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Already acknowledged as the greatest film of all time, there is little I could say about CITIZEN KANE ($30) that would make any sort of a difference. This monumental motion picture was the cinematic debut of Orson Welles, who at the age of 24 had already achieved an amazing level of notoriety on the stage and in radio. Given unprecedented control over his first feature, Welles co-wrote, directed and starred in CITIZEN KANE, a thinly disguised biography of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, which did not paint it’s subject in a particularly flattering light.

At the time of its release, CITIZEN KANE was a controversial film, which not well received by the film going public. Only over the course of time did people come to recognize the brilliance of CITIZEN KANE. Looking at the film now, one can clearly see that CITIZEN KANE was a stylistically experimental film, which allowed Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland to push the envelope of motion picture photography. Like the cinematography, the plot of CITIZEN KANE unfolds in a stylized fashion. Utilizing flashbacks, the life of recently deceased newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) takes shape like a jigsaw puzzle, from a reporter’s interviews of the people closest to Kane. Supporting Welles in front of the camera were the talents of Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Erskine Sanford, Everett Sloane, William Alland, Paul Stewart and George Coulouris.

Warner Home Video has made CITIZEN KANE available on DVD in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. Warner’s black and white transfer is the finest that has ever been available on home video. Utilizing a recently unearthed film element, Warner has worked magic in the digital realm to make the DVD presentation appear pristine and quite glorious. The image is very sharp and highly detailed, which allows one to appreciate all the wonderful textures contained in the costumes and sets. Blacks provide the kind of pure, glossy appearance one expects from a classic black and white film. Additionally, whites are completely stable and the contrast is incredibly smooth. There is a wonderful distinctiveness in all the shades of gray and the picture provides surprising shadow detail. Finally, noticeable film grain is virtually absent from the presentation. Clean dual layer authoring precluding the appearance of digital compression artifacts.

For this release, CITIZEN KANE is presented with a restored Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. The track is very clean sounding and is totally lacking in hiss, pops, clicks hum and other forms of audible distortion. Certainly, there are sonic limitations in audio recording that sixty years old, but there is present nothing to distract the audience or remind them of the film’s age. Despite the lessened fidelity inherent in 1940s audio recordings Bernard Herrmann’s musical score has plenty of presence. Additionally, dialogue reproduction maintains full intelligibility, plus the actors’ voices have a distinct sense of character to them.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the two-disc set’s fine supplemental features. To complement the movie itself, CITIZEN KANE includes two running audio commentaries. The first is by film critic Roger Ebert, who provides a thoughtful and somewhat entertaining discussion of the film that allows his admiration for CITIZEN KANE to shine through. Next up is a commentary by director Peter Bogdanovich, who was a friend to Orson Welles in the later years of his life. Bogdanovich takes a more scholarly approach in his discussion of CITIZEN KANE, but does also include personal recollections of Welles himself in the commentary.

Also included on disc one is newsreel footage of the New York premiere of CITIZEN KANE, plus a theatrical trailer. Other supplements are broken down into three sections The Production, Post Production and Production Notes. The Production is presented video fashion and includes storyboards; call sheets and a still gallery, which features a narration by Roger Ebert. Post Production is also presented video fashion and includes deleted scenes, ad campaign, press book and opening night. It should be noted that the deleted scenes includes no actual footage, but still photographs and storyboards of deleted material. Production Notes is a straightforward text supplement that looks at various aspects of the production of CITIZEN KANE.

Moving over to disc two, we find THE BATTLE OVER CITIZEN KANE- the set’s most interesting supplement. THE BATTLE OVER CITIZEN KANE is an almost two hour documentary was originally broadcast on PBS as part of their The American Experience television series. The film provides rather extensive biographies of both Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearts, as well documenting the unpleasantness that occurred when with the production and release of CITIZEN KANE. THE BATTLE OVER CITIZEN KANE is an absolute "must see" for any fan of the film or its director/co-writer/star.

Warner has done a tremendous job with their DVD edition of CITIZEN KANE. The presentation is the absolute best that fans will seen in the home venue, short of a high definition version of the film. The supplements are truly excellent and will appeal to both film students and ordinary fans of the greatest motion picture of all time. This DVD is absolutely recommended.


Citizen Kane (Special Edition)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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