I had never heard of Citizen Kane until I took a filler course in college called "The History of the Movies." It was an enormous, lecture-style class where we would watch films, then break into smaller groups in the next class to discuss them. I figured that it would be an easy A (and I was right), but I didn't know that it would rip apart my opinion of films and open my eyes to an entire world of movies that I'd glossed over.
Chief amongst them was Orson Welle's seminal Citizen Kane. At that point, I only knew Welles as the chubby guy from a commercial for Milton Bradley's Dark Tower board game. I had no idea that he'd been a hugely influential writer/director/actor in both radio and film. So when we screened Kane, I was blown away. Welles was larger than life, vibrant, and a man of many faces as he plays titular antihero Charles Foster Kane throughout the film. I was lucky enough to see this first on a big screen, but it was on a jittery projector, with plenty of flaws. Finally, you can now watch this film in more pristine condition than when it first appeared on screens back in 1941.
Warner Bros, who keeps churning out impressive editions of their premiere catalogue titles, like the impressive work they did on the fantastic Blade Runner set, has finally given Citizen Kane the treatment it has deserved for a long time in their impressive 70th Anniversary Citizen Kane Ultimate Collector's Edition. If you pick up one Blu-ray set this year, it should definitely be this one. And not just because of the gorgeous treatment the film has been given in its 4K restoration from original film elements, or the punch-packing DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix. What you're really going to enjoy here are all of the extras, including two additional, full-length films.
They have included some feelies in the package in the form of print reproductions of Kane artwork and some of Welles' private letters, as well as the original Citizen Kane souvenir booklet. A very nice (albeit small) Citizen Kane hardback book is included in the slipcased edition as well. But the true standouts are two complete, standalone features about Citizen Kane, both on standard DVD. One is The Battle Over Citizen Kane, which is a truly impressive documentary from PBS that details the history of this movie, and the famous battle between William Randolph Heart, Orson Welles, and RKO studios. Nearly worth the purchase price alone.
Also included is the HBO movie RKO 281, which was the working title for Citizen Kane. It stars Liev Schrieber as Orson Welles, and fictionally documents (based on true events) the making of Citizen Kane. This gives you the backstory on many of the techniques Welles used when making the movie, included digging through the floor of the studio to get a particular shot that he wanted. It's too bad this didn't get a Blu-ray treatment as well, as it proves to be an outstanding account of both the making of Kane, and the struggle to get it into theaters while battling Hearst and his network of cronies.
Rounding out the extras are all of the items from the previous DVD release, which includes an outstanding commentary from Roger Ebert. Ebert truly shines here, explaining many nuances and offering terrific insight into the film. There's a commentary from Peter Bogdanovich as well, but he comes off as pompous and annoying, constantly reminding you of the fact that he knew Orson Welles personally. Skip Bogdanovich, and listen to Ebert's track as an introduction to film theory.
Amazon is selling the entire package right now for only $39.99, or you can upgrade to their exclusive edition (pictured above) for $55.99 that includes Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. Long thought of as the film that put the final nail in Welles' career as a director due to studio mishandling, Ambersons is now also available on standard DVD for the first time ever. Four impressive films for $50? Not a bad deal. Or three for $40. Both include the extremely impressive high definition upgrade to the film, and is well worth owning in either flavor.