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Blu-ray Review The Magnificent Ambersons Blu-ray Review (Criterion)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Josh Steinberg, Feb 16, 2019.

  1. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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  2. Brent Reid

    Brent Reid Supporting Actor

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    Nice review, Josh. Pampered Youth (1925) was the first adaptation of Booth Tarkington's novel and like its successor, originally an exceptional film. Also like Welles' film, it now only survives in its truncated version, having been butchered by more than half for a 1927 reissue.

    It's such a pity that Criterion, rather than porting over the 28-minute silent excerpt from their Ambersons LaserDisc. didn't transfer the entire remaining 33 minutes and give it a simple piano score, especially as no one else looks likely to do so.
     
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  3. JoeDoakes

    JoeDoakes Cinematographer

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    Wow. Personally, I would suggest that you rewatch this several more times. Ambersons was regularly rated as one of the best films ever even in this cut. I think every bit of it is beautiful. Maybe it’s not exactly what Welles intended, but tbe Venus de milo was butchered too.
     
  4. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    It's on my list of the top 10 films of all time!
     
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  5. Message #5 of 50 Feb 17, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Hhmm...I am not so certain of this. I love Welles but in its surviving form this is not one of his better pictures. Yes, like you I love watching this film and there is plenty that is good in it...where you obviously see and feel Orson's fingers at work...but the ending is utter rubbish and does not fit the film as Josh states. I agree with Josh that it is a frustrating watch. Successive viewings I think just make me long to see Orson's version and makes this...at least to me...one of his least enjoyable films to sit through. I mean I love parts of it. I love seeing what he did and thinking about where he was trying to go with this but each time I reach the end of this film I feel like I want to smash something.

    I love the film for Welles' work on it, this Criterion disc is a must have, and this film is, as a piece of film history, both influential and a must watch...but one of the best films ever? In this 88 minute intentional destruction of what Orson set out to do?

    No, I would not call it one of the best films ever by a long shot. Could it have been if they let Welles finish it his way? Maybe, it definitely would be pretty damn compelling. As it is now though it is basically mighty Casey striking out. Compelling as an idea, as a what if, where you begin watching it excited but end deflated. This film is a legend but like a lot of legends it is better as a legend than as a reality.
     
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  6. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I mean, I gave the disc a 5 out of 5 and I’m basically saying it’s a perfect release of an imperfect but important film...

    For what it’s worth, not only had I seen the film prior to this disc release, but I watched the film at least three times while working on the review. I’m sorry we don’t agree on the film overall but I appreciate your feedback.
     
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  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    In defense of Josh, I'm not as enthralled on "The Magnificent Ambersons" as I am with other great films. It's a flawed movie in my opinion, some of it is due to the cuts, but not all of it.
     
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  8. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I can't dispute much of what you stated above.
     
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  9. TJPC

    TJPC Producer

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    I have had the TV remake sitting on the shelf for years and never watched it. It purports to be much closer to Welles vision. Is it worth a look or the utter piece of crap I fear it may be?
     
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  10. Message #10 of 50 Feb 17, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
    PMF

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    I was very surprised by Josh's production score of 3.5; but, then again, "Ambersons" was never an across-the-boards fare of favor.
    And this is the beauty of film and of our own personal takes, tastes and truths; for be it pro or con, the film itself will never change. But gosh darn it, I'll bet everyone across-the-boards will be in favor of those "Magnificent" Special Features; which, in and of itself, is worth the entire price of admission. No fillers, no additives and all meat.

    BTW, Josh, excellent review !!!
     
  11. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    You are better off watching paint dry than seeing the 2002 remake.
     
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  12. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    That's a shame, I had been meaning to watch that since... well... 2002. Guess I'll skip it at this point, thanks for taking one for the team!
     
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  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I'm not going to speak for Josh and his 3.5 grade, but even though, I have some reservations about the film itself. I still think it's a great movie with some superb film-making techniques.
     
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  14. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I agree.

    I have to be honest and say that assigning a numerical value to a film is something I find very difficult to do. I always hope that more attention might be paid to the paragraph below the number than the number itself.

    Ambersons was tricky for me to pick a number on the film itself. The overall package rating was much simpler - it’s a 5/5. The physical design of the packaging is beautiful. The selections of vintage bonus material are enlightening. (And Welles on the Dick Cavett show is as fun as you’d expect.) The newly created bonuses add a tremendous amount of context and wisdom. It’s one of their best special editions ever, I think. So that’s easy.

    And there’s stuff in the movie I love. That prologue with the Welles narration, I could watch that as it’s own short any day of the week. There are some great performances. I love the cinematography. It’s a downbeat film but I’ve loved plenty of downers. It just feels uneven to me. The deletions rob the film of context and character, and it can make some of the stuff that does remain seeming out of place without that extra material.

    That’s what becomes tough - is a movie that has 5/5 scenes truly a 5/5 if those scenes aren’t assembled correctly in relation to each other? The movie had infinite potential - but what’s there in the final cut falls short of that potential to me. So whether that’s 3.5 or 4 or 5... I think we’re all going to feel a little bit differently about how much that matters to us. It even varies with me from film to film. Some movies I admire and enjoy despite the fact that they missed the mark and maybe even because they tried so hard, and other times I can acknowledge the effort and not be as enthralled with the falling short part.

    If Citizen Kane is a 5/5, Ambersons-as-it-is at 3.5 feels about right to me, inasmuch as a totally subjective, arbitrary numbering system can feel right.

    I still think this disc is one of the must-get titles of 2018.

    :)
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Frankly, I pay little attention to film grades in disc reviews, particularly, to those films I've seen beforehand.
     
  16. Message #16 of 50 Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    PMF

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    My first introduction to Orson Welles was as a teenager during the period where he seemed like an often accessible guest on television talk shows. I knew nothing of his history and hadn't seen a single one of his films at that time; and still, I found him to be captivating and intriguing. And then, in a catalogue of old radio shows I plucked out "War of the Worlds"; and from there I was off and running.
     
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  17. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    The first time I remember seeing Orson Welles was him doing one of those Paul Masson wine commercials.

     
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  18. B-ROLL

    B-ROLL Cinematographer

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    It seemed Welles had Carte Blanche to appear on Merv Griffin's talk show. I would sometimes anticipate a certain guest only to have the "raconteur" show up for an entire show. I remember being disappointed one time when he appeared that the scheduled guest was bumped. Even though, he came across as arrogant and pompous I would watch transfixed as he told stories (sometimes with different endings etc than the first three times he had told the same story;) ).

    When they showed the the TV movie "The Night That Panicked America" (about TWoW radio show) my relatives who were watching it said "That's the night we decided to listen to Edgar Bergen (papa of Murphy Brown et al)"...

    Everyone who loved films who had any knowledge of the them called Citizen Kane the GOAT. When I finally saw it I totally disagreed. And as I have started watching earlier (especially "European") film makers, I am seeing where some of his "original" ideas came from. CK IS a masterpiece - but it is not my favorite of Welle's films.

    MA and The Stranger are far better IMHO. Apparently Welles went to South America with an Answer Print of MA and had intended to give Robert Wise his cutting notes. For whatever reason (including CK's relative boxoffice failure and the poor reception the original cut of MA) his wishes weren't followed. I'm sure if Welles had had the chance MA would have come out better. But MA is what we have now ... unless the Answer Print or another source is found... MA is still a masterpiece IMHO ...
     
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  19. Message #19 of 50 Feb 19, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
    Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    No disrespect to "The Magnificent Ambersons", but I disagree that it's a better film than "Citizen Kane". Perhaps my opinion is different because I watched "Citizen Kane" a 2-3 times in my youth back in the late 1960's while I didn't see "The Magnificent Ambersons" until I was a young adult later on in the mid-1970's One reason, I didn't like Tim Holt in his role. The cuts made in the film also didn't help my appreciation of it. Today, I think more highly of it knowing more details about the film and more acceptance of Tim Holt's performance in the film, but it's still not as good as "Citizen Kane". I do agree that "The Stranger" is a really good film that I've loved for over 50 years which I would watch over "The Magnificent Ambersons". Two more Welles films that I prefer are "Touch of Evil" and "The Lady from Shanghai".
     
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  20. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Somehow, The Stranger managed to escape me until some point last year -- and I was not disappointed.
     
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