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"Citizen Kane" (1941) Special Edition DVD
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine

Release Date: September 25, 2001

Guide Rating -

Tagline: "Everybody's talking about it!"

Length: 119 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

"Citizen Kane" (1941) was Orson Welles' film debut, and in it he created an enduring masterpiece that is considered by many -- myself included -- to be the greatest movie ever made. Now the Special Edition DVD release of "Citizen Kane" offers you the opportunity of watching this timeless classic at home, and the DVD offers outstanding picture quality, excellent sound quality, and some of the best special features I've found on any DVD. For the serious film buff, owning this DVD is a must!

Shortly after "Citizen Kane" opens, we see aged newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Welles) softly drawl the word "Rosebud" and die. Sensing that there's a story behind Kane's dying word, a magazine editor shows a reporter a newsreel obituary that chronicles how Kane created a business empire, married a U.S. President's niece, ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York, divorced his first wife and married a second, collected art, built a fabulous estate called Xanadu, and divorced his second wife. The reporter is then assigned the task of ferreting out the significance of "Rosebud." As the reporter's investigation progresses, fascinating details about Kane emerge.

The visual style of "Citizen Kane" looks stunningly fresh and inventive even today, and the unconventional narrative structure of the Oscar-winning screenplay still seems daring. Welles' portrayal of a character who gradually ages from 25 to old age is unexcelled, and the movie's supporting cast, most of whom had worked previously with Welles on stage and radio productions, is superb. In short, everything came together in "Citizen Kane" to make it one of the greatest character studies ever captured on film.

The DVD features an audio commentary by film critic Roger Ebert that is probably the best I've heard on any DVD so far, and I've heard a few I thought were terrific. Here Ebert sounds quite comfortable, yet astonishingly knowledgeable, as he reads through "Citizen Kane" with us. As I listened to him, I recaptured the feeling I had once or twice in college when a gifted teacher lectured passionately on his favorite material. (There's a separate commentary track on the DVD featuring Peter Bogdanovich, but this pales by comparison.)

When "Citizen Kane" was first released in 1941, it was surrounded by a storm of controversy, and the DVD covers this extremely well, especially in the documentary "The Battle over Citizen Kane." The controversy arose because of the similarities between the fictional Kane and the real-life newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, and the documentary depicts the resulting conflict between Welles and Hearst as a clash of titans. Hearst seemed to be particularly upset by the unflattering portrait of Kane's second wife since the public equated this character with Hearst's longtime mistress Marion Davies. Among the things that may have raised Hearst's ire was that "Rosebud" was said to be his pet name for Marion's private parts. Hearst wielded his considerable power to severely limit the distribution of "Citizen Kane" and to seriously damage young Orson Welles' career.

Selected Special Features on the DVD:

  • Two-Disc Set
  • Audio Commentary by Roger Ebert
  • Audio Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
  • 113-Minute Documentary: "The Battle over Citizen Kane"
  • The Production
  • Post Production
  • Production Notes
  • Welles Filmography
  • Cast and Crew
  • New York Premiere Footage
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