Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The magnificence of the Ambersons

I mentioned back in January that I had ordered a copy of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) on a Region 2 DVD available from Universal (UK) via, and I just recently got around to slipping it into my DVD player for a look-see.  This amazing film—which some argue tops Welles’ freshman effort, Citizen Kane (1941)—receives a not-too-shabby treatment on disc…though once again, I’m curious as to how Universal (UK) obtained the rights to an RKO property that now belongs to Warner Home Video (courtesy of Ted Turner, natch).  I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth—after all, it could have been colorized like the loathsome Region 2 DVD treatment of The Big Steal (1949).

The grapevine says that WHV is bringing Ambersons to disc sometime next year, so I suppose I could have waited (if they do it up nice and include some interesting extras I may purchase that version) but this disc will do for the time being…and besides, I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now.  There is an interesting interview with Bill Krohn (a director-writer-producer on the 1993 documentary It’s All True, which partially reconstructs Welles’ ill-fated 1942 project of the same name) included on the Region 2 version that provides an interesting timeline on the events surrounding the butchering of Ambersons (approximately fifty minutes of the finished product was cut, leaving a bowdlerized version with a tacked-on “happy” ending), a film that just may very well have been (in its completed form) Welles’ true cinematic masterpiece.  The featurette is sort of tough to slog through, mainly because of Krohn’s halting French (but, hey—he speaks the language better than I do, so I suppose I should shut up), but I was taken with his argument that what sealed the director’s fate at RKO was not the poor box-office reception of Kane or Ambersons (Krohn argues that RKO wasn’t expecting either film to do boffo b.o. because of their “art” status) but that of Journey Into Fear (1942), the programmer produced and partially directed by Welles (who also played the memorable role of Colonel Haki) that the studio was counting on to recoup the losses from the first two films.

No comments:

Post a Comment