Director: Orson Welles
Writers: Herman Mankiewicz
Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, William Alland
Film Rating: ★★★★★
Blu Ray Rating: ★★★
Often called the greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane has just received an 80th anniversary ‘collector’s edition’ released in the UK. The film is included on both a 4K disc and a standard Blu-ray disc, along with a few extras and some physical goodies. Sadly, this doesn’t feel like the prestige edition that a film like Citizen Kane really deserves. The extras are bare and it’s a real shame that the features on the Criterion edition didn’t make it over to the UK.
There really isn’t much to say about the film that hasn’t been said before. It’s one of the most spoken of and written about film of all time. Even when it was first released there were reviews claiming it to be the ‘best picture ever made’, and modern appraisals haven’t changed much. Having such a reputation, obviously means that it can’t live up to it. Watching it isn’t a life changing event. It’s still an incredibly important moment in film history and there should be more extras on the ‘collector’s edition’ to really drive that point home.
There are so many innovative ideas that stem from Citizen Kane. The way the narrative is told, primarily through flashbacks and from different points of view, the incredible and very convincing make up that allows the same actors play the same characters over a span of fifty or so years, the effects to allow focus on both the foreground and the background of the screen, which was completely revolutionary at the time. There’s a reason why this is considered by many to be the greatest film ever made.
Welles was a first-time director and it’s his first starring role in front of the camera, with only a couple of false starts beforehand. He was given something that so many other directors have been denied, the holy grail of the final cut. There was so much interest in what he would create, especially since he was behind the legendary and iconic 1938 radio drama adaptation of War of the Worlds that had caused a frenzied panic on a few years before Kane was first released. His lack of experience behind the camera helped lead to the innovations. There was nothing holding him back and joining that with creative and stunning cinematography by Gregg Toland and incredible editing from Robert Wise, and you have one of the best films ever made.
The 4K edition does look great, the restoration is perfect, and this is the definitive way to watch the film, it’s just the extras where it is lacking. The ‘collector’s edition’ does contain a really nice book, that details the creation of Citizen Kane, it’s not really an essay, more of a brief history on the project. There are also some really nice postcards, and a facsimile of the original press release. It’s the extras on the disc where it is really let down. There’s some behind the scenes stills, very very short interviews with a member of the cast and a member of the crew. The best extra is a ten-minute featurette that is just stills with Roger Ebert talking over them, explaining why the film is so important. It’s interesting, but the recent Criterion edition in America has so many more features, including feature length documentaries. Why aren’t they included in the UK? It’s a real shame.
The 80th anniversary collector’s edition of Citizen Kane is a really nice set and it’s the best way to see the film today, but the extras really should have been better. The box is beautiful and what’s included is great, but there’s just not enough.
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