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RKO 281 - The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1999)

Melanie Griffith , John Malkovich  |  R |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Brenda Blethyn
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: April 25, 2000
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0783116764
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,761 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "RKO 281 - The Battle Over Citizen Kane" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

This absorbing HBO docudrama tells the story of the making of what is considered by many to be America's greatest film, Citizen Kane. "Boy genius" Orson Welles came to Hollywood with no idea how to follow up his stage and radio success in the movie business. A dinner invitation to publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst's castle, San Simeon, inspired him to use Hearst's story as the basis for his brilliant film debut: a scathing allegory about the absolute corruptibility of power. RKO 281 demonstrates Welles's famously obsessive attention to artistic detail, which made his first movie such a masterpiece. But the film almost never made it to the screen--Hearst used his entire empire to try to destroy it. Two of the most mammoth egos in entertainment history--Hearst and Welles--were pitted against one another in the battle over Citizen Kane. Liev Schreiber has the close-to-impossible task of playing Orson Welles. He may not have Welles's monumental presence (who does?) but he does a credible job. John Malkovich turns in a powerful, understated performance as Welles's long-suffering sidekick Herman Mankiewicz, James Cromwell makes a first-rate Hearst, and Melanie Griffith is warmly sympathetic as Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies. The docudrama imparts some marvelously juicy insider lore, such as the real meaning behind the famous dying dispatch in the history of movies: "Rosebud." --Laura Mirsky

Product Description

Liev Schreiber, John Malkovich, Melanie Griffith. This compelling drama reveals the true story of the battle between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst-and how one of the greatest movies of all time, Citizen Kane , was almost never released. 1999/color/90 min/R/fullscreen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An edible version of historical events September 18, 2003
I have to disagree with those who look at this as an historical narrative. This is a great story of a man fighting against a system that treated its employees as slaves. Actors, directors and writers were loaned and traded at the whim of the powerful studio bosses at the time of Kane. This shows the will of one brash, arrogant, young man who dared to stand up to that power and fight for the film he thought should be made.
This may not be historically 100% accurate, but it doesn't need to be. It needs to be the spirit, not the letter. And I believe that it is. Wells was one of the most important people in the history of film, and this dramatizes his beginnings. We should view it as such, and not as a documentary about the making of Kane.
I am in the camp that feels that this is not even Welle's best film. I feel that Touch Of Evil is a better film. But if it were not for Kane, there would have been no Evil.
(Trivia, for the non-movie-buffs. In this film they ask Welles to direct a film version of War Of The Worlds. He actually wanted to direct a version of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The studio wouldn't let him. 30+ years later, Francis Ford Coppola wanted to film a version of "Heart of Darkness." Both times, the studio turned them down, saying it was not a viable film. While it may be argued that in the hands of Welles or Coppola "Darkness" may have been viable, this is an example of studios having divine inspiration. Their denials gave us Kane and The Godfather. Both were the second choices of the directors. Thank you RKO and Paramount.)
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film marred mostly by DVD inadequacies June 27, 2000
Telling true stories is always a tricky affair. Unlike simple fiction, you have to tell the truth *and* a good story simultaneously.
I don't know how good the *truth* is in RKO 281. I'm not a CITIZEN KANE expert. The closest I come is being able to mention that the screenplay is based on an acclaimed PBS documentary. If PBS' history was right, I guess, RKO 281 stands a better chance of being real as well.
I do know, however, that the *story* of RKO 281 is good enough that I want to *believe* it's the truth. In this current era of unrestricted parody and vigorously litigated free speech cases, it's hard to imagine a time in America where artistic criticism of a private individual would've caused movie studios consternation, but RKO 281 convincingly captures the fear of the period. Along the way, it gives us a tantalizing peek into the lives of the people involved with CITIZEN KANE, dropping hints about their personalities. I found myself constantly wanting to know more about the characters than this movie told, but there's enough characterization here for a great story. This is, after all, not a biography of Orson Wells or William Randolph Hearst, but the story of the making of one film.
HBO managed to assemble a stellar cast to inhabit the lives of these characters for this made-for-cable movie, and the money was obviously worth it. Each major character is consistently well acted, and one can't help but be drawn into their stories. John Malkovich and Liev Schreiber's Mankiewicz and Wells play particularly well off each other, defining the moral heart of CITIZEN KANE as they show themselves to be each other's conscience.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story Of The Making Of Citizen Kane March 4, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
I saw this movie on TV over here during an Orson Welles day, right before they screened Citizen Kane, and it was a perfect prequel to the movie. I had seen neither before that night, and since have both become 2 of my all time favourites. Gritty and very frank look at Hollywood, sleaze, and corruption in the WWII era.
John Malkovich is stupendous, as is Liev Schreiber. James Cromwell gives great support as well as the maniacal Hearst.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Outstanding! April 1, 2000
Anyone who was lucky enough to see this film on HBO knows what a fascinating look this is at the making of one of the greatest films ever made, "Citizen Kane". Having only previously seen Liev Schreiber in the "Scream" movies, I had NO idea how he was going to make anyone believe he was Orson Welles. But he does, and does it beautifully! Once you watch this movie, and find out what went on behind the scenes of "Citizen Kane", and how it almost didn't get made or released, you'll watch "Kane" with an all new set of eyes. This is an outstanding tribute to a great filmmaker. James Cromwell is also amazing as William Randolph Hearst, and by the end of "RKO 281", I actually ALMOST had some sympathy for the guy, which shows just how talented Cromwell and Melanie Griffith (who plays his girlfriend/lover) are as actors. If you didn't get to see this on HBO, and you're a "Citizen Kane" or Orson Welles fan, this is DEFINATELY a MUST SEE! Buy it now!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my review of RKO 281 August 12, 2001
By A Customer
This is a wonderful movie that had to be made. Citizen Kane is widely regarded the greatest film ever made and this is the story of how close it came to never being released. Liev Schriber (sp.) gives a masterful perfomance as the legendary filmaker Orson Welles, and James Cromwell is brilliant as media tycoon William Randolph Hearst whom Citizen Kane was based upon. John Malcovich and Roy Schieder also give great perfomances as the film's writer and producer. The dialogue is wonderful, the name of the writer escapes me for the moment. And so is the musical score which has some of the music from Bernard Hermann's score of Citizen Kane. If you have never seen Citizen Kane I suggest you do so and if you liked it, see RKO 281 next, and see how the world of cinema was forever changed by a rogue 25 year old fledgling director.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars a flawed and very inaccurate film.
This is a flawed film. An excellent cast was brought together to tell a good story (the making of Citizen Kane) with good production values. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mark bennett
4.0 out of 5 stars Widescreen
A lot of fun, regardless of the polarizing disagreements over all the minutia.
I just wanted to put it on [Amazon's] record that this DVD is not 1.33:1 ~~ it is 1. Read more
Published 1 month ago by WStevenson
3.0 out of 5 stars At least it's "free"
"Docudrama"? What a word! Yeah, I know it's been around for a while, but a film like this makes it even more horrible. Read more
Published 9 months ago by MJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
This movie should be sold at the Hearst Castle to give some more perspective on the more complete story about the character and history of Randolph Hearst. Read more
Published 21 months ago by L. Hunter
4.0 out of 5 stars worth watching once
A "historical drama" telling the story of Welles' magnum opus and Hearst's counterinsurgency to suppress it. Read more
Published on July 7, 2010 by Matthew Farrell
4.0 out of 5 stars Who's a better Orson Welles?
I have to say I love this movie for its passion and the story behind it. Liev Schreiber is brilliant as the young Orson Welles fighting back against Hearst well played by James... Read more
Published on February 1, 2010 by Chris Stewart
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rest Of The Story
RKO 281---(2000)Liv Schreiber, John Malkovich, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, Roy Scheider.
I enjoyed this movie about the "back-story" of the making of CITIZEN KANE very... Read more
Published on November 8, 2009 by Lionel Bourg
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Film Version Of The Battle Over Citizen Kane
The battle between William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles over the latter's classic film Citizen Kane is the stuff that film history legends are made of. Read more
Published on May 30, 2009 by Matthew Kresal
5.0 out of 5 stars HBO's RKO 281: The Battle Over CITIZEN KANE - a MUST for Any Film...
This sumptuously produced made-for-TV movie concerning the epic battle between 26-year-old boy wonder Orson Welles and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst over CITIZEN KANE... Read more
Published on January 12, 2008 by Michael King
5.0 out of 5 stars RKO 281
I found this DVD entertaining, giving the behind-the-scenes look at the making of Kane. I'm a big fan of Welles and Liev Schreiber's performance of Orson was top-notch. Read more
Published on March 30, 2007 by B. Thom
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