[Screen It]


(1939) (Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton) (G)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None None Moderate *Moderate Minor
Minor None Mild None None
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None Minor Minor Minor Mild

Children's/Fantasy: A young girl tries to find her way back home after awakening in a strange, technicolor world filled with odd and menacing characters.
Dorothy Gale (JUDY GARLAND) is an eleven-year-old girl living on the farm run by her Auntie Em (CLARA BLANDICK) and Uncle Henry (CHARLEY GRAPEWIN). Dissatisfied with her life, and having run afoul of a local and powerful spinster, Miss Gulch (MARGARET HAMILTON), who despises her dog, Toto, Dorothy dreams of some place "over the rainbow" where life is better than her current situation. Consequently, she runs away to protect her dog, but after meeting Professor Marvel (FRANK MORGAN), a traveling magician, she decides to return home.

As she arrives at the farm, a storm quickly blows up, and before she can get to the storm cellar she's knocked unconscious as a tornado approaches. When she awakens, she finds that she, Toto, and the farm house have landed in Munchkin Land, and on top of the Wicked Witch of the East. The local, diminutive Munchkins who live in this technicolor world praise Dorothy for freeing them from the witch's tyrannical rule, as does Glinda (BILLIE BURKE), the Good Witch of the North.

The Wicked Witch of the West (MARGARET HAMILTON) then appears, hoping to retrieve the ruby red slippers from her dead sister's feet, but Glinda magically makes them appear on Dorothy's feet. Powerless in Munchkin Land, the Wicked Witch vows that she'll get the shoes, Dorothy, and her dog too, and then disappears in a puff of smoke.

Dorothy tells Glinda that she wishes to go home, but the good witch informs her that the only person who may be able to help her is the mysterious Wizard of Oz who lives in the Emerald City. Starting down the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy thanks everyone and sets off to find the Wizard.

Along the way she meets a trio of characters, the Scarecrow (RAY BOLGER) who wants a brain, The Cowardly Lion (BERT LAHR) who wants courage, and the Tin Man (JACK HALEY) who desires a heart, who all hope the great Wizard can help them as well. As they make their way toward the Emerald City, they must contend with the Wicked Witch's efforts to stop them.

The group finally meets the Wizard (FRANK MORGAN), and he tells them he'll grant their wishes, but only if they can retrieve the Wicked Witch's broomstick. From that point on, the new friends do what they can to get the broom, avoid the witch, and have their wishes granted.

Absolutely, although teens (who've probably already seen it sometime in their lives) may think it's too "juvenile" for them.
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
  • JUDY GARLAND plays the young farm girl who believes her life is bad until she eventually realizes there's no place like home.
  • MARGARET HAMILTON plays the spinster, Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West, both of whom terrorize Dorothy in Kansas and Oz respectively.
  • RAY BOLGER plays the Scarecrow who wants a brain.
  • BERT LAHR plays the cowardly Lion who desperately wants to have courage.
  • JACK HALEY plays the Tin Man who would like a heart.
  • BILLIE BURKE plays Glinda, the good witch who helps Dorothy and her trio of new friends.


    OUR TAKE: 9 out of 10
    Originally released in what has to have been the greatest year in cinema history (1939, along with "Gone With The Wind," "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," "Stagecoach" and many other famous titles), the recipient of six Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and winning two: Best Song and Musical Score), and recently ranked by the AFI as the sixth best movie of all time, "The Wizard of Oz" certainly deserves every accolade it's ever received.

    Now rereleased for its sixtieth anniversary with a newly restored print and digitized sound (much like this past summer's "Gone With The Wind" makeover), this quintessential family classic makes its way back onto the silver screen for the first time in more than 25 years.

    Although not the first or, for that matter, the last adaption of L. Frank Baum's beloved children's tale (remember 1978's "The Wiz" with Michael Jackson?), this is clearly the best and most well known. Easily playing across generations of viewers and as enjoyable to watch whether it's your first or sixtieth time seeing it, the film has a timeless appeal for moviegoers of all ages.

    While technically savvy kids who've grown up in the post "Star Wars" era may find the Wicked Witch a pushover compared to, say, Darth Vader or any number of contemporary villains, and will also quickly see that the scenes obviously take place on a soundstage with the backgrounds consisting of matte paintings, the film, and its characters and story, have well weathered the tests of time and decades of critical judgement.

    Since nearly everyone has seen this film at one or more points in their lives, and with countless volumes written about it over the six decades since its initial release, we won't dwell on the subject of the overall common census about the picture's glowing success, but will point out a few things in passing.

    Despite a few minor problems -- it feels just a tad too long toward the end -- and glitches -- Dorothy's newfound friends lose the guard outfits they're wearing in what amounts to a split second after rescuing her -- the film is, and should be considered a masterpiece of imaginative storytelling.

    From the collection of songs most everyone knows and can sing by heart, to the simple, but well played performances from the cast that gives it their all, the film works perfectly on nearly every level. While movie fans have their own favorite parts from the film, two come to mind as the best.

    The first involves the tremendous use of color (predating "Pleasantville" and its similar use by just a few years). Ranging from the muted sepia "bookends" to the wonderful technicolor trip to Oz, few films have used the visual medium to such splendid effect.

    Then there's the Kansas versus Oz parallels that permeate the film. Whether the latter is simply Dorothy's subconscious running wild and inserting familiar characters into an unknown situation, or that she actually travels there via the tornado will be forever debated. The effect, however, of having the same performers playing the parts in both lands works wonderfully well, and still remains a pleasant surprise to younger kids when they finally figure that out.

    Completing director Victor Flemings amazing cinematic double play in 1939 -- he also directed "Gone With The Wind" -- this film, like that Civil War classic, has continually managed to captivate and entertain audiences for more than half a century. Simply put, there's no better testament to a film's quality than that. Accordingly, we give "The Wizard of Oz" a 9 out of 10.

    Originally released long before the advent of the MPAA and its ratings system, this title has since received a G rating. Nonetheless, and as most parents are probably already aware, the film has several scenes (involving tornados and witches) and one character (the Wicked Witch) that younger kids may find unsettling or downright frightening. Of course, that depends on their age, maturity level, tolerance for such material, and whether they've already seen the movie.

    Beyond that, the obvious bad attitudes of the Witch and her human, Kansas-based counterpart, and some limited violence, there's nearly nothing else that most parents (or other viewers) will find objectionable with the film. Nonetheless, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed should you be concerned about the film's appropriateness should someone in your home wish to see it.

  • None.
  • None.
  • Gulch has both for being a mean old biddy who wants to "destroy" Toto, and the Wicked Witch also has both for wanting revenge on, and later planning to kill, Dorothy.
  • A few viewers may have problems with the film dealing with witches (both good and bad).
  • Younger kids who haven't seen this movie on TV before may be scared or unsettled by the following events (and some who've seen it may still have that same reaction).
  • Some kids may be upset when Gulch says that she wants to take Toto and have him "destroyed" and then leaves with the pooch in a basket.
  • The scenes where the tornado approaches the farm just as Dorothy arrives (including views of her inside the farmhouse as things are blown about, and later images of the house up inside the tornado, etc...) may be frightening to some kids.
  • The Wicked Witch's appearance (green skin, typical witch looks) may scare some kids.
  • Some kids may be frightened by a dark forest Dorothy, the Scarecrow and Tin Man travel through, but the scene is short and the Lion then appears.
  • The initial shots of the Wizard's chamber (flames and a green projected head), along with Dorothy and the trio's frightened reactions to that may have the same effect on younger kids.
  • Dorothy and the trio go through a "haunted forest" and then encounter some flying monkeys that chase the foursome in a scene that may be unsettling or frightening to very young kids.
  • The last encounter with the witch, where she and her guards chase the foursome, and set the Scarecrow's arm on fire, may also affect younger kids.
  • Spears: Thrown by the witch's guards at Toto as the dog escapes her castle.
  • A farmhand tells Dorothy that the next time she has problems with Miss Gulch she should spit in her face (but she never does).
  • None.
  • A mild amount of "old-fashioned" suspenseful music occurs in several scenes, most notably any in which the wicked witch appears.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Uncle Henry has a pipe in his mouth in one scene, and a Munchkin appears to have the same in another scene.
  • The absence of Dorothy's parents is never really explained, but we do see that she's somewhat unhappy living on her aunt and uncle's farm. Later, we also see that her aunt is worried about her, as is Dorothy about that aunt.
  • Whether what occurs in the film is "real" or just a dream Dorothy has.
  • The film's message that "there's no place like home."
  • For younger kids who may not realize it, that the farmhands and Dorothy's trio of friends are one and the same, as is Gulch and the witch, and the Wizard and an earlier seen professor.
  • Although accidental and not actually seen, Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East and kills her (we see just her feet sticking out from under the house).
  • Some "alive" apple trees throw apples at Dorothy and the Scarecrow.
  • The Wicked Witch throws a fireball at the Scarecrow.
  • Dorothy smacks the Lion on his nose for chasing Toto.
  • The Lion dives and crashes through a window in the Wizard's chamber to get out.
  • Some flying monkeys chase the foursome, abduct Dorothy and literally tear and stomp the stuffing out of the Scarecrow (who's okay).
  • The Wicked Witch's guards throw spears at Toto as the pooch escapes her castle.
  • Some guards grab the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion and we see some apparent struggling behind a rock wall.
  • The Tin Man uses his ax to break down the Witch's door to get to Dorothy.
  • The Wicked Witch sets the Scarecrow's arm on fire.
  • The Witch "melts" after she's hit with water.

  • Reviewed November 2, 1998

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