Oz: The 75-Year-Old Villain That Makes "Heroes" of Us All!

On October 81938, following a series of revisions by several writers, the final draft ofwas completed. After principal filming wrapped March 161939, the much-anticipated movie was released to the general public on August 121939.

"There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid."

L. Frank Baum - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

On October 8 1938, following a series of revisions by several writers, the final draft of The Wizard of Oz was completed. After principal filming wrapped March 16 1939, the much-anticipated movie was released to the general public on August 12 1939.

Now more than 75 years on Warner Bros Home Entertainment look set to celebrate the iconic motion picture with a "huge fall initiative" including the release on October 2 of a three-disc anniversary Collector's Edition which will include the Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and UltraViolet version of the film and, for the first time in its fêted history, fans of the fantasy will be able to ease on down the Yellow Brick Road in 3D when the movie that marshalled special effects into the modern era of cinema returns with remastered screenings at IMAX commencing September 20(in North America) for seven days.

But what brand of enchantment is so rigid it can weather world wars, a cold war and global terror and why do so many still long for that mythical land "where troubles melt like lemon drops high above the chimney tops?"

Written by L. Frank Baum and released May 17 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a thinly veiled allegory for the Great Depression; a "parable on populism" and a charming fairy tale concealing a cunning depiction of the political landscape in post civil war America.

Delivered as an ironic portrait, the girl-next-door is whisked out of drab Depression on the Kansas prairies into a Technicolor utopia where she encounters a series of tragic figures in her quest to find her way out of the storm along the Yellow Brick Road - a metaphor for the gold standard that also evokes the cruel and oppressive quest for financial freedom that often makes us humans as heartless, cowardly, ignorant, pathetic and terrible as those Dorothy encounters.

Directing Oz in 1939Victor Fleming suggests the dichotomy between Oz and Kansas as a metaphor for the studio system in the golden age of Hollywood. The gulf between what is real and what is surreal is poignantly defined by leading lady Judy Garland, who after being signed to MGM in 1935 was labelled "little hunchback" by Louis B Mayer, made to wear a device to reshape her nose and pumped with amphetamines and barbiturates to keep abreast of her hectic performance schedule.

A sign of how the mere pursuit of fame often destroys the lives of those caught up in its corruption, in a haunting and tragic irony, Dorothy would find her way out of the storm along the Yellow Brick Road that eventually slipped up and swallowed Garland.

Winner of a juvenile Academy Award for her turn in Oz, after a nervous breakdown, diagnosis of a personality disorder and financial disaster led her to self-harm and substance abuse, Garland was found dead aged 47 on June 22 1969 from "an incautious self-overdose".

Proving that the subtle satire of Oz still rings true in 2013, August 29 marked what would have been the 55 birthday of Michael Jackson who appeared as the scarecrow in the black version of the enduring fantasy The Wiz (1978).

Appearing jovial, while made of garbage, the scarecrow danced and sang impeccably but did he ever find the common sense he craved and do any of us ever find that missing piece - that thing that would simultaneously complete us and save us from this modern world filled as it is with unfeeling humanity, afflicted with war and callousness and swarming with monsters and cowards whose lives revolve around them either being terrifying or being as terrified as MJ may well have been and we often are.

With recent releases including Oz: The Great And Powerful and the movie version grossing $240 million to date, the Oz franchise's popularity has only managed to avoid becoming part of the capitalist contradiction it satirises by remaining faithful to Baum's sense of warmth instead of his sense of worry and by never allowing the political absurdity - of say a global recession - to interfere with the wonderful lie that both it and we will all be alright in the end.

It is the gasp when the girl-next-door steps out of the shadow and into the colour of her promise. It is the road of adolescence lined with the fear of adulthood. It is the child lost in the storm longing for the peace of home. It is the threat of serenity to the comfort of chaos.

Oz is synonymously one of the greatest villains and greatest heroes of cinema. The tale of the everyman for every man, boy, woman and girl who yearns for something more than the mundane in modern living and the wonderful dream that offers a way out of the downturn only to destroy those who dare to dream it.

Fantasy is so powerful it can lift you above personal and political impoverishment; it can assassinate your problems for 101 minutes while you escape the gilded life you lead until you click your heels three times; squeeze your eyes as tight as fists and find your way back to reality, because after all ... there really is no place like the home you cannot afford to pay for.


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