Citizen Kane (70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition) (Blu-ray)


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Rating: PG

Orson Welles as Kane
Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Ray Collins as James W. Gettys
Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
William Alland as Jerry Thompson
Paul Stewart as Raymond
George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher
Fortunio Bonanova as Matiste
Gus Schilling as The Headwaiter
Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Rawlston
Georgia Backus as Miss Anderson
Harry Shannon as Kane’s Father
Sonny Bupp as Kane III
Buddy Swan as Kane – Age Eight

Directed by Orson Welles

Special Features:
Bonus Disc: American Experience: The Battle Over Citizen Kane Documentary
Bonus Disc: RKO 281
Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
Commentary by Roger Ebert
Opening: World Premier of Citizen Kane Vintage Featurettes
Interview with Ruth Warrick
Interview with Robert Wise
Call Sheets
Still Photography with Commentary by Roger Ebert
Deleted Scenes
Ad Campaign
Press Book
Opening Night
10/30/38 Mercury Theatre Broadcast of War of the Worlds (Audio Only)
10/28/40 KTSA, San Antonio Broadcast of H.G. Wells Meets Orson Welles (Audio Only)
Theatrical Trailer
*Note: Special Features are on DVD format

Other Info:
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
DTS-HD Master Audio Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 119 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“Orson Welles’ masterwork (#1 in the American Film Institute’s list of Best American Movies) dazzles anew in a superb 70th-anniversary digital transfer. It’s grand entertainment, sharply acted (starting many of Welles’ Mercury Players on the road to thriving film careers) and directed with inspired visual flair. Chronicling the stormy life of an influential publishing tycoon, this Best Original Screenplay Academy Award winner (1941) is rooted in themes of power, corruption, vanity – the American Dream lost in the mystery of a dying man’s last word: ‘Rosebud.'”

“Citizen Kane” is rated PG.

Reviewing a movie that many critics dub “the greatest movie of all time” is dangerous business. If you give it anything other than a 10 out of 10, people will call for your head in the comments section. (The line forms below.) But I’m going to throw caution into the wind and review it anyway. Even better, I’m going to make a confession while I’m at it. I was recently chatting with a fellow movie reviewer from Another Interesting Cinematic News website. We both admitted that we had a list of movies that we, as movie reviewers, should have seen but for whatever reason, we hadn’t seen. It was a substantial list with some major films on it. “Citizen Kane” was one of the movies on my list. Yes, believe it or not I haven’t seen “Citizen Kane” before (or if I did, it was about 25 years ago and I forgot it). So when it arrived on Blu-ray, I was eager to check it out and mark it off my movie bucket list.

Watching it now, I appreciate it from a cinematic perspective. Orson Welles did a lot of unconventional techniques with the camera at the time. He used dramatic camera angles to make characters seem larger or smaller than life. He had interesting scene transitions. He used lighting in a dramatic way that often went against the norm for 1941. A lot of characters are simply shown in the shadows while delivering dialogue. I really understand how this was a turning point for directors and why it is so often referenced.

I also appreciate “Citizen Kane” from a storytelling perspective. It is done in a notably non-linear way. The movie starts out with a newsreel summarizing Kane’s entire life. The movie then follows a journalist who goes back and interviews people from Kane’s past. It jumps around in time as every one of the characters gives a retelling about Kane from a different perspective. We get a picture of the man from former friends, former lovers, and former business associates. If people thought “Inception” was complicated, I wonder what they thought of this narrative back in 1941.

I also appreciate the acting in “Citizen Kane.” Most notable is Orson Welles. He portrays Kane as everything from an idealistic young man to a power-mad elderly billionaire. I was really impressed with the natural transition of his character from one phase of his life to another. The makeup is also noteworthy for the time. He makes an amazing physical transformation from handsome young man to an elderly gentleman. It is quite amazing that Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in this movie in is early ’20s. That’s impressive even today. Also noteworthy is Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane. I think she was the template for the ‘ditzy dame’ in every movie that came later. She, too, has an amazing transformation from naive aspiring singer to bitter and broken lounge singer.

From a story perspective, “Citizen Kane” has one big drawback. One of the biggest mysteries of the plot surrounded Kane’s last word – “Rosebud.” The whole movie centers around the journalist trying to find out the significance of that word. But even if you haven’t seen “Citizen Kane,” you probably know who or what Rosebud is. That does take away from a lot of the impact of the final scene and the drama surrounding it. But even without that mystery, one thing time has given the movie is a greater sense of historical perspective. It’s well known that Welles crafted “Citizen Kane” as a thinly veiled shot at newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. From twisting the news to power-mad rants to building extravagant palaces, it’s obvious that the character was patterned after Hearst (despite Welles’ protests to the contrary). The movie seems like a snapshot of someone that only could have existed before WWII, but at the same time, the lessons about power corrupting men is still timeless.

From a cinema history perspective, “Citizen Kane” definitely qualifies as a classic and a 10 out of 10 is well deserved, but I do my ratings based on how much I am personally entertained by the movie. And while I did enjoy watching it, it’s not something I would watch again and again and be glued to any time I ran across it on TV. This is more like an 8 out of 10 for me. So go ahead and freak out in the comments section, but this is where it ranks on my personal scale.

This Blu-ray is great. The picture and sound are excellent and, from my understanding from “Citizen Kane” fans, it is closer to the original condition since some graininess is left in the picture despite the restoration for HD. Among the bonus features are older commentaries by Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich, interviews with Ruth Warrick (who played Emily Kane) and editor Robert Wise, newsreel from the premiere, and a stills gallery. Also included in the box are reproductions of studio documents from the film, a 48-page hardback book, and reproductions of the lobby cards, movie posters, and programs. More notable are two DVD’s included in this set. One is a PBS documentary from the show “American Experience” entitled “The Battle Over Citizen Kane.” It features in-depth biographies about Hearst and Welles and it chronicles their rise and fall after the movie came out. There are a ton of pictures, interviews, and vintage footage. It’s an incredible documentary and it earned an Oscar nomination when it came out. Also included is a DVD of the HBO film entitled “RKO 281.” It’s produced by Ridley and Tony Scott and stars Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, and John Malkovich. This R-rated film is a candid look at the creation of “Citizen Kane” and is quite interesting, too. Overall, this set is really going to make “Citizen Kane” fans happy. The only thing I wish they had more of were interviews with Orson Welles himself. There is some of that in the PBS documentary, but not as much as I would hope.