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

 

 

The Adventures of Robin Hood

 

 

“Only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance” ran the tagline to the swashbuckler from 1938 which took a young Tasmanian and gave him a movie role that would define him for ever. Errol Flynn may have become a fat roué in later life but here, as Robin Hood, he is every inch the handsome, athletic, cocky, light-hearted and brave hero. The film too is full of that brio, telling a story of good v bad, true love v convenience, rich v poor, idealism v cynicism. That “brilliance”, by the way, comes from the costly and technically demanding Technicolor three-strip process, which produces colours more saturated than any subsequent process has managed. Everything – from the dresses of Maid Marian (Olivia De Havilland) and the lush tapestries of Nottingham Castle to the Lincoln Green of Sherwood Forest (California, actually), even Friar Tuck’s brown habit – glistens like nothing on earth, especially in the almost magically restored print that’s now available (that’s a screengrab from the Blu-ray, above). And complementing that brilliance are baddies of pantomime blackness, Claude Rains as the pitiable Prince John, and Basil Rathbone as the despicable Sir Guy of Guisborne. Flynn would later come to regret the string of adventures he’d make with Hood director Michael Curtiz, wishing he’d instead made films that had left an artistic legacy. Sorry, Errol, you’re just going to have to settle for immortality instead.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

The Adventures of Robin Hood – at Amazon