Review by Harvey Karten
Copyright © 1998 Harvey Karten
I’d like five bucks for every time someone called out to me, “Hey, Toto!” when I walk my cairn terrier around the neighborhood. “Is that really Toto?” adults would stop and ask me, and I’d of course reply, “Sure it is; I’ve had him for sixty-three years now.” As for the kids, well, surprisingly enough some of them never saw “The Wizard of Oz” so the best they can do is say, “Ma, Ma, look at the dog!” Pretty soon, though, thanks to a dramatic re-release of “The Wizard of Oz,” every kid for miles around will be joining the grownups: “Ma, Ma, look, there’s Toto!”
Why do so many people know about this movie? Sure, it’s one of the 100 greats, and in fact the American Film Institute called it #6 in eminence. But then, most Americans probably haven’t seen others on the list—anything by Antonioni, Fellini, Buneul. Roger Ebert has a theory, as he says in his essay on “The Wizard of Oz”...”Elements powerfully fill a void that exists inside many children....home is everything, the center of the world. But over the rainbow is the wide earth, fascinating and terrifying. There is a deep fundamental fear that events might conspire to transport the child from the safety of home and strand him far away in a strange land. And what would he hope to find there? Why, new friends, to advise and protect him.”
The Great American Movie Classic, one of those few movies that come across as vividly the 15th time around as the first, follows the odyssey of Dorothy Gale who at the age of 16 is disappointed with her life on a remote Kansas farm and with being ignored by her busy aunt and her workers. She dreams of flying over the rainbow to a magical fairyland, some place preferable to life with hogs and seemingly indifferent people. When a tornado causes her to bump her head and fall momentarily unconscious she, her little dog Toto, and her entire house are presumably swept up and taken to just such...