'Wizard of Oz' wonderful on IMAX

The Fresno BeeSeptember 27, 2013 

Judy Garland in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz."


Like many of you, it was an annual tradition when I was growing up to watch "The Wizard of Oz" when it was broadcast on television. I've also had the opportunity over the years to see the 1939 film on the big screen. I've seen the movie at least two dozen times.

It wasn't until Tuesday that I really saw the movie.

I've never been a big fan of showing movies on the giant IMAX screen that weren't shot for IMAX. Ticket prices are high enough without the added cost of IMAX. Even more frustrating is the practice of converting movies to 3-D — usually bad 3-D — to charge moviegoers even more.

But the IMAX presentation of "The Wizard of Oz" proves there's an exception to every rule. The beautiful print splashed across the giant screen, coupled with first-rate 3-D effects, to make the experience of watching the movie as exciting as it was seeing it for the very first time.

Because the film is so clear and so big, there were countless things I noticed this time that I never had seen before. It's fun to watch the Munchkins, many of whom aren't even paying attention to what's happening. Loyal fans already know this, but I had never noticed that in one scene the Scarecrow is carrying a pistol.

You would think the makeup would look bad, but it looks even better on the big screen. And little things, like the rust on the Tin Man, now pop like never before.

One of the best things about seeing the movie in the IMAX format is watching Judy Garland's performance. I had always thought her work was magical, but in the large format, her face is radiant. She sells every scene.

Even when the other characters are singing or dancing, she invested in the moment as if the spotlight was on her.

Most 3D is a waste, but this version is so good it's like getting to step inside the Emerald City. The only negative is that the matte paintings used to create the backgrounds stand out even more. But that just adds to the feeling of being pulled inside the film.

It's not a cheap experience to see an IMAX movie, especially one in 3D. This is one of the very few times when I can recommend paying the money.

You may scoff at the idea of paying to see a film that airs for free on TV.

"The Wizard of Oz" is a brilliant film in any format. There's just added magic in seeing it in this large-screen format.


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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