Aa young kid in the ’70s, the annual TV screening of “The Wizard of Oz” has always been a big deal. I’m sure it aired on NBC Channel 6 because it was the only station we picked up with consistency.
Our two televisions – one color, one black and white – were hooked to ladder wires, which came out of the house and went straight up the mountain behind our house. At the top of the ridge was a giant antenna.
If the weather conditions were perfect, we could get a somewhat decent picture on Channel 6, and snowy pictures with sound on Channel 4, the ABC network in Oak Hill.
The promotions for “The Wizard of Oz” always ran a few days before the big network event. I remember it well, because the first ad would put me in a state of madness. I would run screaming into our house to let everyone know when “The Wizard of Oz” was on the air. The family were smiling and asking me to calm down. But it didn’t do any good. I became more and more hyper hyper in the days leading up to the event.
On the night of the show, everything had to be perfect. Mom would have prepared a large bowl of popcorn (dripping huge amounts of melted butter and salt), served with a glass of iced Coke. My seat was on the living room floor, only three feet from the TV screen, on giant cushions.
Nothing could distract me from the screen, although there were a few scenes in the first part of the movie that I found quite disturbing. When Miss Gulch (who reminded me of an adult I knew as a child) took Toto, I got scared and tearful. I was a young child, but I could understand Dorothy’s pain, imagining how I would feel if someone took my dogs Smokey and Collie.
Of course, as we all know, the film quickly evolved into the fantasy seen through Technicolor magic. And scenes with Munchkins, Glinda the Good Witch, ruby red slippers, poppy fields, bubbles, and a magical yellow brick road softened the sting of Miss Gulch’s previous evil deeds.
By the time Dorothy, Toto, Tin man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion arrived in Oz, I was generally struggling with sleep – but I never gave in. I had to watch my favorite scene.
“There is no place like home. There is no place like home. There is no place like home.
With the click of the heels of her ruby slippers, Dorothy was back with her family – safely surrounded by loving and caring friends and relatives.
I watch modern blockbusters with wonder and amazement.
“Jurassic Park” and “Independence Day” were among the first to leave me wide eyed and shaking my head in admiration.
During those moments of staring at the screen, I was convinced that dinosaurs existed on a distant island and that the aliens did indeed intend to take over Earth.
“The Lord of the Rings” also captivated with its visual effects. Hobbits, elves, wizards and talking trees amidst a fantasy landscape with epic battles provided such a sensory overload that I forgot about the discomfort of my movie chair.
“Terminator 2”, “Twister” and “The Matrix” were among others that really made me appreciate the art and science of special effects.
I often wonder what awaits moviegoers 50 years from now.
Despite the advancements in movie magic, I find it refreshing to step back in time on certain weekends.
I enjoy the modest dialogue of the previous days and the high-tech wonder of the flying monkeys.
I now watch “The Wizard of Oz” on a flat screen TV – minus the clutter, “snow” and the occasional rolling screen.
The yellow brick road, the emerald city, the ruby slippers, and Glinda’s dress seem a lot more vibrant thanks to the magic of the upgraded technology, but Miss Gulch – well, she still scares me so much.
Despite the significantly improved picture quality, the underlying theme of the film and its message remains as strong and true as when I was young. Friendship, family, unity, courage, heart, knowledge, strength and perseverance.
And, above all, at home.
There really isn’t a place like this on a Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn and cold Coke.
– Samantha Perry is editor-in-chief of The telegraph of the day. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her @BDTPerry.