17 September 2013

“A thing of many interesting gadgets”

The New Republic website preserves Otis Ferguson’s review of the MGM Wizard of Oz:

The Wizard of Oz was intended to hit the same audience as Snow White, and won’t fail for lack of trying. It has dwarfs, music, technicolor, freak characters and Judy Garland. It can’t be expected to have a sense of humor as well—and as for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet. Children will not object to it, especially as it is a thing of many interesting gadgets; but it will be delightful for children mostly to their mothers, and any kid tall enough to reach up to a ticket window will be found at the Tarzan film down the street. The story of course has some lovely and wild ideas—men of straw and tin, a cowardly lion, a wizard who isn’t a very good wizard—but the picture doesn’t know what to do with them, except to be painfully literal and elaborate about everything—Cecil B. DeMille and the Seven Thousand Dwarfs by Actual Count.

The things I liked best were the design for a witches’ castle, the air-raid of the Things with Wings, the control-room in which Frank Morgan is discovered controlling the light and sound effects that make the Wizard. Morgan in fact is the only unaffected trouper in the bunch; the rest either try too hard or are Judy Garland. It isn’t that this little slip of a miss spoils the fantasy so much as that her thumping, overgrown gambols are characteristic of its treatment here: when she is merry the house shakes, and everybody gets wet when she is lorn.
Evidently this review keeps the movie out of a 100% positive rating from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. And while we meet argue with Ferguson’s judgment, he clearly saw the same movie as the rest of us.

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