Classic Scene: Munchkin Land
From the Wizard of Oz
Directed by Victor Fleming, 1939
The Scene: Our hero Dorothy and her beloved dog Toto, have just been violently ripped out of their black and white world in Kansas by a tornado. Now their house has crashed back to earth, leaving our hero to wonder where she is. Upon opening her front door, the film takes a complete twist as Dorothy, along with the audience, is now in a world of bright and vivid color. The young girl from a farm on Kansas now finds herself in Munchkin Land her first stop on a trip through the wonderful land of Oz. The tiny residents known as Munchkins welcome her to their land with delightful musical numbers to show their gratitude for her unwittingly killing the evil Wicked Witch of the East. But the pageantry comes to a crashing halt when the Wicked Witch of the West appears demanding retribution for the loss of her sister and the Ruby Slippers. Now our hero from Kansas finds herself wedged in a conflict between two powerful witches for the fate of this new world she finds herself in.
The Deconstruction: The late Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert used to point out that he never really cared if a movie was shown in black and white or color, it was simply part of the film. But when he watched this classic, the shift in color palette was nothing short of an eye opening experience, as it communicated to the audience that they were now in a completely different world in an absolutely stunning manner. Despite being confined to a soundstage, Fleming and his team created an absolutely immersive world for both Dorothy and the audience that was unlike anything seen before. I have seen this film on the big screen in the highest resolution and the visuals of it all are still breathtaking. This is Dorothy’s first step into a larger world and it’s a big wallop of a step.
Best Bit: When the Wicked Witch of the West appears it completely change the dynamic of a happy music filled scene. Every summer in Memphis, the city is treated to a grand showing of this picture at the historic Orpheum, and this is the moment that the sound of the crowd booing and hissing fills the theater. Even now decades later, the screen presence of this cinematic icon is still powerful and elicits a fan reaction.