DVD Review: The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond
Director: Troy Szebin
Screenplay: Troy Szebin
Producer: Jeanette Pugliese
Starring: Margaret Pellegrini, Rob Marshall, Donald Saddler, John Badham
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 50 min.
It will probably come as no surprise that the magic of Oz hasn’t always equalled greatness and if the trailer for Sam Raimi’s prequel Oz The Great and Powerful wasn’t enough of an indication that the movie was going to be a disaster of $300 million dollar proportions, perhaps this scathing review from Film Freak Central will guide you in the right direction. But let’s assume for a moment that in your infinite wisdom you’ve prepared for Raimi’s spectacle by watching The Wizard of Oz and now you want more. You could do far worse than catching up with The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond.
First released in 2008 and now making a re-appearance, this short documentary, it clocks in at just 50 minutes, provides a great backgrounder to the history of Oz, beginning with an introduction of author Frank L. Baum and ending with The Wiz. With the help of Oz historian Carlos Larkin and interviews with everyone from cast members to Saturday Night Fever director John Badham (if you don’t already know his connection to the world of Oz you’ll have to watch to find out what he’s doing here), director Troy Szebin has created a great documentary for the uninitiated.
There are tales of Baum’s early attempts to transfer the successful series to other mediums including radio plays, unsuccessful ventures that led to his filing for bankruptcy, and his later creation of the Oz Film Manufacturing Co. which was responsible for a few early adaptations of Baum’s books.
A large portion of the documentary is dedicated to the production of MGM’s The Wizard of Oz beginning with how MGM acquired the rights and covering everything from casting to production mishaps. There’s also a bit of discussion about the movie’s critical reception at time of release and how it underperformed against another major release that year: Gone With the Wind. It’s interesting to note, though not mentioned in the documentary, that Victor Fleming is credited with directing both of these long standing classics.
Fans of Oz are unlikely to find any new information in Szebin’s documentary which is pretty basic and plays like a made for TV segment but for those who aren’t familiar with the long life of the franchise, The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond provides some interesting information though I must admit that the best part of this release is that the DVD includes Larry Semon’s 1925 silent adaptation The Wizard of Oz which I really enjoyed.
The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond is now available on DVD.
DVD Extras The 1925 silent film The Wizard of Oz.