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Orson Welles
Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins
Writing Credits:
Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles

Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Polish Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 11/15/2016

• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Roger Ebert
• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker/Biographer Peter Bogdanovich
• “Opening: World Premiere of Citizen Kane
• Interviews
• Storyboards
• Call Sheets
• Still Photography with Commentary By Roger Ebert
• Deleted Scenes
• Ad Campaign
• Press Book
• “Opening Night” Stills
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Citizen Kane: 75th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1941)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 10, 2016)

As a critic, I’m left with little to say about 1941’s Citizen Kane. 75 years after its initial release, this film has earned more accolades than perhaps any other movie in history.

Kane scored the number one spot on the original AFI Top 100 list - and stayed there for its 2007 update. It’s a tough flick to review: if I like it, then I just echo oft-stated comments, while if I don’t care for it, I look like a total buffoon.

Well, that wouldn’t be the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. Will I go onto the critical ledge and relate negative comments about Kane or will I reinforce the critical acclaim? Read on to discover the results - I’m kinda curious to know myself!

Kane offers a fictionalized biography of a man semi-inspired by media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Director/writer Orson Welles plays Charles Foster Kane, a man who inherits a terrific fortune and proceeds to fuel his various interests through that money.

Mainly Kane works on newspapers, and starting with the foundering “New York Inquirer”, he turns the dailies into sensationalistic affairs that achieve success across the US. Kane also purchases European art - especially statues - with a voracious appetite, and he builds an extremely large and elaborate mansion compound called “Xanadu”.

Despite his loose spending and other endeavors, Kane remains ill at ease with himself, and many of his efforts fail. He marries and divorces two different women, the second of whom - Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) - he pushes to become a famous opera singer. Despite his prodigious financial resources, he can’t give her talent, so she flops and he eventually forces both of them to retreat to the solitude of Xanadu.

Kane also runs for governor, another attempt that bombs due to his affair with Susan. Although Kane seemed assured of victory, the competition discovers his relationship with Susan. Once that becomes public, both Kane’s political campaign and his marriage to Emily Norton (Ruth Warrick) quickly die.

Kane comes set up as something of a mystery, as a reporter named Thompson (William Alland) tries to discover the meaning of Kane’s last utterance, “Rosebud”. In that attempt, he goes through records and chats with surviving associates such as Susan and long-time cronies Jed Leland (Joseph Cotton) and Bernstein (Everett Sloane).

None of this helps Thompson discover the meaning of “Rosebud”, but a picture of Kane begins to emerge, albeit one that seems semi-contradictory based on the perspective at work. Kane makes no attempt to provide a coherent narrative or a concise biography; instead, it’s more of an experiential work that depends on the viewpoint of each interview subject.

For anyone who might not know the significance of “Rosebud”, I won’t divulge it here. However, I must disagree with those who regard it as a “MacGuffin”.

Popularized by Hitchcock, that term describes something that seems to be a key to the story but which really just serves to motivate action and has no real import/meaning of its own. For example, the stolen money in Psycho was a MacGuffin, as was the mysterious briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

I feel that Rosebud really does offer a key to the story, however, due to its symbolic value. Throughout the film, we see that Kane constantly strives to reach some unattainable goal. He runs newspapers and tries to be a champion of the people, he campaigns for governor, he pursues women, he purchases millions of dollars of art and other artifacts, but absolutely none of it makes him happy.

All Kane wants is love, affection that he lost when his mother (Agnes Moorehead) sent him away from home as a child. Rosebud represents that vanished childhood and the love he can’t seem to regain, no matter how hard he tries to force it.

Before I wrote this review, I promised myself that I wouldn’t engage in any attempts to delve into the meaning of Kane. Over the last 75 years, critics much more knowledgeable and insightful than I have done so, and I probably have little to add to their work. As such, I felt my time would be better spent with a discussion of what I did and didn’t like about Citizen Kane.

I think that Kane maintains its legacy as a classic more as an example of technical brilliance than as something people genuinely enjoy. That doesn’t mean I feel that no one loves it, and that also doesn’t signify that I didn’t care for the film. Actually, I think it delivers a fairly compelling and involving effort.

What I do mean is that Kane feels more like a flick that garners respect rather than adoration. One can’t deny the technical virtuosity, as Kane is a stunningly self-assured and vivid visual affair.

The manner in which Welles welds together disparate elements also works exceedingly well, and he displays fantastic control of auditory components as well. Sounds often add something of a Greek chorus to the proceedings, and they help ensure smooth and effective transitions between scenes.

Where I think some people encounter trouble relates to the chilliness of the film. This isn’t a movie to be joyfully embraced, but nor is it a work that evokes strong negative emotions. Kane stays strangely neutral to a degree, and it never lets us feel very close to its subject.

Was that intentional? Almost certainly, as I’m sure Welles wanted to maintain a distance between the audience and the man, especially since we’d hear so many divergent viewpoints. This seems like the correct path for the film to take, but it isn’t one that allows many people to think of the movie as something to be “enjoyed”.

Of course, not every flick needs to be delightful or funny or scary or thrilling, and Kane works well as a somewhat abstract, purposefully disjointed picture of a man. Actually, that latter aspect of the film made sense since it helps describe the complexity of Kane himself. Although his simple desire for the love and belonging he lost as a child explains a lot, I won’t state that this notion sums up the entire film, and Kane certainly shows a variety of contradictory attitudes.

The erratic nature and tone of Kane displays this concept well. While the movie shows the potential to be a mess, Welles holds it together cleanly and creates a movie that flip-flopps from era to era and topic to topic but maintains a remarkable level of coherence nonetheless.

As I started to write this review, I felt as though I liked Kane but not in an enthusiastic manner. However, while I’ve tried to organize and explain my thoughts, I’ve begun to realize how good a movie it really is.

Some have accused Kane as being more flash than substance, but I don’t agree with that; if this was true, I wouldn’t feel as mentally involved in it as I do. Usually when I review a movie, my negative opinions rise to the surface, which means the more I consider a flick, the more likely I am to discover its flaws.

However, in the case of Citizen Kane, the opposite becomes true. I went into this review with a positive but fairly blasé attitude toward the movie, but the more I consider it, the more I like and respect it.

I don’t agree with its selection as the greatest film ever made. If pressed, I’d probably choose 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia for that honor, and I don’t know how high I’d be willing to place Kane.

Nonetheless, I think it’s a tremendous piece of work, and time hasn’t diminished its impact one iota. Kane will never become beloved by the masses, but it remains an excellent film that deserves the praise it receives.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Citizen Kane appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not a total slam-dunk, I thought the transfer offered a fine reproduction of the source photography.

The challenging source photography, I should say. Gregg Toland’s legendary cinematography offered unusually expanded depth of field so that even in many wide shots, all elements remained in focus.

This worked well for the movie but created potential difficulties for the transfer, especially in darker interiors. When seen in brighter shots, Toland’s work looked crisp and detailed, but with those dimmer scenes, the images could seem a little more tentative.

But not soft, per se. While the movie’s definition depended a lot on lighting, it still always seemed more than adequate. Not every movie is supposed to demonstrate tight detail at all times, so the sharpness on display here was solid and seemed like an accurate representation of the original photography.

Print flaws looked almost entirely absent. Really, the only marks appeared during the “March of Time” newsreel viewed at the start of the film, and those instances seemed to be intentional. I thought these defects were oddly inconsistent; they looked very heavy in some scenes but they were pretty much absent in others, which made me wonder how much of them were intentional and how many had cropped up over the years.

Nonetheless, all segments that didn’t use newsreel footage were clean. I didn’t discern any defects once we left the opening sequence; if any specks or marks appeared, I didn’t notice them.

Edge haloes were a minor nuisance and one that I have come to suspect resulted from the original photography. I noted some of these when I reviewed the original DVD, and they persisted on occasion, though to a lesser degree than what I saw on that 2001 release. A few high-contrast shots demonstrated light haloes, but these weren’t a substantial distraction.

The Blu-ray came without obvious signs of noise reduction. Grain appeared natural and suitable for a film of this one’s age and visual aspirations. I thought grain was always appropriate.

Black levels looked nicely deep and rich, and contrast was clean and distinct. Shadow detail also looked fine. As I noted, some low-light interiors could seem a smidgen soft, but that was an apparent artifact of the original photography; within the dark scenes, the elements appeared appropriately visible. In the end, this was a strong take on the film’s complicated visuals.

The DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Citizen Kane hasn’t held up as well as the picture, but it still seemed solid for its age. Dialogue sounded reasonably distinct and accurate, without notable edginess. While I’d not describe the lines as especially natural, they always seemed totally intelligible and lacked any concerns.

The rest of the mix seemed to be fairly clear and relatively robust for the era. Music and effects sounded reasonably lively and bright, and they showed pretty nice depth considering their age. The track lacked any discernible background noise, as I detected no popping, hiss, crackling or other issues. Ultimately, the audio appeared to be quite good and represented the material well.

How did this 2016 “75th Anniversary” Blu-Ray compare with the original Blu-ray from 2011? Both were identical – literally. The 2016 version just replicates Disc One from the 2011 set.

That means the Blu-ray includes all of Disc One’s extras, and the package highlights two separate audio commentaries. First we find a track from film critic Roger Ebert, who provides a running, fairly screen-specific piece. At times Ebert tends to repeat himself, which he recognizes; for example, he frequently tells us about the technique in which the observer of each sequence sits in the lower right corner of the frame.

Despite some redundant information, Ebert’s obvious enthusiasm for the subject helps make the piece vivid, and he adds a lot of solid interpretation and insight for those listeners relatively new to the details of the film. Ebert mixes technical details with background information and his thoughts about the techniques. This isn’t the most illuminating track I’ve heard, but it helps flesh out the movie and offers an enjoyable experience.

I will note one curious aspect of the Ebert commentary, though. At times he espouses the notion that Rosebud gives us nothing more than a gimmick and a red herring. On other occasions he seems to concur with the notion that Rosebud represents Kane’s lost childhood, which means Ebert appears to go along with the same thoughts I mentioned in my review. In any case, I’m sticking with my own interpretation, darn it!

In addition, we get a second audio commentary from filmmaker/Welles biographer Peter Bogdanovich. He also adds a running, screen-specific piece, but this one seems less compelling than the effort provided by Ebert.

I can’t blame Bogdanovich totally for the decline, as some of my disenchantment occurs due to the order in which I listened to the two tracks. Bogdanovich echoes many of the same remarks offered by Ebert, but this redundancy could have worked in the opposite direction had I screened the Ebert commentary initially.

Bogdanovich also tends to simply describe the onscreen action to a certain degree; some directorial insight occurs, but not a tremendous amount. However, Bogdanovich is able to inject some good information, mainly via anecdotes that relate to his discussions with Welles. This contributes greater depth to the subject and brings some intimacy to the subject.

Bogdanovich also inserts some insight not found during Ebert’s track, though I think Roger’s chat is superior in that regard. Ebert also fills his time better, as Bogdanovich’s piece suffers from a few too many blank spots, and a modicum of his statements deliver obvious descriptions of the action on screen. Nonetheless, this is a fairly interesting commentary, as Bogdanovich adds enough good information to make the track worth a listen.

Interestingly, unlike Ebert, Bogdanovich doesn’t think that Kane was the best movie ever made, or even Welles’ greatest film. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go into depth about the flicks he thinks top Kane, but this still becomes an interesting revelation, especially since it goes against the common opinion.

While the two commentaries provide Disc One’s most significant extras, we also discover a number of minor pieces. The Opening: World Premiere of Citizen Kane shows a one-minute, eight-second newsreel clip from that event.

Unfortunately, all we see are some plain shots from the theater and we hear no commentary about the action. Also, the actual premiere footage only fills the second half of the brief piece, so it’s not very valuable.

Much more interesting is the film’s theatrical trailer. This three-minute, 46-second ad featured material created exclusively for the promo, and it’s very entertaining. Welles remained off-camera but narrated the piece and made it wonderfully snide and mocking. I think it’s a clever and provocative trailer.

Presented as Easter eggs on the 2001 DVD, we get two interviews. The first gives us a 1997 chat with actress Ruth Warrick. During this five-minute, 40-second piece, Warrick discusses issues such as the atmosphere on the Kane set, her interactions with Welles, and a few other interesting topics. It’s a neat little addition.

We also find a 1994 interview snippet with editor Robert Wise. During this three-minute, four-second piece, Wise reveals how he got the job, and he also talks about the uproar that greeted its take on Hearst. It’s also a minor extra, but it’s fun to get.

A slew of text and stillframe materials make up the rest of the extras. These are split into two areas: “The Production” and “Post Production”.

The Production includes three subsections. Storyboards consists of 24 frames of information, though it’s presented as a three-minute, 20-second running montage through which you can use the “chapter skip” button to maneuver.

In addition to some boards - which depict the scene in which we go from Kane’s political campaign to the confrontation at Susan’s apartment - we see some production art and shots from the film. These were interesting to see, though they didn’t reveal a great deal of nuance about the production.

Call Sheets (0:48) takes up five frames. These are modestly useful historical pieces, as they show some day-to-day details of the production.

More interesting are the images in the Still Gallery (10:53). Actually, those photos are nothing special, but they’re rendered more compelling because they come with commentary from Roger Ebert.

All of these stillframe archives can be viewed either picture-by-picture or as running video pieces, but only the “Still Gallery” comes with audio accompaniment. Ebert adds a decent overview of the production and some thoughts about the movie. The photos only last for the first five and a half minutes of the program; Ebert’s remarks continue for the remaining time.

Post Production includes four subsections. Deleted Scenes (1:12) contains eight screens. These give us a little information about two sequences that didn’t make the film. Ad Campaigns (1:36) gives us 11 screens of posters and other materials. Most interesting is a note that discusses the reactions to Kane of various demographics.

Press Book (0:48) tosses in five images from a program offered at the film’s New York and Los Angeles premieres, while Opening Night (1:36) adds 11 frames that also related to the premiere and other areas. Most compelling in that section are some fan letters that praised the flick, notes from RKO president George Schaefer, and a premiere-related guest list. This section was one of the most intriguing of the bunch.

As mentioned earlier, the “75th Anniversary” Kane reproduces Disc One of the 2011 release. It loses a documentary called The Battle Over “Citizen Kane”, the 1999 docu-drama RKO 281 and some non-disc-based materials.

Possibly the most praised film in history, Citizen Kane remains an excellent experience 75 years after its initial release. The movie has aged quite well, and its stylistic techniques seem dynamic and compelling to this day. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals, good audio and an informative array of supplements.

Kane offers a terrific Blu-ray, but fans who own the prior release don’t need this “75th Anniversary” release, as it simply reproduces Disc One from a prior version. I prefer the more deluxe “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” from 2011 but this cheaper 2016 release satisfies as well.

To rate this film, visit the 60th Anniversary Edition review of CITIZEN KANE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main