Dark Side of the Rainbow

How the Texas Theatre advertised Dark Side of the Rainbow

 

 

Ten kids high on aspartame and orange food colouring were finally silenced at my house a few weeks ago when I put on the so-sharp-it-hurts remastered Wizard Of Oz. The 1939 classic’s SFX were still brilliant and Judy Garland’s performance is so thigh-slapping that it had a magical effect on adults too. Oddly, the film has always been a big one for gay men – Elton John, an arch Friend Of Dorothy, named his biggest album Goodbye Yellow Road in the days when he was still straight, or bi, or whatever he was. But if the mark of a great work of art is that it can be re-interpreted, re-purposed and mythologised then The Wizard of Oz surely fits the category. Even Pink Floyd fans have got in on the act, claiming that if you start the classic Dark Side of the Moon album when the MGM lion roars for the third time and turn down the film’s soundtrack, then what you’ll hear is a spookily synchronised new soundtrack to the film. This might be wishful thinking on Floyd fans’ part but it’s surely worth a try on a wet afternoon. To fit the length of the film the record has to played through three times. Dark Side of the Rainbow, is what it’s called, and enterprising repertory cinemas are giving the audio-visual mash-up a whirl. Never mind the tin man’s search for a heart, looks like the Wizard just got new legs.

2013 update: there are quite a few items claiming to be properly synced versions of Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz. At the moment of writing there are two for sale on Amazon. If they’re the same ones I’m looking at they’re no good. You’ll just get a CD of DSOTM and more than likely a VHS (unbelievable) of TWoO. If you’re looking at Amazon, take a hard look at the customer comments – very useful.

© Steve Morrissey 2001

 

 

Meet Me in St Louis

 

 

“Clang clang clang went the trolley” and ring ring ring went the tills in every box office all over America when Meet Me in St Louis arrived in 1944. Made when the war in the Pacific was at its height, it was a chocolate-boxy feast of nostalgia even then, a story about a decent paterfamilias (Leon Ames) considering uprooting his family and moving them from cosy St Louis to New York. What could be more appropriate in wartime than a film about a lifestyle under threat? Poor Esther (Judy Garland), the second oldest daughter. How is she ever going to croon and spoon with “The Boy Next Door”? Poor Tootie (an Oscar to seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien), the youngest Smith daughter – she’s so upset all her dollies are coming down with terminal illnesses and she’s developed the nasty habit of taking the heads off snowmen. It’s this unease that gives the film its bite and ensures that it’s not overwhelmed by soppiness, of which there’s an iron-hooped barrel-load. Look no further than the film’s other standout song – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Big aaah.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

Meet Me In St Louis – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

The Wizard of Oz

 

 

 

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!”

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

The Wizard of Oz – at Amazon