Citizen Kane Blu-ray Review
‘Citizen Kane’ has undergone a 4k digital restoration and now comes to American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This is a respectful transfer that preserves the original film grain and resists the urge to make it look smooth. As a result we get an authentic filmic feel and a faithful representation of the film stock used. Forget all of the grey, washed out looking prints you’ve ever seen on TV. This is proper black-and-white with very good contrast throughout and a nice, sharp image into the bargain. This gives Gregg Toland’s impressive lighting a chance to shine and we have the opportunity to see his deep focus photography like we never have before. Detail is very good and when you look at a character’s eyes in Close Ups you can see the reflections of movie lights which allow you to work out how they were positioned on set. Thanks to the restoration, there is no visible dirt, dust or tram line scratches to spoil the image. I did spot one light neg scratch down the right hand side of the frame which lasted about 5 seconds in the second half of the film and, early on, there were some of what I would call processing chemical marks (like a variation in density) on the right of frame. However, these are the only two nitpicks that caught my eye. The rest looked superb. When I used to collect 16mm feature films (1970’s- 1980’s), a scratchy print of ‘Citizen Kane’ would have fetched a King’s ransom. Now, here we have something that looks like a brand new 35mm print straight from the Lab – with the added convenience that you don’t have to lace up a projector in order to view it in the best quality ever. Nice one Warners.
The audio on ‘Citizen Kane’ comes in a very well cleaned up version of the original mono soundtrack on a DTS-HD MA 1.0 track here. Everyone involved with the project has handled the movie with the respect it deserves and it would have been almost sacrilege to remix this in surround sound. Despite its age, there is no hollow optical soundtrack boom (except on the deliberate newsreel style opening), dialogue is crisp and clear with no ‘hanky over the mouth’ effect. The music too has great presence with no discernable wow, flutter, distortion or tinny speaker effect. There’s also no age related hiss, snap, crackle or pop to spoil the show. For a 70 year old movie, it sounds very good indeed.
The 70th Anniversary 3 disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition of ‘Citizen Kane’ comes in a sturdy cardboard box sleeve which houses not only the discs but a whole load of interesting collectibles. Disc 1 is the Blu-ray of the restored classic and bonus materials, Disc 2 is a DVD holding ‘The Battle over Citizen Kane’ – the 1995 Oscar nominated Documentary and Disc 3 is a DVD containing ‘RKO 281’, the Ridley Scott produced drama surrounding the making of ‘Kane’. Here’s some more detail on what the package includes:
Audio Commentaries – We get two audio commentaries, one from renowned critic and film historian Roger Ebert and the other from director Peter Bogdanovich. I found both fascinating for different reasons. Peter Bogdanovich is able to give us some insight into the character of Orson Welles, having worked with him – so this is the closest we get and there are a few gems to be mined here that we don’t hear anywhere else. Roger Ebert’s commentary reveals a great depth of knowledge which is clearly born of his immense love of the cinema. Both point out interesting facts along the way without sounding like train spotters. Neither is dull and so are well worth a listen.
Opening Night World Premiere for 'Citizen Kane' (SD, 1 min) – Just as it says on the tin, some RKO Pathe newsreel footage from the 1941 premiere with the stars arriving at the theatre.
Interviews (SD, 9 mins) - Ruth Warrick, who played Emily Norton Kane, the first Mrs. Kane, relates a few tales about what it was like to work on the closed set of the movie with Orson Welles and Gregg Toland. She tells the tale of them digging a hole in the studio floor to get the camera lower. Robert Wise tells us of his experiences while working as Editor on the picture and, most interestingly, the story of having to take a print to New York to show to all the Studio bosses and their lawyers.
The Production (SD, 15 mins) – Here we have three mini featurettes which can be viewed individually or together by using the ‘play all’ feature. We get a look at storyboards, call sheets, and stills from the film.
Post-Production (SD, 5 mins) – Some Deleted Scenes are re-constructed using stills and storyboards. There’s also some Advertising Campaign materials, pages from the Press Book as well as some Opening Night footage.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 4 mins) – As you’d expect from Welles, we get a trailer with style as he talks to the audience in Voice Over and introduces us to the movie’s cast and characters. They don’t make ‘em like this any more.
'The Battle Over Citizen Kane' (SD, 113 mins) – This award winning doco from 1995 really focuses on the battle between Welles and Hearst. It provides a modern day audience with some well researched information about what went on back at the time of ‘Kane’s’ production. We hear of the skulduggery that went on behind the scenes in an attempt to stop the picture reaching the cinema screens.
'RKO 281' (SD, 83 mins) – This dramatised account of the making of ‘Kane’ stars James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber and Roy Scheider. Made in 1999, it was produced by Ridley Scott and won a Best Mini-Series Golden Globe as well as a couple of Emmy Awards. For those not keen on documentaries.
I'd read that there were supposed to be a couple of Mercury Theatre group radio broadcasts including 'War of the Worlds' in the package, but I've searched each disc several times and can't find them. They must have been dropped.
48pp Book –This nicely produced hardback booklet contains pictures, storyboards and other background information. Good to look at and reads well.
Reproductions – This is a rather nicely produced little pack that includes 10 studio memos and letters. There’s a budget estimate and a copy of the bar bill for the production party. We also get 5 reduced size cinema posters and a copy of the 20pp Souvenir Program from the film's premiere. Nice to have.
Hailed as the ‘Greatest film of all time’ by the American Film Institute, ‘Citizen Kane’ is now released in a 3 disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition on American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
The digitally restored image is sharp with very good contrast throughout and an authentic filmic feel thanks to the respectful retention of the original’s grain structure.
The DTS-HD MA 1.0 audio has been carefully cleaned to remove age related hiss, snap, crackle and pop yet deliver clear, crisp dialogue and a beefy music score. You couldn’t ask for anything better.
The three disc package includes the doco ‘The Battle over Citizen Kane’ and the Ridley Scott produced dramatisation ‘RKO 281’. We also get a 48pp hardback book and a pack of reproduced production documents – all housed in a sturdy cardboard box sleeve. The movie needs no introduction with great performances from Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre players. Orson Welles directs this film, from which neither his career nor that of William Randolph Hearst would ever fully recover.
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