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Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Near Great & Required Viewing, August 25, 2001
This review is from: The Magnificent Ambersons [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The Official Story has it that Orson Welles saw, in Tarkington's novel, his own story. The 'completed' film, such as it was, and the mess that led up to it, really IS Welles' own story - though not in any way he could've foreseen, or relished the irony of afterwards. The simplified version of events has philistine Hollywood & RKO cutting the genius Welles' legs out from under him on the AMBERSONS film, while he was off in Brazil shooting IT'S ALL TRUE. The actual chain of events is a lot more complicated than that, and has as much to do with the star-crossed history of RKO as with the movie colony's dislike of Orson Welles, enfant terrible. Put bluntly, the saga of Welles-in-Hollywood could not have ended any other way, given that his deal was with RKO - the most ineptly run studio in Hollywood, beset with warring factions and Borgia-like intrigues among its braintrust. For Pete's sake, at one point the head of production was JOE BREEN! The miracle is that Orson Welles managed to finish one picture on his own terms, and parts of two others. All that said, I hope anyone who hasn't yet seen AMBERSONS will make plans to do so. The first 70 minutes or so IS Welles' picture, and as beautifully thought-out and detailed a film as he ever made. There's a burnished glow to the production that heightens the viewer's emotional connection to the events onscreen - the script, performances, photography and art direction are flawless. Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead and Tim Holt were never better than they are here. Those last 20 minutes, unfortunately, are hackwork - a porridge of flat and flavorless new scenes spliced into mutilated existing Welles-shot footage, julienne-sliced at the studio's behest by then-film editor Robert Wise (who remained on Welles' s**t-list for the rest of his life because of it). Enough greatness remains - even in this compromised botch - to captivate and carry an audience back to turn-of-the-century Indianapolis. But you should feel a slight sting at every mention in the narration of George Minafer's long-awaited 'comeuppance', since it was Welles himself who took the full brunt of that comeuppance.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 17, 2009, 8:46:46 PM PDT
magellan says:
Excellent and informative review, thanks.

Love your nickname, by the way. :-)
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