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The Wizard of Oz, Directed by Victor Fleming

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, August 25, 1939 (US)

Screenplay: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf, based on the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton

They could appear at any minute, nosedive down like pterodactyls to scoop you up and carry you off to a torturous death. As a child, those creepy flying monkeys were what was most frightening of all about the film although not to be discounted, that nasty snot-skinned Wicked Witch of the West could appear anytime as well. It freaked the hell out of you. Throw in a heartbreaking case of dognapping by a crotchety old hag, and of course a twister to end all twisters, and you couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy about the “adventure” you had embarked upon.

Even when Dorothy wakes up in the land of Technicolor dreams, welcoming munchkins, and psychedelic lollipop fields, it becomes apparent pretty quick that we are by no means out of the woods just yet. Danger lurked around every twist and turn of the magical but menacing yellow brick road. It wasn’t going to be as simple as just wishing it all away. Well, at least not yet anyway.

But maybe what was most odd about the whole Oz experience was how good it felt to be afraid. To a child, this is a foreign sensation. Unlike the fear of the bogeyman (who hid behind the closet door, under your own bed, or worse, right out in the open within the deceptive shadows of your room at night), this fear wasn’t a bad thing. It was like how you would later feel when you rode a roller coaster or experienced the wobbly thrill of a towering Ferris wheel. As you climbed to the top of the world, just before descent, it was a rush like no other. You wanted the ride to end ASAP so you could get the heck off. And yet, when it finally did end, it was the strangest thing. You bolted back in line to do it all over again.

That first visit into the Land of Oz was a magical journey, something impossible to forget. The singing munchkins, a wish-granting wizard, a scared lonely child and her dog who are hunted by an evil witch, and of course, a band of lackies all missing vital cogs. And there were such vibrant, dazzling colors, all in a film that begins in black and white. It was abracadabra enchantment. A new world opened up before your very eyes. Fantasy and reality merged together in a voodoo forest somewhere over the rainbow, a place where dreams really do come true.