Tuesday, August 02, 2011

72 Years of Cinema Magic

We had a fun family outing yesterday morning. A local theater has been doing a family film movie club this summer. On certain weekday mornings they run old (sometimes classic) family films, with ticket prices set at $1 per person. Since camp ended last week (and VBS doesn't start till next week) this was the week we could give it a try.

Fortunately, it turned out to be the one week we really wanted to go. We got to see The Wizard of Oz! The sweet girl's first time to ever see it (though she knows the book) and my umpteenth viewing but the first time I've ever seen it on a big screen. Wow -- so many things I missed during all those years of catching it on television.

And how well this film has stood the test of time. My father saw it when it was first released to theaters back in 1939. He was 7 at the time, and was terrified of the flying monkeys. And yes, they're still scary!

The tornado is just an awesome special effect -- and not just by 1939 standards -- the early date just makes it even more impressive. I told D. that in all the dozens of times I'd seen the film on the small screen, I'd never paid the twister much attention. It was there in the background, and my attention was with Dorothy struggling in the storm winds in the foreground. But when you see it BIG -- wow. It's menacing! It just dominates the screen! Last night we found ourselves reading an online article about how they managed the affect (dirt, dust, fans, muslin, wires...) and it's really amazing to realize the creativity that went into that.

Some of the performances really stood out on the big screen too. Margaret Hamilton's witch was delightfully wicked (that last line, when she melts, is just wonderfully delivered) and Ray Bolger's Scarecrow is as sweet as I remembered. The Cowardly Lion was funnier than I remembered. And Judy Garland just about melted my heart on "Over the Rainbow."

Despite a bit of graininess to some of the distance shots, and a couple of segments where the sound was not quite in sync with the picture, it was just a terrific cinematic experience. It makes me wish that theaters would bring classic films back more often. Over the years I've had the opportunity to see a few on the big screen (The Sound of Music, Gone With the Wind) but there are many more I'd love to see. And I love that the sweet girl's first cinematic memory of The Wizard of Oz will be this one.


Erin said...

I saw Sound of Music on the big screen too! And Snow White. Yes, it would be neat to see more classic films like that! Mary Poppins, for instance. I'd love to see that one in the theater. Anyway, so glad you got to catch this one!

Beth said...

Oh, I'd like to see Snow White on the big screen. And Mary Poppins too. I do think certain films (maybe especially older ones?) really "pop" when you can see them that way. That was definitely true here!