and imaginative and Fairuza Balk makes a great Dorothy. If you don’t like it or have not seen it I suggest you watch it again and try to appreciate it in the same way you might enjoy “Legend” or “The Dark Crystal”.