2009 marks the 70th anniversary of two of the most revered titles in the history of cinema: Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Although GWTW is by far the better picture, it is Oz whose anniversary releases come first. And oh, what releases there are. Not one, not two, but three new DVD and blu-ray releases hit stores and online retailers on September 29. (And this doesn’t count retailer exclusives, like the swag-filled packages offered by amazon.com)
Oz has been released several times before on DVD, so one’s first inclination is to slap the proverbial hands over at Warner Brothers for what, in some instances, is another repackaging of the same product. But yet that isn’t quite the case either. (Remember, this is the studio releasing the Warner Archives dvds.)
It’s a bit hard to decipher, but of the three releases, only one is a newly remastered video transfer. This is the blu-ray release, which be all accounts should present the film in all it’s technicolor glory at a level never before imagined, much less seen. The two standard DVD releases (both the 2-Disc Special Edition and the 4-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition) have the same remastered transfer used in the previous 2005 release. However, all releases do sport a new 5.1 sound mix which is a definite upgrade- in addition to a karaoke style sing-a-long feature.
The sing-a-long feature is a nice thought I suppose but not much of a change from simply watching the songs during the film with the subtitles on. But perhaps for the kids, you know. The two-dvd set provided for review was sharp in all areas, the sound mix especially being noteworthy. Strangely the audio mix has quite a bit of depth to it without destroying the integrity of the original mix (which is also available if you prefer) and making it sound overly digital.
If you are already a big fan of the film, you most likely already have a copy of one of the previous releases and hence the 2 DVD release provides extremely paltry new material (just the audio mix and the sing-a-long). However, it has a great variety of special features which, although all previously available, are really well done.
A personal favorite from all these older restored films is the feature on the restoration process itself. Here you can really see the impact of the restoration which is nothing less than superb.
The two Ultimate Collector’s Editions (both standard DVD and blu-ray) are where the real eye candy begins for the serious fan. Here we get some seriously deep features, including a few newly produced ones, including one about famed director Victor Fleming. In addition we get additional dramatizations of the story, including some from the silent era. Although more casual fans won’t need – or want – this level of detail, it is a true fans nirvana.
At the end of the day, if you already have a version on DVD and are just a casual fan of the Oz saga, you probably need not worry about these new releases. However, if you are a avid fan of either the film itself or the era in which it was made the two Ultimate Collector’s Editions are must haves – doubtless if this applies you’ve already pre-ordered in any case. And if you’ve never owned it, this is a good time to grab the new “entry-level” two disc set. You won’t be disappointed.
Plus, check out the official Warner Brothers site, where you can check out the wide array of official merchandise (including the dvd releases).
Although we usually dive a bit deeper into the story of the films we talk about, this seems like one where unless you’ve been under a rock (perhaps literally) you already know the story.