The Wizard of Oz

Reviewed by Bruce Cantwell

One struggles to think of a work of art that has, for better or worse, had a greater impact on the second half of the twentieth century.

The film, meticulously designed to masquerade as a family entertainment would, from the start, penetrate the psyches of young minds with its myriad coded messages.

Baum conceived the story as a commentary on pre-WWII America. The little girl from the midwest (typical American) meets up with a brainless scarecrow (farmers), a tin man with no heart (industry), a cowardly lion (politicians; in particular William Jennings Bryan) and a flashy but ultimately powerless wizard (technology). Although the little people keep telling her to follow the yellow brick road (gold standard), in the end it's her silver (in the original story) slippers (silver standard) that help her get back to the good old days.
Among the first to capitalize on the film's significant subconscious power was Hitler's Third Reich. A simple click of the heels came to symbolize devotion to The Fatherland. "There's no place like home."
dorothy Arguments that the film has had such staying power because of its wholesome fun and music is clearly dispelled by its most popular song.

On Mandy Patinkin's lips, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" sounds patently absurd!

The film's coded message of a raggedy bunch waiting upon a mystical figure for some form of supposed deliverance would become the subject of a twentieth century theatrical masterpiece.

Cowardly lion Bert Lahr would play the role he inspired in the American premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Coconut Grove Playhouse

lion
In 1973, British rock group Pink Floyd scored their greatest hit with an album providing an alternate synchronized soundtrack to the film. Its message: over the rainbow lies on The Dark Side of the Moon.
zardoz Alas, for every artist who got the encoded messages right, there have been ten who have gotten it wrong.

Some of the failures have been spectacularly bad. Want to see Sean Connery with a pony tail, prancing about in a loin cloth and wearing ruby slippers?

Look no further than John Boorman's cheesy Zardoz.

Want to see early signs of Michael Jackson losing it?

How about The Wiz?

wiz

Whatever your personal experience with The Wizard of Oz, there's no denying its impact.

For better or worse.

The Wizard of Oz
Alternative Soundtrack (Pink Floyd)
Waiting for Godot
Zardoz
The Wiz

witch

The DVD of the Wizard of Oz has some very worthwhile features. There's a documentary on The Making of the Wizard of Oz hosted by Angela Lansberry, the full Busby Berkeley Scarecrow number, home movies taken on the set, costume tests, outtakes and more fun stuff. You'd think they would have included the Dark Side of the Moon track!