How did Warner Home Video treat its 75 year old beauty on Blu-ray? Let’s find out.
The film’s central character is powerful publisher Charles Foster Kane, who aspires to be president of the United States. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst claimed “Citizen Kane” was a thinly veiled and slanderous account of his own life and sought to use his formidable muscle to halt the film’s production and distribution and ultimately to destroy Welles himself.
This movie was amazing on so many levels. First and foremost, the technical achievements that Orson Welles accomplished during the making of this film still live today as gold standards for anything film or television production related. From YouTube videos to music videos and all the way through the ranks of the ‘usual’ in the film and television mediums, Welles’ Citizen Kane has left a mark on technique, even if today’s filmmakers don’t necessarily know it. Deep focus shots, dolly-ing into a scene, lighting, perspective, draw distance — there’s so much forward-thinking in Citizen Kane to celebrate for a film that was released in 1941. Always and forever technique should be the number one reason to take in Citizen Kane. The technical achievements were immeasurable.
As for the movie itself, it was good. The timelines jumped in Citizen Kane and the Rosebud McGuffin that drives the film, which is also the twist at the end (it was there all the time!), help to make this story stick. If you’ve been living under a rock, then let me recap what it is I am talking about.
The film surrounds the man Charles Foster Kane, and it begins with his death. As news reporters are trying to deconstruct this Howard Hughes-esque character and how he came to be, they find themselves on a heavy hunt to find out what he meant in his dying breath when he said the word ‘Rosebud’. The entire journey for one reporter surrounds that word and that word takes the reporter to old lovers, business partners and acquaintances, but sadly never gets solved, at least by the reporter (we see what Rosebud is at the very end).
The film relies heavily on flashbacks, as we get to see almost every stage of Kane’s life. We get to see him as a young man going against the very system that supports him. We get to see him as gruff middle-aged man trying to make himself a permanent fixture in high-society. We also get to see the worst of him with his presidential run and love affairs that tear his family apart and his happiness. Each stage is met with a good amount of make-up to restate the timeframe Kane is living in. He progressively gets older and older, which is impressively done for a 1940s flick, though you can see the make-up lines.
Regardless of make-up lines, the movie’s story is definitely a keeper. Welles does a great job of performing as this larger-than-life character, as well as keeping the film direction balanced and story maintained with a nice rhythmic pace to each act. This is why this film is rated at the top of nearly every legitimate list when it comes to best movies of all time. It is good in its content and spectacular in its technological achievements.
While I won’t get too detailed into newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearts’ interference of the film, not allowing it to be reviewed until the 1970s, as well as doing everything to make sure the film flopped, I will say that Citizen Kane’s longevity and notoriety has survived Hearts’ efforts. Shocking that a macro-level medium could do such a thing, right? Glad that doesn’t happen during this day and age (END SARCASM).
Overall, Citizen Kane is a magnificent film that stands the test of time. There is so much greatness in this film in both technical and production categories that it’s immediately understood why it is consistently rated as the best movie of all time.
Anyway, the Blu-ray release of this masterpiece is damn good. While the original print was destroyed in the 70s, Warner Home Video did a superb job of cleaning up what they had and re-releasing it on the HD format. Some of the scenes in the movie, especially some of the darker/well-lit (I know, I know) stand out pretty well on Blu-ray. Not every scene is beautiful, but the majority of the film is certainly more impressive than not. Pay particular focus on how nice the opening newsreel scene is when the reporters start talking to each other at its conclusion. Very crisp and clean images that look as if they could have been shot today and converted to the black and white format. Anyway, Warner Home Video has always treated its classic films in the right way when coming to HD, so all of the above isn’t a surprise.
On the special features side of the tracks, you get some great commentary, some short reels and some neat production stills/galleries that would make any film teacher happy. I wish there were some interviews of Orson Welles, even in his later years that could have been included. What you get is enough, though.