The Wizard of Oz 4K Blu-ray Review
By Chris Heinonen on
The Wizard of Oz Summary
Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s timeless children’s tale about a Kansas girl’s journey over the rainbow, The Wizard of Oz officially premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on August 15, 1939. The film was directed by Victor Fleming (who that same year directed Gone With the Wind), produced by Mervyn LeRoy, and scored by Herbert Stothart, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Ray Bolger appeared as the Scarecrow; Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as the Tin Woodman. Frank Morgan was seen in six different roles, including that of the “wonderful Wizard” himself. Dorothy was portrayed by a 4’11” sixteen year old girl who quickly earned her reputation as “the world’s greatest entertainer”– the incomparable Judy Garland.
I don’t really have much to add about The Wizard of Oz, given that it’s a classic film that most of us have already seen. My kids were happy to watch it again, and watching it now for the first time in years I could see far more details in the film than I ever had before. The extra resolution of 4K might even reveal too much detail but overall the film remains fantastic.
The Wizard of Oz Technical Review
The Wizard of Oz was shot on 35mm in Technicolor and given an 8K scan for this presentation. The disc also features a Dolby Vision layer and HDR10+ for dynamic metadata beyond the static HDR10 version. With a few caveats, this updated transfer looks amazing, and I can’t imagine The Wizard of Oz ever looking better at home than it does here. Since Oz was shot in Technicolor, it used the 3-strip process and that means that 80 years later, those three strips have to be aligned again. Since film ages and shrinks, with some colors shrinking more than others, the alignment of these today isn’t perfect, and doesn’t have the utmost in fine detail that more recent 35mm films using a single negative might. But you can’t fault the transfer for this, it’s just an artifact of a film being 80 years old and the way it was shot.
With that out of the way, the overall image is as good as you’ll get for an 80 year old film. Colors are rich and pure, looking so much better than when I’ve watched the film before. HDR is used sparingly, but effectively. The ruby red slippers are a deep, rich red that sparkles and comes alive when you see them. The extra detail makes clear that everyone is acting against painted backgrounds and any small imperfections in the makeup, letting you see how far movies have come in the 80 years since. WB did include MaxCLL and MaxFALL data on the disc, but the MaxFALL data is likely off due to Oz being a 1.33:1 film instead of 1.85 or 2.40, so those black bars are part of the image and reduce the overall luminance. I watched the Dolby Vision version and had no issues with brightness or black levels, and while you can find small complaints about the image here, those all stem from it being 80 years old and the transfer here is nothing short of reference quality for the film.
The soundtrack is a different matter. While the image got a nice uptick with the 80th Anniversary, there is still just a 5.1 lossless soundtrack and no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X version. They also didn’t include the original mono soundtrack on the 4K disc, so purists that are wanting to see the film as close to original as possible will have to listen to the Blu-ray disc for that. The 5.1 mix is good, with the songs coming across beautifully and some use of the surrounds, but they missed out here a bit by not including the mono or offering an updated soundtrack.
- Commentary- Commentary by John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, John Lahr, Jane Lahr, Hamilton Meserve, Dona Massin, William Tuttle, Buddy Ebsen, Mervyn LeRoy and Jerry Maren
- The Making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook (narrated by Angela Lansbury)
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly…
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Frank Morgan”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Ray Bolger”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Bert Lahr”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Jack Haley”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Billie Burke”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Margaret Hamilton”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Charley Grapewin”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Clara Blandick”
- We Haven’t Really Met Properly: “Terry”
- Music & Effects Track
- Original Mono Track
- Sing Along Tracks
- Audio Jukebox
- Leo is on the Air Radio Promo
- Good News of 1939 Radio Show
- 12/25/1950 Lux Radio Broadcast
- Stills Galleries
- Oz on Broadway
- Sketches and Storyboards
- Richard Thorpe’s Oz
- Buddy Ebsen
- Oz Comes to Life
- Behind the Scenes
- Special Effects
- Post Production
- Deleted Scenes
- Original Publicity
- 8/15/1939 Hollywood Premiere
- 8/17/1939 New York Premiere
- 2/29/1940 Academy Awards® Ceremony
- Oz Abroad
- Oz Revivals
Sony A1E OLED, Panasonic UB820 UltraHD Blu-ray Player, KEF Ci5160RL-THX Fronts, Ci3160RL-THX Center, 2x Ci200RR-THX Surrounds, 4x CI200RR-THX Atmos Speakers, Anthem MRX 1120 Receiver, Power Sound Audio Subwoofer.
Stunning looking image after 80 years, Dolby Vision is great.
The soundtrack is only 5.1 channel and the 4K disc lacks the original mono track.
The Wizard of Oz holds up 80 years later, and this disc shows how even a film as old as it benefits from 4K. The colors are fantastic, the use of HDR is subtle but well done, and I can't imagine the film looking better than it does here.