Ask anyone across the board, from the fry cook at the Coney Island to the film professor teaching German expressionism about Orson Welles” “Citizen Kane” and they can tell you simply and emphatically that it is the finest film ever made. Of course, many of the non film nerds have yet to see the picture because, let”s be hones “finest film ever made” most probably translates into “boring as watching competitive Tai Chi.”
Those of us that bow to the alter of “Kane” know that this is not only is this the technical achievement of the last hundred years (cars and planes not with-standing), but that it”s also one damn cool movie. Sex, booze, music, and one crazy mystery surrounding “Rosebud,” who or whatever that may be. The uninitiated can finally learn with the first release of “Kane” with a double-disc DVD set by Warner Home Video.
First of all, the film itself would be enough. Any old VHS copy is still better than a super-deluxe DVD of “Gladiator” that actually comes with Russell Crowe. The new DVD, though, comes completely remastered in both sound and picture, giving it a crisper look than the film probably had in 1941 when it bombed at the box office.
Oh, yes, it bombed quite horribly, and you can find out why in “The Battle over Citizen Kane,” the Oscar nominated documentary on the second disc. The documentary explores Welles as a young artist trying to fight the William Randolph Hearst newspaper empire. Kane is so obviously based on Hearst that even Welles doesn”t try to deny it, but he does take issue when the billionaire tries to buy every last copy of the film and burn it. The documentary charts RKO”s fight to keep the film alive, the huge response from critics, and the aforementioned thud at the box office.
Also along for goodies ride are two commentary tracks. One by film critic Roger Ebert, who speaks as both fan and film historian in his candid, informative discussion. A second commentary track is done by Welles historian and director Peter Bogdonovich (“The Last Picture Show”) gives a fairly lackluster talk, wondering aloud and not answering his own questions.
A newsreel of the movies premiere, storyboards, photo, call sheets, good God could a film nerd ask for anything more? OK, how about rare footage from Welles” “War of the Worlds” broadcast, when he had half of America believing that there were aliens invading the country? How does that strike you?
This is possibly the greatest DVD to ever be released. With “The Phantom Menace” hitting stores soon, I may eat my words. Yet, no matter what Lucas pulls out of giant bag of ILM tricks, his film will never stand up to the experience that is “Citizen Kane. Rosebud.