Dorothy, a young girl living on a farm in Kansas, is swept up, with her little dog, in a tornado and set down in a magical land. Making friends along the way, she sets out to find the mythical Wizard of Oz who is apparently the only one who has the power to send her home.
Over the course of film history, there’s a lot of crap written about movies that speak to the child in us but this dazzling musical adaptation of Frank L Baum’s novel – twisters, ruby slippers, yellow brick roads, you know the drill- genuinely hits on childish delights (the promise of adventure, the joy of finding new mates) and fears with effortless grace, warmth and imagination.
Chief among its pleasures are a clutch of hummable tunes (“We hear he is a whiz of a Wiz), MGM’s spectacular set design , a cute dog and the scariest villainess in cinema and the inimitable scarecrow-tin man-lion troika.
60 years on, the funny bits are still really funny (the cowardly lion’s “put ‘em up”), the scary bits are really scary (the army of flying monkeys) and the evocation of innocent longing for a home far away – encapsulated in Garland’s rendition of Over The Rainbow – is beautifully pitched. Indeed, Garland, captured on the cusp of legend before traumas of stardom kicked in, provides the film’s devastating emotional centre, an icon for homesick kiddies everywhere.
If you want a true barometer for greatness , just count the ways it has entered the culture: from references in David Lynch’s Wild At Heart to the nexus of folklore that surrounds its making (rumours of munchkin behaviour are rife), Oz’s influence is boundless. Spellbinding stuff.
If you haven't seen this then you've never been stuck inside on a rainy Christmas/Easter/Bank holiday afternoon. The songs and magic are still fresh, even if it isn't quite knowing enough, perhaps, for today's young audiences.