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on May 12, 2011
Just in time for the 70th anniversary of "Citizen Kane," this September will see the release not only of "Citizen Kane" in 1080p HD, but also the release of the much sought after "The Magnificent Ambersons." Much has been written here about "Citizen Kane" and whether it truly deserves the title of "greatest movie ever made," so I will only say that it was an innovative film during its release that greatly impacted decades of filmmaking to come. That said, it is up to the individual viewer to decide whether they find the rise of Citizen Kane and his media empire to be "boring" or "completely enthralling."

Either way, this release brings with it an amazing extra that has yet to see the light of American home vide, "The Magnificent Ambersons." Welles' follow up to "Citizen Kane," and an adaptation of the 1918 pulitzer prize winning novel, "The Magnificent Ambersons" has widely been hailed as one of Welles' most brilliant films. This comes in spite of the fact that the studio cut the film down from Welles' 148min envisioned cut, with the cut footage presumably lost to the world since its preview release. Yet, even at a brisk 88 minutes, "The Magnificent Ambersons" still remains a remarkable tale of class and family dynamics. The film has been remastered, and will be a much welcomed DVD considering that it was previously available solely via shoddy bootleg copies and imports. The DVD will be exclusive to Amazon, but it is worth noting that it will be bundled along with the "Citizen Kane" in its own separate casing with its own UPC. In other words, it is highly likely WB will keep it as an "Amazon Exclusive" for a year before releasing it to all retailers as a stand alone release. So those who do not feel like upgrading to Blu or shelling out 80 bucks just for "Magnificent Ambersons," can rest assured that a stand-alone release will undoubtedly follow.

Aside from the much-lauded "Magnificent Ambersons," the boxset [1 Bluray/3 DVD Set (counting "Magnificent Ambersons")] will also host a bevy of other special features. These include:
~ 2 Audio Commentaries (One by Roger Ebert, the other by Peter Bogdanovich)
~ "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" (A 113min Feature Length American Experience Documentary, presented on DVD)
~ "RKO 281" (83min 1999 HBO Docudrama telling the story of Welles' battle with Hearst over the film, presented on DVD)
~ Interviews with Ruth Warrick (Actress: played Emily Norton) and Robert Wise (Film Editor)
~ Reproduction of the Original Theatre Pressbook
~ A Hardcover Book Full of Glossy Photos/Backstory/Interviews (Almost identical in composition to "The Wizard of Oz"/"Gone With the End" Ultimate Collector's Set books)
~ 10 Printed Correspondence Memo Reproductions
~ 5 Printed Lobby Cards
~ Correspondence between Welles and the Studio concerning the film
~ 2 Radio Broadcast Recordings of Orson Welles' performances
~ 1941 Movie Premiere Newsreel
~ Vintage Featurettes & Theatrical Trailer
~ Storyboard Gallery
~ Photos/Ads/Memorabilia Gallery
~ Uncompressed Monaural Audio
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on September 24, 2011
As a fan of Orson Welles, here's my take on the box set after viewing both movies last night. It will be impossible to keep this brief and more detailed analysis of the films can be found elsewhere but here goes...

THE FILMS
Citizen Kane - score: A
It's been consistently ranked as the greatest motion picture of all time but first time viewers may be put off by CK's antiquated style and may struggle to appreciate its' artistic qualities without some historical context. In today's world, this would be mind-boggling: a major film studio handing over 9 million dollars and final cut directing-producing-writing-acting authority to a 25 year old kid who has never made a movie. Further imagine the same brash kid, fresh from creating national mass hysteria (the infamous 'War Of The Worlds' broadcast) making a film that essentially thumbs its' nose at a man who controlled the media at that time. We're accustomed to seeing authority being questioned in all art forms today but it was especially bold and scandalous 70 years ago. That Citizen Kane even survived attempts to have it bought and literally burned by those in power is but one testament to its' lasting influence.

Beyond the backstage legends of CK what remains is powerhouse story telling told through an unusually complex labyrinth style and clever movie making techniques. Orson Welles wanted to bring art to the masses and the oblique meaning of Rosebud pushed audience participation to new levels. The Mercury Players and everyone involved in the production all had equal importance but make no mistake, Welles' imposing shadow is evident in every frame. Welles is so convincing as Kane that it's easy to see the parallels to his own life, a vibrant young man given so much power slowing aging and dieing right before our eyes. Citizen Kane is so important a film that you simply cannot call yourself a movie fan without seeing it.

The Magnificent Ambersons - score: B+
After the tour-de-force that is Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons remains a curious choice for Welles. Although equally ambitious, it is far more quiet and delicate in tone yet there is a brooding menace lurking underneath as Welles tackles the introduction of the automobile wreaking havoc on the pace of American life as seen through the riches-to-rags decline of the Amberson family. However there may be some miscalculations from Welles as the characters seem even more disagreeable than Kane and less likely to create mass appeal, particularly for a 1942 audience seeking distraction from uncertain times as WWII raged across the globe. Retired silent star Delores Costello seems an odd choice as she appeared much older and detached than her character should be, Tim Holt's perpetually cranky character grates after a while and Joseph Cotten is so subdued and quiet that we'll always wonder what Welles himself would have done with the role.

The Magnificent Ambersons stands alone as movie history's greatest tragedy as RKO, due to the controversy and disappointing low box office of Kane, eventually took the movie away from Welles' control. RKO studio heads removed (and burned) almost an hour of Welles' original preview screening, rewrote and reshot important scenes and changed the tone of the film. With a confusing tacked-on happy ending (complete with absurd sappy string accompaniment) and jarring bland footage interspersed with the amazing surviving Stanley Cortez cinematography, the movie predictably suffered at the box office as a second card feature and was quickly shelved after its' brief run. Most tantalizing, the fate of the missing footage remains as a murky mystery. Although film historians point to RKO documents as proof of incineration and declare it as officially lost forever there are many who still believe the negatives exist somewhere in some form, perhaps even as deteriorating emulsion in Brazil where Welles was editing at the time or that editor Robert Wise would not be compelled to save the work on his own. Ambersons is a modern day Venus De Milo where what remains is impressive but one can't help but wonder what might have been had those in power not destroyed it.

PICTURE QUALITY
Citizen Kane: A
The original negatives were sadly lost to a studio warehouse fire in the 70's so restoration was made based on the best available found elements. Those who say the dvd from ten years ago looks better should have their eyes examined. Your viewing experience may differ if you're watching it on a smaller flat screen (and the prior dvd may indeed be enough) whereas I'm fortunate to experience it blown up on a 120'' projector. The 4k Kane blu-ray image is simply far superior. There is more clarity and (especially) depth to the visuals, we now know what all the hubbub was all about regarding Gregg Toland's deep focus photography. Fine detail emerges: from the light wisps of smoke coming from kerosene lamps, to the fabric and sequined detail found in the costumes, there even appears to be mahogany wood grain found in the mirror-like finish on Mr Bernstein's desk. This will seem like a fresh introduction to Kane even for those who've seen it many times, the picture quality is nothing short of astonishing.

Magnificent Ambersons: B-
The poor little kid brother to Kane continues to be kicked around. I've only seen MA on second generation bootlegs taken from the Criterion laserdisc so it's nice to have some of the dust taken off. Some details do indeed emerge (the fine silk sheen of the mourning costumes was especially startling) and the dvd is definitely welcome if not for the fact that it simply was not previously available. But there were moments where film damage (speckles, vertical scratch lines) takes you away from the story, so much so that you wonder how much effort had gone into the restoration. As others have noted, there are no extra features (the trailer could have easily been included as it contains some extremely brief but nonetheless fascinating deleted footage), no chapter options, even the still shot on the jacket back from the deleted boarding house scene comes off as the ultimate final tease! I have to assume that a film of this importance will eventually get the full blu-ray treatment thereby satisfying Warner Brothers intent to double dip the pockets of fans they know will first buy the dvd and then eventually the blu-ray. Amazingly yet strangely befitting its' sad history, the film continues to be held hostage to outside forces 70 years on.

THE BOX SET: B-
I'm unfortunately disappointed with the set because much of it was previously available on the dvd from ten years ago. The "deleted scenes" that was promised is nothing more than well known set photos and story boards (which, incredibly, were blurry) primarily from the shot and deleted brothel scene. The commentary from Roger Ebert, while informative is a repeat from the dvd. There is no 'War Of The Worlds' broadcast or interview audio (as mentioned on Amazon's list of features) on any of the discs. The opening night footage is extremely brief and has been previously available. There is a handsome small hard bound booklet that contains some razor sharp set photos, a collection of lobby cards that seems somewhat unnecessary and wasteful and a miniature replica of the original program with a typeset so tiny that I gave up trying to read any of it. The overhyped and somewhat inaccurate "Battle Over Citizen Kane" may be interesting for first-timers and HBO's "RKO 281" rounds out the previously-seen and mostly superfluous package.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It's fantastic to have Citizen Kane finally appear on blu-ray and the picture quality is so impressive that this box set is a "must own" for fans of this great film. But for the $60 price tag, the Ultimate Edition is disappointing simply because there is not enough new material. Lesser but curious fans sitting on the fence should wait for the eventual price mark down that will likely happen in the coming year.
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on November 2, 2011
I admit I purchased this Amazon.com package more as a way to get a DVD copy of The Magnificent Ambersons than a Blu-Ray of Citizen Kane. The former is a plain Jane version and only offers language and sub-title options, however, it's the movie itself that's the important thing and the print on the DVD, though not remastered, is about the best you could hope for, and is certainly an improvement over my old VHS copy. As for Citizen Kane, the Blu-Ray image is an improvement over the previous remastered standard DVD version, which I thought in itself was pretty good. The main additional features, commentaries by Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich, are carried over from the standard DVD that I have. The additional extras (a documentary, a TV movie, souvenir program and lobby cards) add to the value of the package for those without a previous copy of Citizen Kane, but as indicated above, I'm happy to finally latch onto a DVD of The Magnificent Ambersons.
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If the stories are to be believed, Orson Welles created CITIZEN KANE as an act of vengeance for a sleight he received from W.R. Hearst during a dinner party at the tycoon's enormous California estate. Welles supposedly included "Rosebud" in his semi-bio of Hearst to embarrass the man. This mysterious word was the publisher's nickname for an intimate body part belonging to his mistress, Marion Davies. (BTW... watch closely in the film's early snow scene for a revealing "Rosebud" hint, when young Kane hits a visitor with his beloved sled and we see the famous flower insignia on it.)

Is this picture, as so many claim, THE GREATEST ever made? Since all art is subjective, can there ever be a single BEST motion picture, painting, statue or song? Whether or not "Kane" is numero uno, two things are certain:
1.) CITIZEN KANE is *classic* film making in every sense imaginable.
2.) Its high regard and place in cinematic history are assured, perhaps for all time.

Also recommended:

The excellent HBO biopic about the creation of "Citizen Kane," RKO 281 (1999) features Liev Schreiber's remarkable portrayal of the enigmatic boy-director. Co-stars John Malkovich as Welles' collaborator Herman Mankiewicz, also Melanie Griffith as actress Marion Davies and James Cromwell as newspaper czar William Randolph Hearst.

Orson labored for many years to finish his superb adaptation of Shakespeare's OTHELLO (1952). After winning the prestigious Palme D'Or at Cannes, this film played in a limited number of American theaters, flopped badly, then disappeared. The long-presumed "lost" negative of "Othello" was finally located in New Jersey, in 1992.

Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 IMDb viewer poll rating.

(8.4) Citizen Kane (1941) - Orson Welles/Joseph Cotten/Ruth Warrick/Agnes Moorehead/Dorothy Comingore/Ray Collins/Philip Van Zandt (uncredited: Nat 'King' Cole/Alan Ladd/Herman Mankiewicz/Benny Rubin/Gregg Toland)
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on May 19, 2011
This set is beautiful and these reviews would be an interesting demographic study. Boring is as boring does. Nonstop action IS boring.
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on April 29, 2015
Thank God that Ol' Ted did NOT :colorize" "KANE." The innovative b&w classic is superbly rendered on this blu-ray release. The bonus is the DVD of "Ambersons," the saddest case of studio butchery in film history. "Ambersons" is STILL teriffic, though.
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on December 19, 2011
The newly released 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition of Citizen Kane on Blu-ray and the accompanying Magnificent Ambersons is a complete joy for any devotee of film and particularly for any fan of the work and career of Orson Welles. This landmark film has been given the respect and attention that it clearly deserved, with beautiful packaging, excellent companion discs featuring the masterful documentary,"The Battle over Citizen Kane", originally shown on PBS, which deliniates the conflict over the shooting of the film by Welles and his Mercury Theater company including John Houseman, and the extraordinary difficulty that Welles experiences in having the film commercially released because of the subject matter, i.e. the professional and personal life of William Randolph Hearst.

There is also a terrific HBO made film entitled RKO 281, with a marvelous Liev Schreiber as Welles, and an eclectic cast including Roy Scheider, John Malkovich and Melanie Griffith. There is a superb "making of" hardcover book and lobby cards to complete the package. Most significantly, the film has been given reverential treatment commensurate with its landmark status.

It is heartbreaking to hear Welles in a 1982 archival interview discussing his theory that if he had entered politics, journalism or virtually any other field than movies, he would have had less physical and emotional turmoil than attempting to finance his personal films from the acting jobs in other directors' films; he ultimately came to the realization that he would never be able to duplicate the artistic freedom and the critical success that he achieved with Kane, although he expressed the view that Chimes at Midnight and The Magnificent Ambersons[in its original directors' cut] were superior to Kane from an artistic standpoint.
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on January 13, 2013
"You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man." Just one of the instant memorable quotes from this brilliant piece of Hollywood cinema . This boxed set a truly fine thing to own and come back to over and over and over again .

If Cinema is capable of this you think cinema can do it all . Magnificent .
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on April 2, 2014
Replacing my VHS copy that I've worn out! Best movie ever made! Way ahead of it's time! Orson Wells makes Kane into a living legend!
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on June 24, 2011
"The Magnificent Ambersons" has never officially been released on DVD in the U.S. I've been checking a DVD release website for it for years, hoping at some point a DVD version would at least mirror the LaserDisc Criterion release of the film from years ago. I'm guessing that this is the film only, probabably comparable to what's occasionally been shown on TCM. Even so, that it is being added as a bonus disc to the Blue-Ray version of the new "Kane" ONLY is very annoying. However, even if it wasn't included, I'd proably buy this set for the other Kane material though I've seen it before, just to have it all together in one place.
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