The original “Wizard of Oz” triumphs over Tom and Jerry

The Wizard of Oz

Ever since becoming a dad at long last, I’ve given some thought to those classic films of my childhood that I planned to share with Max when the time came. In so doing, I’d both relive these beloved stories and of course vicariously enjoy Max’s reactions as he experienced the twists and turns of these timeless classics for the first time.

Then Tom and Jerry stomped all over my careful plans.

Max discovered their “Wizard of Oz” parody on Netflix, and it was so good a copy of -er, faithful to – the original, that it gave away all the main plot points and of course the big “reveal” of the Wizard’s identity. Plus the overall look and design of the original, from the opening credits down to the design of the Emerald City. And there’s even a couple of the songs, done in a competent manner but not in any way threatening the reputation of the original versions.

Great, I thought. Now when he thinks of The Wizard of Oz he’ll think of this – the pratfalls and shenanigans of a cat-and-mouse cartoon comedy team. And there goes the surprise of the “man behind the curtain”.

I knew I had to ramp up my timeline for showing him the original.

So when Max and I both had a stay-at-home, lay-low sick day this week, and I’d gotten plenty of work done by midafternoon, I realized: now is the time. So I dug my DVD of “Oz” out of storage, dimmed the lights, and cranked it up. And hoped that thoughts of Tom and Jerry would soon be banished.

It didn’t start out as I’d hoped. Max kept telling me “in the other one, Tom and Jerry jumped off the roof and…” or some such summary of the cartoon slapstick of the knockoff version.

But soon, the references to Tom and Jerry ceased, and Max was completely engrossed in the film. At one point he even pronounced it “awesome!”

It was very interesting to rewatch this film I feel I know so well, and to discover – as with all great films – new details I’d either forgotten or paid little attention to previously. Like Auntie Em and Uncle Henry trying to save their chicks due to “trouble with the incubator” when we first meet them, or the Emerald City folk doffing their caps, as if for royalty, when Glenda the Good Witch makes her reappearance near the end. Plus many little reactions and interactions between the cast all the way through.

And little questions, like when exactly did Dorothy’s friends have time to remove their stolen guard uniforms while being chased around the WIcked Witch’s castle?

Musically, I’d not noticed before that they stole a bit of “Night on Bald Mountain” for the soundtrack, during the final escape from the witch’s castle! I suspected there were more of these borrowings I didn’t recognize, and sure enough, a glance at IMDb shows there are a couple of others in there among the timeless original gems that are highly appropriate for their scenes: “The Happy Farmer” for the farm scenes, and “By the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” for their skirmish with the apple trees. I’ll have to listen for them next time.

Of course the film is sprinkled liberally with timeless lines that have long since entered the public consciousness, and it was a joy to hear them again from the source. “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” and so many more. Plus innumerable little lines that are always smile-inducing: “People come and go so quickly around here!” “I even scare myself!” “They call them Phi- er, Phila- er… Good Deed Doers.”

And of course I’m in tears for half the film, since it taps into such a primal, childhood-memory, fairy tale state of thinking, probably my first movie experience of larger-than-life villainy, of being far from home and loved ones, and learning that “there’s no place like home” (something that never took any convincing to persuade me the truth of!).

It’s interesting that, despite the switch from black-and-white to colour being such a feature of the film, it had a completely powerful effect on me despite my first viewings being on our old black-and-white TV. (Remember when the only time you could see the film was every Easter as a “Special Presentation” on CBS? Viewing it was like a sort of annual tradition.)

By the end, Max had enjoyed every minute, and the power of classic cinema to engage his young imagination and overcome lesser imitators was well proven. Indeed, there’s no place like Oz!

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