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Blu-ray Review Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Sep 10, 2011.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Though its merits as the greatest American film ever made continue to be debated, there's no denying Warner Home Video's 70th anniversary edition of "Citizen Kane" features an impeccable presentation and collection of special features.



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    Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition
    Release Date: September 13, 2011
    Studio: Warner Home Video
    Packaging/Materials: Three-disc Digipack with slipcover, commemorative book and other printed materials
    Year: 1941
    Rating: PG
    Running Time: 1:59:23
    MSRP: $64.99







    FEATURE

    EXTRAS



    Video

    1080p high definition 1.33:1

    Standard definition



    Audio

    DTS-HD Master Audio: English 1.0 / Dolby Digital: Portuguese 1.0, Polish 1.0

    Stereo



    Subtitles

    English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Magyar, Polish, Romanian,

    Same






    The Feature: 4.5/5


    Newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) is dead. He's left behind an empire so massive the media have been calling him "America's Kubla Khan." The details of his ascension are really no mystery - his wealth came through a serendipitous claim to a massive Colorado gold mine - but who he was as a man is a puzzle with more than a few missing pieces. His much-discussed dying word could provide the answer - but what or who is "rosebud?"



    Reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) aims to find out, tracking down every major figure from Kane's life - from his second wife Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore) to his eventually estranged friend and business partner Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten). What Thompson learns sheds some light on the strengths and vulnerabilities of the larger-than-life figure, but the meaning of "rosebud" remains elusive. Despite all of Thompson's efforts, the secret and its significance seems to have died with Kane himself.



    Prior to the American Film Institute (AFI) naming "Citizen Kane" the greatest (American) film ever made, the average moviegoer would have been surprised to hear it receive such an accolade. I know I was when I first heard the claim, almost 20 years ago, from a college acquaintance and budding film aficionado. Even with my limited film knowledge at the time, I expected him to say something like "The Godfather" or "Casablanca," not a film I'd barely heard of, directed by a man I knew mostly as a jug wine spokesman.

    When I finally saw the film, I was left scratching my head, as I'm sure some people still do. It took a second viewing with some expert commentary (thanks Roger Ebert) to understand the rationale behind the admiration. Though it didn't make the story more compelling (which I found thought provoking but not necessarily profound), knowledge of the historical context helped me appreciate its logistical, technical and aesthetic achievements. In most respects the movie was ahead of its time, so when I finally saw it over half a century later, I tended to take certain things for granted. The film's deep focus cinematography, low angle compositions, and long takes are all familiar film vocabulary today, but in the 1940s they were practically words from a foreign language. Because of that - and other impeccable elements like its editing and score - the film holds up even after 70 years in circulation. Though its merit as "the greatest" naturally sparks debate, so would the selection of any other AFI top 20. More important is the discussion itself, and ultimately the impetus it provides for getting some truly great films the recognition and screenings they deserve.


    Video Quality: 5/5

    Accurately framed at 1.33:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the film image is impressively clean and devoid of physical defects. Black levels and contrast are consistently strong, and lovers of black-and-white imagery should thrill to the beautiful rendering of Gregg Toland's cinematography. Detail is similarly impressive - particles of snow and textures in fabrics and skin in particular - though the frequent deep focus cinematography also becomes a showcase for the transfer's high resolution (there's softness or haziness in some shots, but due to the era's special effects methods, not the transfer). In certain high contrast scenes, like in the newsreel screening room, there appears to be some ringing along silhouettes, but otherwise there are no indications of digital sharpening. Likewise, with consistent and healthy levels of film grain, viewers should have no concerns about excessive noise reduction measures.​


    Audio Quality: 4/5

    Dialogue in 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is crisp, detailed and intelligible. Sound effects like echoes in the great hall, breaking glass and wood, and Susan Alexander's shrill yelling also sound well rendered. Though LFE is absent, the track exhibits solid depth and dynamic range, mostly through its score but also at key points in the narrative.​



    Special Features: 5/5


    The extras - which include all those found on the previous DVD release - offer a strong blend of archival materials, insightful commentaries, and interesting reproductions of physical pieces. The addition of the documentary and dramatic features on DVD are a great bonus, giving viewers additional ways of understanding the film's rich historical context.

    Commentaries

    • By Peter Bogdanovich: Bogdanovich's track is on the lackadaisical (and observational) side, but he offers some great insights and anecdotes, many from having known Welles personally and authored a book about him.

    • By Roger Ebert: Ebert's engaging commentary is indispensable in providing insight into the film's critical accolades, cinematic significance, and historical context.



    Opening: World Premiere of Citizen Kane (1:08, SD): News footage set to music shows the film's premiere on May 1, 1941 at New York's Palace Theatre.

    Interviews (8:44, SD): Recorded in 1997 for the Turner Archival Project, the subjects share memories about working on the film and their impressions of Welles.

    • Ruth Warrick (5:40), actress who played Kane's first wife Emily.

    • Robert Wise (3:04), the film's editor.



    Production Materials

    • Storyboards (3:20, SD): Show various sequences from the film, mixed with production stills.

    • Call Sheets (:48, SD): Samples of the daily filming schedule.

    • Still Photography with Commentary by Roger Ebert (10:53, SD): Ebert doesn't talk specifically about the images in the slide show, but he speaks to the importance of the film and its historical context. Some of the information is found in the feature commentary, but for anyone looking for a quick but in-depth analysis, this commentary provides it.



    Post-Production Materials

    • Deleted Scenes (1:12, SD): Are a handful of photographs and storyboards showing scenes that were "scripted and conceived but deemed unusable due to story or budgetary constraints."

    • Ad Campaign (1:36, SD): Includes various theatrical posters and print advertisements.

    • Press Book (:48, SD): Includes excerpts from the souvenir program disributed at the New York and Los Angeles premieres.

    • Opening Night (1:36, SD): Photographs taken at the New York premiere.



    Theatrical Trailer (3:46, SD)

    Physical Items

    • Commemorative Book: Includes a history, analysis and numerous publicity photos.

    • Theatrical Posters: Reproductions of several theatrical posters in 5x7-inch postcard format.

    • Press Book: Reproduction of the souvenir program distributed at the premieres.

    • Production Documents: Reproductions of receipts, contracts and press releases.



    The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1:53:52, SD): The 1996 documentary, which first aired as an episode of PBS's "American Experience," chronicles the struggle between newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Welles over the making and release of the film (which bears more than a few similarities to Hearst's life). The piece was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Presented in 1.33:1 standard definition and Dolby Digital Stereo with optional English subtitles. Extras are limited to a Welles filmography.

    RKO 281 (1:26:47, SD): The 1999 film, which originally aired on HBO and dramatizes the making of "Citizen Kane," stars Liev Schreiber as Welles, James Cromwell as Hearst, John Malkovich as screenwriter Herman Mankiwiecz, Melanie Griffith as actress and Hearst mistress Marion Davies, and Roy Scheider as RKO studio head George Schafer. The film won a Golden Globe for Best TV Mini-Series or Motion Picture. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic and Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras are limited to text biographies for the cast and crew.


    Recap

    The Feature: 4.5/5
    Video Quality: 5/5
    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Special Features: 5/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 5/5



    Warner Home Video turns in an excellent presentation and special features package for what many consider the greatest American film ever made. Though its merits will be endlessly debated, any lover of film and film history should consider "Citizen Kane" a must-add to their collections, even without Warner's impeccable treatment. The fact it's been given the kind of attention it deserves only makes the decision more obvious.
     
  2. Matthew Anderson

    Matthew Anderson Second Unit

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    Thanks Cameron for your review. I have not seen this movie all the way through from beginning to end. I look forward to seeing this on bluray.
     
  3. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    So here is my question, Cameron: What does it take to get a '5'? I gather you are not sold on Kane as "greatest movie ever made". But If Citizen Kane is not a '5'; what is a '5'?
     
  4. Guest

    A few screenshots on dvdbeaver look closely cropped. I hope the actual disc looks better.
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Lawrence of Arabia.

    The Godfather.

    Casablanca.

    And for great compare and contrast, how about There Will Be Blood?

    The je ne sais quoi of "emotional engagement" gets me to a '5.' It's probably intentional that "Citizen Kane" feels like I'm looking through a picture window at the events in his life, but it ultimately doesn't connect with me on a purely subjective level.



     
  6. PatrickDA

    PatrickDA Second Unit

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    If "Citizen Kane" isn't a 5, then NO FILM is a 5. Whether you agree with it being the best film ever made or not, I certainly think it deserves a 5 rating.
     
  7. RobertR

    RobertR Executive Producer

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    If you're talking about a consensus, there's no question CK is a 5. If you're talking about a personal reaction to the film, it doesn't have to be a 5. I think Cameron is talking about the latter.
     
  8. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    Quote "So here is my question, Cameron: What does it take to get a '5'? I gather you are not sold on Kane as "greatest movie ever made". But If Citizen Kane is not a '5'; what is a '5'?"






    Can't anwser for the others but I always appreciate what Wells did with CK but the film always leaves me cold. There is some excellent acting in this film but there is some really "not so wonderful" acting by some who seem as if they would be more comfortable on the stage than in front of a camera. But the camera angles, line readings and other bits really were ahead of their time and Wells deserves credit for that. This film is definately well made.



    I can respect the film but it will never be a favorite of mine. I don't believe one film should ever be considered better than all the rest - it's art, and art is subjective. A list of best films is a different case since it can consist of a 100 films all different in scope and all considered among the very best of the best. But to label one film as the best is silly. CK paved the way for a lot of great films and should be admired for that - but that doesn't mean it is the best.
     
  9. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Glad to hear I'm not alone in feeling "Kane" is not the single greatest film. It's always been more of a 4.5 to me as well.
     
  10. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    Citizen Kane does not have to be "the greatest film ever made" to qualify as a '5'. Heck, why do people say something is "the Citizen Kane of whatever" if not for the fact that it is universally regarded as great? The other films Cameron mentions as '5's may well be '5's, but so can Citizen Kane.
    Here's another way of looking at it: think of Beethoven's Nine Symphonies. Most people regard the 9th as Beethoven's greatest achievement; and the work is considered one of the great works of western art. So assuming that the 9th is Beethoven's greatest, where does that leave the other 8? Here's the answer: they are all '5's. The 9th may the be the most powerful. And 3, 5 and 7 are also powerful and heroic. 1, 2, 4 and 8 are sort of "lighter", written in a classical, rather than romantic vein, and 6 is alone as a pastoral work. But all are '5's. They are not all the single greatest; but they are all great.
     
  11. Joseph Burns

    Joseph Burns Stunt Coordinator

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    Perhaps this is unhelpful, but I dislike the notion of a purely numeric rating. It's one dimensional, and smacks of the "great chain of creation," with its linear vertical hierarchy. IQ numbers strike me as similarly deceptive. Movies, like people, are complex and may be transcendent in one regard and pedestrian in another.
    Kane is a cinematic accomplishment deserving of inclusion among the best works of the silver screen. At the same time, I share the emotional distance that others have cited. Perhaps this is an intentional Brechtian approach meant to keep our heads in the game rather than letting us be swept away, but that's not my preferred experience. Perhaps it's shallow of me, but I'm most impressed by films that grab me by the throat and won't let go.
    Coming full circle, I dislike "best of" lists, yet enjoy the debates of them. I pay less attention to the number of stars on a review and read the thing. Simple answers leave me wanting.
     
  12. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Roger Ebert has written many times about his misgivings around a numerical or star rating system. Ultimately, they are a kind of necessary evil.

    Some of the HTF reviewers only provide ratings for the overall release rather than the components. If they had a choice, they would not provide any rating whatsoever. Sometimes I think they just want to avoid conversations like the one in this thread.
     
  13. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    The bottom line is it's all a subjective analysis anyway. To me 4.5 is still "Great." You obviously feel only a 5 is "Great." So be it. That's what makes horse races.
     
  14. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    So here's my question then. This set doesn't look quite like the usual, super premium priced, Warner box-o-junk SE -- the extras actually seem like they *might* be worthwhile owning (at a small premium). But is it really worth the current going rate for me to finally pick up such a premium priced set?

    I do have the SE 2-disc DVD (from a long while ago), which I still have not gotten around to watching yet -- yes, I'm one of those philistines or "lucky few", whichever you prefer, I'm just wondering how long I should wait for a good deal before I do the "blind" upgrade (or whether I should just watch the DVD first) -- seems like there might be a reasonable chance for me to get it for under $30 in a couple days when B&N is rumored to be putting out a members-only 30%-off coupon right at the end of their 40%-off sale. I also wonder if I should bother to sell the old DVD set at all (unless I can actually get a good return for it).


    RE: the debate about how great CK is and how subjectivity should factor into that, I wonder if CK isn't like a lot of great classical music that may not connect all that deeply w/ many people, including those amongst classical music lovers -- thanks for bringing up the Beethoven examples, David_B_K. Hopefully, CK won't be like much of Mozart's music to me -- well, he did compose a ton, so you'd have to forgive me for only liking/loving say 10-20% of his total output (so far anyway).

    Anyway, one thing about the emotional connection idea wrt art. I don't know that I necessarily connect emotionally w/ a lot of what I love, but there certainly would need to be some kind of deep/moving connection for one to "love" something me thinks -- well, perhaps, that's really just stating the obvious (or something "by definition"). Might not necessarily be emotional (in the usual sense anyway) though, which sounds like may be the case w/ CK, if I end up loving it. One composer's music of which I can think that might fit that description is Bach's music. I don't necessarily find an emotional connection w/ much of his non-choral music, but somehow, they move me nonetheless almost as if there is this compulsive, rhythmic mechanism/connection/dynamism that drives and moves me whether I'm listening to it or learning to play a little bit of it -- and some of what I do like/love in Mozart's music can work a bit that way as well.

    Maybe it has a little something to do w/ my personal instincts for the abstract, for mechanisms, for math -- not that I would/can consider myself a mathematician per se -- etc. I do love how Bach's music seems to be based so heavily on such concepts, manipulations, etc, and maybe I'm really just experiencing them (and the math behind them) intuitively to such an extent as to blur the lines between the cerebral, the mechanical and the emotional (or perhaps, even "spiritual")...

    One other thing seems certain to me. If you are actively involved in the process of the particular art form (or whatever other field of concern), you're probably far more likely to find a stronger appreciation and connection w/ those pieces that are typically considered more cerebral and mechanical, but less emotional. However, since I am nowhere near advanced enough to touch Bartok (nor any of the atonal composers nor Mahler for that matter) by any means, my (lack of) appreciation for and connection w/ his (and their) music have not been helped at all in that regard, and I continue to hear (rather than experience or listen to) them as though from afar as thru some thick veil of secrecy and obfuscation (w/ some occasional bouts of disorientation and bits of nausea thrown in at times)...


    Now, if I can only score this BD set real soon while I'm getting that itch to finally experience CK in my own humble little HT setup...

    And oh! Thanks for the fine review (and conversation starter ), Cameron...

    Cheers!


    _Man_

    PS: Also still need to catch up on RAH's fast-growing thread...
     
  15. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    I spent part of my morning watching this, and frankly, this is the best that Kane has ever looked. In fact, it makes every version of Kane I've seen in that past PALE in comparison. It is beautifully detailed, incredibly done transfer that is as close to perfect of an original source material as I have ever seen.
    The extras are worth the visit and the inclusion of RKO 281 is a title I would have loved to have anyway.
    This is a great set, and one of those titles that joins the "Should be in EVERY BD Owner's library"
     
  16. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    I normally do not go for these uber-editions at their premium prices, but I did splurge for this one. My reasons were (1) I really enjoy this film and have fond memories of studying it during a long-ago college film class, so wanted it in the most comprehensive version, (2) the inclusion of The Magnificent Ambersons through the Amazon exclusive, and (3) I had a Amazon gift card from my wife, and I like to use those cards to purchase something special that I normally wouldn't buy for myself.
     
  17. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    I'd just like to add that that, as far as Limited Edition boxes go, this is probably the best in regards to packaging. Normally, I'd agree that the boxes are too bulky, but this set is very petite in design and it's easy to just slip out the Blu-ray/DVD digipack without having to sift through the books and other extras like in other such sets. The box is the same height as the average DVD case.
    I think the mini-book that is included in the Limited Edition set is the same one used in the Best Buy digibook, but would like confirmation
     
  18. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    Just got this today and watching it - it looks amazing.
    Is it just me or is there a glitch at 1:29:20?
    I watched it several times, and it did repeat. It seems as if the image of the light bulb goes suddenly bright and holds for several frames after dimming (this is the second time we see the Opera opening night, from Susan's point of view) It's been a while since I watched another version so I don't remember if this is inherent in the print or not, but it looked odd.
    If anyone else can confirm this or knows that it's a known thing, I'd be glad to know too.
     
  19. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member

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    I don't have the Blu-ray yet but this got me curious so I looked at it on both the DVD and the Criterion LD.

    It looks they duplicated a frame in the film itself. In opera scene #1 the bulb brightens and dims twice. In opera scene #2, it "freezes" on the second brightening, followed by an abrupt cut to the next shot. My unprofessional verdict: it's on the film.
     
  20. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    I thought it might be that - but it does look weird, right? I didn't have the old DVD to check - so thanks for that!
     

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