Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Review

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900) is an American children's classic. I could just stop right there. Those who have never read the novel are familiar with the basics of the story thanks to the 1939 MGM technicolor musical comedy-drama extravaganza. For years (before VHS, DVD, and other forms of media made it available any time), the film was a fall TV standard that children grew up watching every year. I'm sure that most people are unable to think of the story without conjuring up Judy Garland and the song "Over the Rainbow. For this reason, I'm not going to recap the basic story line. I'm just going to write about my perceptions of the book.

Of course, as is usual when film makers turn a beloved book into a visual piece, there are many differences between the written work and the filmed version. Not the least of these is the fact that in the novel, Dorothy's experiences in Oz are real. She really does travel from her home in Kansas to that magical land by means of the cyclone. The film turns this journey into nothing more than dream--a dream brought about by her injury during the cyclone. Apparently, fantasy films had not been doing well at the box office in the 1930s and the studio felt that the adventures would be better received if it was made clear to the audience that these things Were Just Pretend. 

A great many of Dorothy's adventures are also cut from the film version. There are fewer obstacles to overcome--no great gorge to leap over, no rushing river to cross. There is no land of Dainty China figures, no Hammerheads, no giant spider creature for the Lion to defeat. The flying monkeys are not controlled by a magic crown and Dorothy never needs them to aid her in reaching Glinda the Good Witch. Glinda simply watches over Dorothy and her friends--appearing when she is most needed.

The book is very much a quest story and re-emphasizes this with every challenge the group meets. It also makes much of the value of friendship and cooperation. Dorothy never would have made it home to Kansas if she hadn't found and become friends with the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion because there were certain challenges that could only be overcome with the talents of a particular character. In turn, none of these would have gained their heart, brains, and courage without Dorothy and their adventures together. The film does have these elements, but the condensed version  onscreen loses some of the effect of the novel. 

The book is a wonderful fantasy adventure for children and adults alike. I am very glad that I have finally read the classic behind the film that I loved as a child. ★★★★ and a half.


Amelia said...

I just listened to the audiobook and was so pleased with the narrator (Anne Hathaway) and the story. I've never been a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz but the book was great.

fredamans said...

I have this book on my kindle and honestly I'm intimidated to read it. I just love the film so much. I suppose I should give it a go though. Great review!