Criterion Press Release: The Magnificent Ambersons (Blu-ray)

3 Stars
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Orson Welles’s beautiful, nostalgia-suffused second feature—the subject of one of cinema’s greatest missing-footage tragedies—harks back to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Indianapolis, chronicling the inexorable decline of the fortunes of an affluent family. Adapted from an acclaimed Booth Tarkington novel and characterized by restlessly inventive camera work and powerful performances from a cast including Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, and Agnes Moorehead, the film traces the rifts deepening within the Amberson clan—at the same time as the forces of progress begin to transform the city they once ruled. Though RKO excised over forty minutes of footage, now lost to history, and added an incongruously upbeat ending, The Magnificent Ambersons is an emotionally rich family saga and a masterful elegy for a bygone chapter of American life.

FILM INFO

  • Orson Welles
  • United States
  • 1942
  • 88 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.37:1
  • English
  • Spine #952SPECIAL FEATURES
    • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
    • Two audio commentaries, featuring film scholars Robert Carringer and James Naremore and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
    • New interviews with scholars Simon Callow and Joseph McBride
    • New video essay on the film’s cinematographers by scholar François Thomas
    • New video essay on the film’s score by scholar Christopher Husted
    • Welles on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970
    • Segment from Pampered Youth, a 1925 silent adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons
    • Audio from a 1979 AFI symposium on Welles
    • Two Mercury Theatre radio plays: Seventeen (1938), an adaptation of another Booth Tarkington novel by Welles, and The Magnificent Ambersons (1939)
    • Trailer
    • PLUS: An essay by critic Molly Haskell and (Blu-ray only) essays by authors and critics Luc Sante, Geoffrey O’Brien, Farran Smith Nehme, and Jonathan Lethem, and excerpts from an unfinished 1982 memoir by Welles

    New cover by Eric Skillman

    November 20, 2018

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

33 Comments

  1. The price link below will take you directly to the product on Amazon. If you are using an adblocker you will not see link.

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  3. Adam Lenhardt

    Oh, to have a time machine and pay a visit to Rio de Janeiro in December of '44…

    Even without the machine, if I had the time and money, I'd take a current time visit to Rio as is.:)

  4. So, the thing Orson addresses in that video is that when he was in South America the studio was supposed to send him the film and a Moviola so he could cut Ambersons while he was there. I believe this is why people have said over the years that they thought there may be a complete cut of the picture somewhere in South America…but Welles says they never sent him the film there. So, this means the film in a form that was not butchered could not exist in South America somewhere…right?

  5. My copy came today, and as soon as I got back from lunch, I watched it. Grand to see it again and revel in the wonderful performances and terrific atmosphere of this uberly bittersweet story. I also had time to watch Simon Callow's analysis of the movie in the first bonus feature.

  6. I watched the blu-ray and the transfer is amazing once you get the past the prologue.

    It has the original(?) RKO logo with the animated lightning bolts (that looks like it might have seen better days). There is what appears to be about a three frame film tear in the ballroom sequence right after they get to the second floor (?) as the tracking shot starts … but it does look amazing …

  7. Halfway through now. Hard to know what to think at this point, although it's a nice step up from the DVD, like a real nice step up. The prologue, BTW, is one optical after another. I can't imagine they have the original camera negative on this anymore, so we're however many steps away, generation-wise. Looking forward to finishing.

  8. haineshisway

    Halfway through now. Hard to know what to think at this point, although it's a nice step up from the DVD, like a real nice step up. The prologue, BTW, is one optical after another. I can't imagine they have the original camera negative on this anymore, so we're many steps away, generation-wise. Looking forward to finishing.

    I have the Japanese version and there is a rather wide variation in detail from one shot to the next, looking forward to check out how much the Criterion version improves upon it.

  9. atcolomb

    I though i did read somewhere that Robert Harris did look at the original released camera negative and thought it looked good?

    It is entirely possibly that it is in quite good shape but that would still not help with the opticals looking very soft.

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