Monday, September 10, 2012

The Next "Wizard of Oz" DVD/Blu-Ray Release

Cover of Warner Brother's first DVD release
of The Wizard of Oz (1999)
(Courtesy of Angelo Thomas)
This entry at the New York Post website reads that "Warner Home Video has indicated it will release new restorations of The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind in 2013."

To which collectors of Oz on video might ask, "How are they going to justify another re-release?"

Now, of course, The Wizard of Oz and other popular classic films have tightly-maintained availability for home video. They are intended to be available for a limited time (though the used market ensures that isn't always the case), so the re-release may provide a justifiable upgrade, or a first-time buy for others. Some collectors will even go so far to just buy every available home video edition. (Angelo Thomas and I recently pondered at a collector wanting to transfer his early-release VHS version of The Wizard of Oz to DVD, considering the fact that the film is widely available on DVD.) This is how companies such as Warner Home Video can justify releasing the film again: repeat buyers.

Now, The Wizard of Oz has been been released on DVD and Blu-Ray before. 2005 and 2009 saw multiple editions of the current print they used, but there have been three different prints so far. Each time, the picture was marketed as looking better than ever before. So, the question rises, how can it look better?

Movies like The Wizard of Oz have a problem in that their crew is no longer living. The creative team cannot oversee a restoration and say "this is how I want the film to look." That same article uses Steven Spielberg's guiding in restoring Jaws for Blu-Ray as an example. Victor Fleming and Mervyn LeRoy are sadly just no longer around to make sure this movie looks how they want it to look. While Warner can make it look how they want, there is no one alive who can actually say, "This is the definitive look for this movie!" Much the same argument can be used against creating a 3D version.

That article also notes Jeff Baker's response to a question about converting classic films like The Wizard of Oz to 3D: "We are testing many films while watching consumer demand from theatrical exhibition to the home on 3D. Conversion costs from 2D to 3D are quite high ($4 to $5 million). Until they come down further, it will continue to be a deterrent in our converting library films from 3D."

It's worth noting that 2013 is not the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, that date would be 2014. Factors for a new home video release in 2013 include Warner Brother's 90th anniversary and wanting to release high-profile films from their library, even if they didn't make those films. For Oz itself, it may be timed around the release of Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful, so Warner might be choosing to strike while interest in Oz is high. (Fans also hope that Disney uses this opportunity to treat Return to Oz to Blu-Ray.)

Could it be possible that Warner will present a 3D version of The Wizard of Oz for the 75th Anniversary? We'll see. I'm not keen on it myself, personally.

People have noted a glitch in the 2009 Blu-Ray version of The Wizard of Oz with a freezing frame as Glinda leaves Munchkinland. Others noted some strands of hair had gotten on the print during the final scenes and can be seen on the frames and should have been digitally removed. Others feel the colors don't really look right. So, in the opinion of some video fans, there is room for improvement.

Sam and I mentioned in our podcast about the Meglin Kiddies Land of Oz that it was rumored (and at one point even on the official website) that that film would join the other pre-1939 Oz films on the 2009 release. We speculated that they may have chosen to hold it back for the next home video release. I've also noted that the 2009 versions of The Patchwork Girl of Oz and The Magic Cloak of Oz were rather lazily placed on the disc, with unedited transfers of the film (you can actually see the ragged start and end of the first and last reel) with no score. A little extra effort would be appreciated on these next time. (It would also be incredible if these early films had been treated to a high definition transfer, but that might be too cost-prohibitive.)

One other improvement when it comes to non-MGM films included with the set that could happen is The Dreamer of Oz. Warner Brothers used a very shabby print on their 2009 release. People with VHS versions, either taped from TV or the Australian rental tape, have noted it looks worse than their tapes. I'm also not sure why subtitles were not available in English, another element that could be rectified.

As for new content, there are a number of Oz documentaries that have been produced over the years that could be included. (The latest being The Origins of Oz.) Really, unless they have a featurette about Judy Garland (the only lead cast member who wasn't profiled), I am at a complete loss over what is a "must-add" feature. It's been suggested that perhaps the missing deleted scenes could be animated, though that's rather unlikely.

Well, we'll see what Warner Brothers has in store, no matter what their plans are. If the word of a 2013 re-release is completely accurate, I'm sure they'll be releasing a press release eventually. There's room for improvement from the 2009 set, so we'll see how they rise to the challenge.

I do wonder how they'll title it. "Ultimate Collector's Edition" has already been used. That's a rather impressive title.

1 comment:

Sam A M said...

And a BIG Way to tell how good the film looks is by comparing previous releases side-by-side (still images of the same frame would be best, not moving seconds).
That way you could see how one previous release ACTUALLY has a slightly rosier tint to the picture than the others and other times how bits of the sides can be missing.

Other special features which would be noteworthy to include are possibly acquiring (AND restoring) the 90s DIC cartoon, the COMPLETE "Off to See the Wizard" animated segments in black-and-white AND Colour, a more thorough gallery, the ORIGINAL Making-Of doco/short film in whose snippets we always see in the Angela Lansbury hosted version . .. . need I say more?