The Wiz: 30th Anniversary Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Universal Studios / 1978 / 135 Minutes. Rated G.
Street Date: February 12, 2008
List Price: $19.98

Directed By: Sidney Lumet

Written by: Joel Schumacher

Cast:

Diana Ross……….Dorothy
Michael Jackson……….Scarecrow
Nipsey Russell……….Tinman
Ted Ross……….Lion (Fleetwood Coupe de Ville)
Lena Horne……….Glinda the Good
Richard Pryor……….The Wiz (Herman Smith)

The Film:

The year was 1978. Michael Jackson was still best known for his work with the Jackson 5. Movie’s based on musicals based on movie’s hadn’t become a fad yet and screenwriter Joel Schumacher had yet to disenfranchise millions of Batman fans.

Director Sidney Lumet was a little hard on his film, calling it a “disaster.” But The Wiz certainly is a strange and unusually film. It’s strange that it was directed by Lumet in the first place and it’s strange the Schumacher wrote the screenplay. And it’s strange that, as the Scarecrow, for some reason Michael Jackson has a peanut butter cup wrapper stuck on his nose.

The whole feel of the film is a little off, from the set design to the costumes to the adaptation. The idea is interesting. The idea of making Oz a twisted version of New York Is interesting. The idea of the Cowardly Lion coming out of one of the lions in front of the New York Public Library is interesting. The idea of the biggest musical number ever made (at the time) being orchestrated at the base of the Twin Towers is interesting. But somehow all these interesting ideas don’t come together in the most interesting way.

I’m not saying The Wiz is bad. It’s entertaining in an “over the top, oh my god, did I really just see that” kind of way. The acting is decent, the songs are cute, but not as memorable as the originals, and Richard Pryor is hilarious as the titular character. Although, to his credit, it’s hard for Pryor not to be funny.

The story varies from the original film is many ways. All of 15 minutes is spent in reality. Dorothy (Ross) lives in Harlem and has never left it despite her parents’ encouragement. When her dog Toto runs out into a raging snowstorm the two are sucked up into a snow tornado and whisked off to oz. The ends up meeting Scarecrow before finding the yellow brick road and she has to save him from a murder of jive talkin’ crows. You know the rest despite the differences.

There is certainly a place for this film. It’s very different from its predecessor and offers a completely different kind of entertainment. The whole experience is really rather fascinating and worth sitting through, if at least once. But it is easy to look at the film and think, “What was Lumet thinking?”

The DVD:

This film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1. Also dubbed in French. French and English subtitles available. This is a really good transfer and the film looks great. A proper presentation for a 30th Anniversary Edition.

Extras:

Wiz On Down The Road: (12 min.) This is a dated featurette that was made back in the 70’s. It’s interesting but being that this is the only feature on this 30th anniversary edition, that’s kind of sad.

CD Soundtrack: A bonus disc containing 8 songs from the movie.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
The Wiz: 30th Anniversary Edition
CONTENT

7.0
THE VIDEO

8.5
THE AUDIO

8.5
SUPPLEMENTS

5.5
REPLAY VALUE

6.0

OVERALL
7.0
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
While the film was a critical and box office flop it did earn three Oscar nominations. And while it may be one of Sidney Lumet’s worst films it’s still a fascinating piece of cinematic history.