Over the Rainbow

The tornado sequence still looks awesome even if it’s just a bunch of spinning nylons.

By Tomas Bernal

“The Wizard of Oz” never gets old.

Just for the record, in the distant past, in a time before even VHS or Beta tapes, “The Wizard of Oz,” first released in 1939, was a widely seen film because it was broadcast once a year like clockwork starting on CBS and then on NBC on Sunday nights. For kids growing up from the late-50s to the 1990s “The Wizard of Oz” was truly a “horse of a different color.”

Surely more people have seen “The Wizard of Oz” than “Star Wars” or “The Godfather” or “Pulp Fiction.” So it’s a perfect barometer of our collective psyche.

For instance, when Dorothy vows revenge against Miss Gulch for basically stealing her dog Toto, how do you feel? That should be the first question a person is asked when they apply for a job, and not what are your goals in life.

There was of course the famous synopsis in a regional TV Guide where the movie was described thus: “A young girl and her dog are transported to a magical land where she murders the first person she sees and subsequently hooks up with three strangers who go on a killing spree.”

Dorothy and company systematically changed the cultural landscape of entire generations. This isn’t some Madonna makeover in a bathtub but a complete overhaul of the way people perceived fantasy.

“The Wizard of Oz” was all about alternative universes and worlds beyond ken. There’s a magical realism to the fake painted backdrops and laminated yellow brick road. If you do research on the film you’ll find that MGM studio execs wanted to cut the song “Over the Rainbow.”

One scene that had always worked for me was when the Cowardly Lion runs down the hallway outside of Oz’s headquarters and jumps threw the window. After network television stopped their annual broadcast of “Wizard” I attended the movie whenever it would pop up at repertory theaters. Kids lost their shit during this scene as well as when Lion sings his song warbling with his silly big cat vibrato. 

When Dorothy is being carried away by the flying monkeys pay attention to the motion of her legs. It’s obviously a doll. The tornado sequence still looks awesome even if it’s just a bunch of spinning nylons. Thomas Wolfe was simply wrong when he wrote “you can’t go home again.”

Tap your heels together and go home tonight with “The Wizard of Oz.”

A family could do a lot worse viewing wise than to choose this perennial classic during these cloistered times.


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