The Wizard of Oz

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Made in 1939, Hollywood’s annus mirabilis – yes, it was a long time ago – The Wizard of Oz is one of the highest achievments of “glorious Technicolor”. A finicky, expensive and slow process, Technicolor’s three-strip system, as the name suggests, used three separate, differently filtered, film negatives in its giant cameras to produce a single finished image of exceptional depth of colour, especially at the red end of the spectrum – hence “ruby” slippers. Now, thanks to a new digital print restored from those original three negatives – Technicolor is incredibly durable too – audiences can recreate the moment when Depression-era filmgoers were first transported from dull, sepia-toned Kansas, over the rainbow and into the vibrant world of Oz. It might enhance viewing pleasure to know that it took an awful lot of light to get the silver nitrate in those three separate strips to react, and that the huge lighting rigs used on set caused some cast member to complain for ever afterwards that the wonderful Wizard had in fact ruined their eyesight. Temperatures were way up high too, regularly over 35°C. Which is not much fun if you’re dressed in a lion suit, a tinman’s costume or stuffed with straw. It does, though, explain the Wicked Witch of the West’s “I’m melting!”

The Wizard of Oz – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2006

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