Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I could while away the hours

I first saw The Wizard of Oz as a child in the mid-1960s, when (beginning in 1958) it was broadcast annually on network television. I watched it with my Mom, my Dad and older brother, the four of us gathered around the 19-inch black and white Zenith that was the centerpiece of our den AKA "the television room." I enjoyed the movie immensely, but it wasn't until my family got its first color television that I realized why Dorothy gasped when she opened the door to Oz and how much it indeed differed from Kansas.

Every year, my brother would tease me, convincing me that this year, the Wicked Witch was going make a surprise move to her left when Dorothy threw the fateful bucket of water. He told me as though The Wizard of Oz was a live event, like a boxing match. But every year, I'd fall for it, anticipating the trick move that would enable the Witch to nab those ruby slippers once and for all. (After all, technically, they were her birthright!)

From the time I was a kid, through the birth of my own son and later, I have seen The Wizard of Oz countless times. I continued to watch the annual network broadcasts and I watched nearly every showing since its exclusive move to cable in 2000. I also own a DVD copy, even following the Internet's instructions for syncing it up to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" when the so-called "Dark Side of the Rainbow" craze was popular.

The Wizard of Oz became one of my favorite films. Not so much that it is a great movie, but more for the nostalgic memories that it stirs up. I still will watch it if I spot it in the TV listings. I know a load of trivia associated with the film. But, because its original release was 22 years before I was born, I never had the opportunity to see it as it was meant to be seen — on the big screen.

Until now.

This week, the good folks at Turner Classic Movies, the greatest cable channel of them all, presented a limited theater run of  the 1939 classic. Last night, Mrs. Pincus and I (and a couple of friends) attended one of only four showings at the same theater where we saw Big Eyes this past Christmas. We purchased our admission online, ($12.50 per ticket, a twelve dollar and twenty-five cent increase from its initial run) securing seats early, because we could not gauge the appeal that this limited engagement would have. 

When we arrived at the theater, our "crowd size" questions were answered. The darkened auditorium was sparsely populated with no more than two dozen patrons. Actually, closer to 20. We grabbed our usual spot — last row, just under the projection booth — and waited for the movie to start. After a brief recorded introduction by TCM host Robert Osbourne, the center of the modern wide screen flickered with the familiar image of the MGM lion. I was immediately surprised, then remembered that Panavision, CinemaScope and other wide-screen technology didn't exist in 1939. The film, for you movie buffs, was shot in 1:37 aspect ratio, which is basically, a little square. The title card, accompanied by the orchestrated strains of "Over the Rainbow," flashed across the screen in glorious sharp sepia-tone. 

My wife had preconceived plans to make this event a second coming of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with reciting dialogue before the on-screen actors, and singing along with the beloved songs. No one seemed to mind when we questioned aloud with the Emerald City guard, "The Witch's Dorothy?"  And we definitely were not alone when we collectively answered the Scarecrow's directional query "To Oz?" with an emphatic "To Oz!" While a lot of the audience was quiet, it was a foregone conclusion that nobody was seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time tonight. Or the second time. Or the twentieth time.

Yeah, we were all there for the same reason.

(By the way, the newly "brained" Scarecrow's statement: "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side" — is not true of any type of triangle.)

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