Citizen Kane

Dom Robinson reviews

Citizen KaneThe Classic Story of Power and the PressDistributed by


    • 051 894 2
    • Cert: U
    • Running time: 114 minutes
    • Year: 1941
    • Pressing: 1999
    • Region(s): 2 (UK PAL)
    • Chapters: 18 plus extras
    • Sound: Stereo
    • Languages: English
    • Subtitles: English
    • Fullscreen: 4:3
    • 16:9-enhanced: No
    • Macrovision: Yes
    • Disc Format: DVD 5
    • Price: £17.99
    • Extras : Scene index, Trailer, Booklet


      Orson Welles

    (Confidential Report, The Immortal Story, The Lady from Shanghai, Macbeth, The Magnificent Ambersons, Othello, The Stranger, The Trial)


    Orson Welles


    Herman J. Mankewicz and Orson Welles


    Bernard Herrmann


    Charles Foster Kane: Orson Welles (Compulsion, Confidential Report, The Immortal Story, Jane Eyre, Journey Into Fear, The Lady from Shanghai, A Man For All Seasons, Othello, RoGoPaG, The Stranger, The Third Man, The Trial, Waterloo)
    Susan Alexander: Dorothy Comingore
    Jedediah Leland/Newsreel Reporter: Joseph Cotten (Airport 77, The House Where Death Lives, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, Journey Into Fear, The Magnificent Ambersons, Niagara, Soylent Green, The Third Man, Tora! Tora! Tora!)
    Mrs. Kane: Agnes Moorehead (Dark Passage, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, Journey Into Fear, The Magnificent Ambersons, Showboat)

Citizen Kane aka Charles Foster Kane, is dead. That’s howthe film begins and from therein follows a string of flashbacks as his life story istold from his birth, through the sum of money that was left to him, his two marriagesand how he came to head the Chicago Daily Inquirer. As well as the good, came the bad.While running for congress, an affair with a “singer” put paid to his chances. After all,we can’t have someone in office if they’ve had an impromptu toot-on-the-flute can we ?

The flashbacks are dropped in as a result of the present day reporters who are lookingback over his life, interviewing everyone who ever knew him and trying to get an overallpicture on what he was really like.

The film was Orson Welles directorial debut and he certainly turns in a greatperformance in his own right, but I still prefer the barrister role he played inCompulsion, a cinemascope version of Hitchcock’s Rope, starring DeanStockwell (Quantum Leap, Blue Velvet) and Bradford Dillman. I don’tknow any of the other actors in the film though as the 40s is not my area of specialitywhen it comes to film eras.

When it comes to picture quality, on the plus side it’s free of artifacts, but being anold film there are many flecks and small dropouts in the print. Perhaps a remastering isin order? As for the ratio, the film is presented in its original Academy ratio, althoughit can often comfortably be zoomed in to 14:9 on a widescreen TV.The average bitrate is 5.4Mb/s, once peaking over 9Mb/s.

The soundtrack is labelled as stereo, but all other releases have been mono and I don’thear any differences between the output of either front left and right speakers, so Ipresume this follows suit.

Extras : Chapters :18 chapters – the usual amount for Universal DVDs, from a company previously known asPolygram, but a few more wouldn’t go amiss. The original theatrical trailer isincluded and lasts approximately three-and-a-half minutes. Languages & Subtitles :English in mono and subtitles in the same language for the deaf and hard of hearing. Booklet :An 8-page booklet is also included which tells the “Production Story” on Wells and themaking of the film, generally what you’d usually see on the disc itself in the form ofproduction notes. Menu :Orson Welles atop a few newspapers with the options to start the film, select a scene,toggle the subtitles or watch the trailer blended in very well.

Overall :Citizen Kane is often cited as the best film of all time. I wouldn’t go as far asto say that but it’s a mildly entertaining watch that does have its slow points. Then again,I’m sure that those who vote to put this film at the top of the tree don’t often sing thepraises of Tony Scott‘s films as I do (ie. Enemy of the State, The Rock, Con Air,etc.)

However, it’s a shame Universal didn’t see fit to include the “Reflections on Citizen Kane”documentary, already rated by the BBFC and included on the video release, in which RidleyScott, Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma relate how their own work has beeninfluenced by this film.

I don’t know of a Region 1 DVD being available, but the NTSC Laserdisc 50th Anniversary Edition,released in 1991, also contained an audio commentary, “The Hearts of Age” – a shortfilm by Welles when a student aged 18, stills, storyboards and a 73-minute documentary,“Legacy of Citizen Kane”. If Universal had been able to release all that on a disctogether, it would’ve been quite a coup for DVD owners.


Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 1999.

[Up to the top of this page]