Seventy years ago, in the midst of 1939, the most fecund year the motion-picture industry has ever experienced -- a record not bloody likely to be broken anytime soon, in light of Hollywood's hideous track record of late -- The Wizard of Oz must have seemed like just another really good movie. Now, it's that rare "American icon" that truly does merit its exalted status. This past Thursday, Nicky and I visited the Owings Mills AMC for a one-night-only commemorative showing of Oz, broadcast via satellite by Fathom Events.
The crowd for Oz filled most of the stadium-style theatre, including most of the "eye-bugger" seats on the floor. We were half-expecting, half-dreading the appearance of folks in costume, but I only saw one person indulge, so to speak: a woman carried in a small basket with a stuffed Toto doll in it. Nicky, for her part, wore a shirt with a picture of The Scarecrow uttering her favorite line of the movie: "Oil can what?" (In case you're wondering, he says it during the scene in which he and Dorothy locate the rusted Tin Man.) The high-def "big picture" took a while to flash on-screen, thanks to some technical difficulties, but we only ended up missing the first couple of minutes of a documentary that we'd already seen anyway, since it was included on the two-disc collector's edition that was released several years ago. The movie itself looked great, though it didn't take up the entire screen.
A number of good books have been written about the process that brought Oz to the screen, some of them of the debunking variety, but, watching the film yet again, I was vividly reminded of how well the thing was, above all else, written. "Oil can what?" was merely a throwaway gag, yet the fact that it's Nicky's favorite line shows how beautifully the script was crafted. Would the movie have flowed as well had the deleted "Jitterbug" sequence been kept -- or, for that matter, had the film not jumped abruptly from the heroes' defeat of the Wicked Witch to the second audience with Oz the (supposedly) Great & Powerful? Maybe so, maybe not, but the movie definitely does not talk down to the audience, even the youngest viewers. Today, many filmmakers who create "family-friendly films" seem to believe that the only way to "connect" with everyone is via the pop-culture-reference route. They should watch Oz again... for the first time.
Some good news on the Disney-comics front: Boom! Studios will apparently make good on its promise to debut its new "classic" Disney comics line in September -- though just barely. ComicList lists MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #296 as scheduled for release on the 30th. I'm so pleased that I'll ignore the irritating fact that Boom! plans to issue three different covers for the book, including something called an "Incentive Cover Variant." Don't worry, fellows, I'll have plenty of incentive to visit the shop and test-drive your wares.