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High-Tech Oz Prequel Courts Modern Viewers

Oz Prequel Revisits Legendary Storyi
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March 19, 2013
The story of the Wizard of Oz, the magician who inhabits the Emerald City has weathered time. Written by Frank Baum in 1900, the fantasy has become a movie and a play many times over. Its most famous incarnation was MGM’s lavish 1939 production starring Judy Garland and her ruby slippers. Now, a prequel to the original has been made to court audiences in the 21st century. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Oz Prequel Revisits Legendary Story

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Penelope Poulou
Written by Frank Baum in 1900, the magical story of The Wizard of Oz has weathered time, and many film and stage incarnations.

Its most famous was MGM’s lavish 1939 production starring Judy Garland and her ruby slippers. Now, a prequel to the original is out to court 21st century audiences.  

Like the original, Oz the Great and Powerful opens in black and white.

Circus magician Oscar Diggs, played by James Franco, is taken to the Emerald City where he’s destined to claim the throne. First, he’s told, he has to kill the wicked witch. He meets three witches, who all deny they're wicked.

Franco says the original story inspired him. “I have been a fan of the world of Oz since I was probably eleven, maybe younger. So, I thought it was a really great opportunity to jump into the role of my childhood and imagination.”

Sam Raimi’s 3D  film offers a good story, rich visuals, solid acting and great special effects.

But it can't match 1939's The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy, played by Judy Garland in her ruby slippers, made history. Dorothy travels to the Emerald City to meet the wizard who will show her the way back home, only to find that Oz is a fake.
 
The journey is an allegory of self-discovery.
 
The Library of Congress named The Wizard of Oz the most watched motion picture in history, says Patrick Loughney, executive director of the National Audio Visual Conservation Center at the Library.  

“It’s a magical film because it captures that concentration of energy, genius and creativity that was apparent in Hollywood, in the movie industry at that time,” he says.

Loughney says the 1939 film carried a post-Depression message of endurance.  

“To me it's the message of hope in the movie that ultimately connects with everybody at that time, and even today.”

Other incarnations of The Wizard of Oz have reflected changes in popular culture.  In 1974, The Wiz featured Dorothy played by Diana Ross, with an all-black cast.

"I think it reflects a social change that already occurred in America since the 1950s and 1960s," Loughney says. "And so you have major movie studios beginning to accommodate artists coming out of the African American community."

Now, Sam Raimi’s technical marvel, Oz the Great and Powerful, may give new life to the wizard until the next incarnation of Frank Baum's beloved story.

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by: Ciaran Mulcahy from: Dublin, Ireland
March 25, 2013 8:18 AM
It is indeed interesting how well known stories can undergo many changes. An Italian composer created an opera which he set in the USA., its title was: "The Girl From The Golden West"; it was suitably filmed as a 'movie-western'.

I would like someone to search for a Soviet, or East German made Movie, which I saw, on "B.B.C. TV.," (as it was known when the film was screened, 'circa' 1961-1962, or 1963).

The BBC programme-guide, the "Radio Times", credited the actors, as: U.K. Actor, Alfie Bass; and U.S. Actor, Peter Falk. The film seemed to be about fur-trappers in the Arctic Wastes, somewhere, and was voiced-over by a single voice.

The actors wore such long, heavy fur-coats, that it is doubtful if even their closest family relatives would have recognised them. While its very likely that the performers, themselves, probably felt that the film was pointless, it would be interesting if somebody could track it down.

As it was, then, generally five-years at the least, before a film was released to television, that could mean that the film could have been made 'circa' 1957. It would be interesting to track-down, and release.

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