Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - December, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Wiz" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-december-2010-wiz

Synopsis

Think Frank Baum meets Motown.  Dorothy (Ross) is a 24-year old schoolteacher living a sheltered life in Harlem with her Aunt and her dog Toto.  When Toto slips out the door into a raging snowstorm, Dorothy runs after him and they are both caught up in a magical tornado that suddenly appears.  When they wake up, they’ve been transported to a magical land called Oz.  The Munchkins there are celebrating because Dorothy has just killed their nemesis, the wicked witch of the east.  To get home, Dorothy has to travel to the Emerald City and find The Wiz.  Along the way she meets first a Scarecrow (Jackson) who just wants a brain, a Tin Man (Russell) looking for a heart and a Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) hoping to find some courage.  They overcome a few obstacles and make it to the Emerald City but The Wiz won’t help them until Dorothy kills the wicked witch of the west.  She and her faithful companions find Evilline’s Sweat Shop and defeat her just in the nick of time.  The Wiz turns out to be a phony but Dorothy and the others discover they already have what they want and everyone is happy as the credits roll.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 1978, Color, Rated G, 2 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross
  • Directed by Sidney Lumet
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  No
  • Sex:  No
  • Language:  No

Commentary

This is the OTHER musical adaptation of Frank Baum’s timeless tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  It is derived from the Broadway show by the same name which won seven Tony Awards in 1975.  This film version does not hold up nearly as well as the stage production.  My reference for movies like this is Phantom of the Opera and Chicago.  These were done with the screen in mind with great camera work and specially choreographed dance sequences.  The Wiz looked more like an expanded stage show with mostly static camera work and dancing limited to large group numbers.  The film was shot in and around New York City making an appropriate backdrop for the storyline.  I do have positive comments about the main actors’ performances.  Diana Ross and Michael Jackson especially do a superb job bringing their characters to life and their musical talents really shine here.  Jackson is at his musical peak with none of the annoying embellishments heard in his more recent singing.  At first, Diana Ross struck me as a bit too old for the part of Dorothy, but her singing won me over.  Fans of the show will probably want to add this disc to their collections but if you’ve never seen it before, one rental is sufficient.

Technical

Video was unremarkable in quality.  The image was fairly clean and detail was about average for a film from this era.  Dark scenes showed some crushing in the shadows and most of the lighting was flat and too dark.  Only a rare few moments really showed any bright colors or punchy highlights.  Compared to a movie like Chicago with its bright spotlights and high contrast, The Wiz looked uninspiring.

The DTS-HD Master Audio sound track was by the far the best thing on this Blu-ray.  Although the sound was a tad veiled, it easily topped other material I’ve heard from the late seventies.  Musical numbers were rich and dynamic with a fantastic foot-tapping musical score from composer Charlie Smalls.  Even though the many musical numbers didn’t look great, they sounded fantastic.  My only reason for docking one star was the disconnect between the sound and the visuals.  It was painfully obvious that all the music and dialog had been recorded on a sound stage.  There was no proper imaging nor were there any environmental cues.  I doubt it would have made any difference had the track only been offered in stereo.  Only the excellent dynamics and full frequency range saves this audio from mediocrity.

Extras

Bonus features are limited to a 12-minute behind-the-scenes documentary and the original theatrical trailer.