Retro Outrage: "Wizard Of Oz" 70th Anniversary Screening Only Half As Good As It Could Be
Next week, the timeless Technicolor classic "The Wizard Of Oz" comes to high definition Blu-Ray. Promoters are celebrating the event with a special screening in movie theaters September 23rd. Posters and a breathless trailer say that you'll be seeing the movie like never before, and heavily imply that this fresh release of the movie will look better than ever.
They rely on the typical consumer not realizing that movie theaters will show the film via digital projection, not celluloid film. High definition projection is only about half the quality of any film print moviegoers have seen in the last seven decades. Projected video can't deliver the breathtaking color of a real Technicolor print.
I can accept a lot of things when sprucing up a movie for re-release. By all means restore and repair the visuals from the film. Upgrade the special effects as long as they remain in the spirit of the source material (the way that the remastered Star Trek TV series does, and George Lucas doesn't...). I'll even accept creating stereo soundtracks where only mono existed before (so long as I can go back to mono on the DVD back home). But don't claim that all of this is somehow superior to the original when you're delivering it to my eyes in a format much inferior to the original film.
It's a thrill to bring back the film to the cinema, and I have no doubt that it would be fun to see the movie in a theater with an enthusiastic crowd. I don't have a ticket, so I won't get to relive the thrills - like the moment when the sepia tones of Kansas give way to the jubilant Technicolor excess of the land of Oz, but maybe I'm better off. All I'd be thinking is that the presentation is at best half of what it would be if it were projected from a newly struck Technicolor film print. At home Blu Ray is going to be great, but in a movie theater I expect a bit more.
There's no excuse for marketers to pretend that this version of the film is going to somehow be the best presentation ever when they are delivering inferior digital projection of a compressed video stream. All we can do is click our heels together three times and say "there's no film like film..."