Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“Citizen Kane” Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD

This month, fans of Orson Welles’ renowned classic, Citizen Kane (1941), can celebrate the film’s 70th anniversary with the release of Warner Bros.’ Ultimate Collector’s Edition, available today, Sept. 13th, on Blu-ray and DVD. The three-disc set arrives in a sharply packaged design with numerous extras and features.

Citizen Kane is the story of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Welles). Sent away as a young boy, Kane is signed over his fortune at the age of 25 and buys a small newspaper publication, converting it into a tabloid with searing headlines to capture readers’ attention and a flourishing circulation. In time, he has a family, a home, and political aspirations. Though he succeeds as a businessman and a public figure, Kane’s indulgence and his inability to recognize or nurture personal relationships fundamentally leads to a descent as outrageous as his newspaper headlines. Alone in his vast estate, Xanadu, Kane lies on his deathbed and speaks the word that’s apparently a mystery to all who knew him: “Rosebud.”

At the time of its initial theatrical release, Citizen Kane performed poorly at the box office, typically accredited to Hollywood’s fear of an adverse reaction, as Kane is patently based on newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Hearst threatened both Welles and Hollywood in general should the film see the light of day, and he refused to run stories or advertisements of Citizen Kane in any of his newspapers. Those in the film industry were reputedly unhappy with Welles, as he’d evidently antagonized the noted businessman. The movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including awards for Picture, Director, Actor (Welles), Art Direction, Editing, Cinematography, Score, Sound Recording, and Original Screenplay, with only Herman Mankiewicz and Welles winning in the writing category. Reportedly, Citizen Kane was booed when its nominations were read during that year’s ceremony.

The American Film Institute (AFI) has twice voted Citizen Kane as #1 in its list of the 100 greatest films. Regardless of what viewers may think of the movie in terms of drama, its technical achievements are unquestioned. One of its most popular aspects visually is the accomplished deep focus photography, in which items or characters prominently displayed in the forefront are as clearly visible as ones in the far background. Welles considered cinematographer Gregg Toland’s efforts so significant that Toland shared a title card with the director.

Welles was part of a radio troupe he co-founded with John Houseman, the Mercury Theatre, most notable for its legendary broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Members of the Mercury Theatre had roles in Citizen Kane and continued with careers in film and TV, including Joseph Cotten as Kane’s friend, Jedediah; Agnes Moorehead as Kane’s mother; Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein, another of Kane’s friends and employees; and Ray Collins as Gettys, the incumbent governor and political opponent to Kane. Ruth Warrick also got her start in Hollywood with this film, portraying Kane’s first wife, as did famed composer Bernard Herrmann and Robert Wise, who was editor on Citizen Kane but would step behind the camera for films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Haunting (1963) and The Andromeda Strain (1971).

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition from Warner Bros. is highlighted by a beautiful restoration of Citizen Kane, enhancing the already elegant deep focus and an impressive soundtrack in HD mono. In addition to the main attraction, the first disc contains interviews with Wise and Warrick, deleted scenes (presented as sketches or photos), commentaries by Peter Bogdanovich and Roger Ebert, storyboards, call sheets, a trailer, and featurettes. The second and third discs include, respectively, an informative documentary and a well made HBO film, RKO 281. The documentary is a presentation of the PBS series, American Experience, entitled “The Battle Over Citizen Kane” and recounts the lives of Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst before and after they intersect. The HBO movie is essentially a dramatized version of these events (the title taken from the production number assigned to Citizen Kane), with Liev Schreiber portraying Welles and James Cromwell as Hearst. The box set also features a glossy 48-page booklet with photos and details of the movie, a reproduction of the 1941 souvenir program, lobby cards, and recreations of production memos. The entire set is offered in separate Blu-ray and DVD packages (only the first disc is Blu-ray in the former option), and the movie is conjointly available in digital formats, On Demand and as a download.

For further details or to purchase the collector’s edition from the Warner Bros. website, click here. For On Demand, check your cable or satellite provider, and the digital download is available at various online retailers (iTunes, Amazon, etc.).

Warner Bros. provided a copy of the Blu-ray edition for review at Classic Film & TV Cafe. Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.


  1. Sark, if the blu ray is at 24 frames (I assume it is) it should be a visual feast

  2. Sark, splendid write-up on what sounds like an awesome new Blu-ray! I'd buy it just for the interviews with Robert Wise (who directed some of my favorite films) and Ruth Warrick (or just "Phoebe" to those loved her on the soon-to-be defunct AMC series). It's a shame that Welles as a filmmaker was either constrained by Hollywood or his own budget limitations for the rest of his career (and still made some amazing films). Also, just reading the members of the Mercury Theatre, which you listed, reminded me how much of an influence so many of them had on the film industry.

  3. All I can say is it's about the GREATEST movie ever made came to Blu-ray in a 1st rate edition!! It's at the top of my Christmas wish list. Hope Santa reads this!

  4. Sark - Sounds like a nice film set. I was never a big "Citizen Kane" fan, I mean it's okay, but I'm a big Marion Davies fan and because of the Hearst connection I think the film "unintentionally" makes her out to be a no-talent gold digger. She was actually quite talented and anything but a gold digger with a career of her own ...

  5. Sark, you did an excellent job with a classic that always seemed larger than life. It sounds like a wonderful gift for serious film collectors with a plethora of extras.

  6. Very good write-up of the movie and the set. I'm afraid to click the link and see how much it costs! One of my treasures is a big Bible-sized box with the VHS tape, script, all kinds of things my Mom gave me in the 90's I think. I'd give my left toe and right middle finger to have this one! Superb movie, performances, music, cinematography, just everything. Maybe I'll guilt a relative -- Christmas is coming....

  7. I just clicked and looked for the price. Could be worse, but I think I'll put the guilt on 2-3 relatives instead of just one! LOL!