Tag Archives: welles

Touch of Evil! Touch of Evil! Touch of Evil!

Hot on the heels (at least in the order I found out about them) of the restored Metropolis comes the news that Touch of Evil will get a new DVD release carrying three versions of the film. The current DVD features only a highly speculative “restoration,” which even the people who made it felt should not have replaced the earlier versions, as noted by Jonathan Rosenbaum:

I was a consultant on the third version–a re-edit by Walter Murch based on a memo written by Welles to Universal in the 50s–and it was never the intention of Murch, me, or our producer Rick Schmidlin to replace the film’s original release version or the longer preview version that supplanted it in the 70s. We were hoping that all three could be released in a DVD box set.

Well, now we have that set, correcting one of the worst bits of DVD butchery we’ve seen for a while. That’s sensational news. Click the image below to order it.

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Long Shots

If you had more respect for the idea of blogging than I do, you could really bemoan the influence that YouTube has had on the practice. It seems a lot of bloggers, exhausted by coming up with new content all the time, have been sinking back to what I do on this corner of my site all the time: just posting interesting YouTube videos. But there are times this trend to YouTube blogging is undeniably useful, as with this post on great long tracking shots, complete with many YouTube clips giving examples. These are the ultimate show-off shots (Jaime J. Weinman talks about their unobtrusive cousins, long uncut dialogue scenes) and it’s fun to see so many in one place.

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Here, Under Protest, is “Beef Burgers”

Now here’s an oddity. For years a bootleg audio-tape has circulated of Orson Welles berating the directors of an advertisement for frozen peas, complaining about the script and the quality of their direction. It was a strange little curio, mentioned in David Thomson’s Welles biography Rosebud, and one of those little pop-culture artifacts with its own tiny infamy – witness the existence of its own Wikipedia article. (Just thinking about it now, I wonder if it wasn’t also the inspiration for the routine in Tootsie where Dustin Hoffman’s Michael Dorsey complains about the script for an ad in which he played a tomato.)

Anyway, that bootleg was the inspiration for a sequence in the nineties TV cartoon Pinky and the Brain where a slightly cleaned-up version of the dialogue was performed by the mice. (Maurice La Marche, who voiced the Brain, is known for his Welles impression: he overdubbed Vincent D’Onofrio as Welles in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood). And now someone has gone and reunited the original Welles audio with the Pinky and the Brain animation. The result is, well, an even stranger little pop culture oddity. (This was brought to my attention, as so many of these kind of things are, by Jaime J. Weinman over at Something Old, Nothing New).

Incidentally, I asked over at the the original post what The Brain had said instead of “I’ll go down on you,” and apparently it was “I’ll make cheese for you.” Which is a fortuitous substitution, as it preserves the lip-synch.

If nothing else, the existence of the original Pinky and The Brain animation is a testament to the strange kinds of things that get slipped on to kids television when nobody at head office is paying attention. What on earth did the 99% of people who’d never heard of the “Frozen Peas” tape make of this?

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What I Want for Christmas Next Year

In a not very timely post, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the films that I wish were available on DVD here in Australia but aren’t, and express the (belated) Christmas wish that we might see these before next year.

Generally I think that we’re actually pretty well off in this country, even given the lesser release schedules we get compared to the US. There are a couple of animation collections that I’m pretty much resigned to never seeing (further waves of Disney Treasures, for example), but generally it seems most of the things we want we eventually get. This is particularly the case with smaller distributors (notably Madman) getting up more steam and increasingly filling the niche that outfits like Criterion do in the US. (In fact, I watched their version of Rififi the other day, and my hunch is it is a port of the Criterion version).

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The Enigma of Rosebud

This is a recycled undergraduate essay, originally written in October 2002; I’ve left it on the page as I think it holds up relatively well as a survey of some of the main writing on Citizen Kane, and it used to get a lot of hits when it was posted on my old page.

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) is probably the most celebrated film that has ever been made: it is unnecessary to recite the list of top tens that it has dominated to make this point. It is a clich√© that Citizen Kane is “the greatest movie that ever has been or will be made.”(1) In this role it acts in the kind of calibrating role that Shakespeare’s plays do in literature: when arguments about canon formation threaten to descend into squabbles about the subjectivity of greatness, Citizen Kane serves a useful function as a marker of almost universally accepted merit. A cursory glance at the literature on the film highlights the fact that it has attracted the attention of many of the most prominent writers on film, across the spectrum from both popular critics to academics. The list includes Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, David Thomson, Peter Bogdanovich, Andre Bazin, Andrew Sarris, David Bordwell, Noel Carroll, Laura Mulvey, and many others.(2) This veritable rogue’s gallery of big names attests to the insatiable urge amongst critics and theorists across the cultural spectrum to add their own take on Kane. Given that most of these writers ascribe to the essential view of Kane is a masterpiece, they add an impressive strength to its cultural status. Yet upon closer examination the inevitable diversity of opinions amongst these writers makes it harder to describe the “Kane as masterpiece” positioon as unified. The writing on Citizen Kane starts to resemble the film’s eyewitness descriptions of Kane himself: the more contradictory explanations of the movie are offered, the harder it is to reconcile a clear view of what the film’s virtues really are. Often, a particular account of the film is also accompanied by an implicit (or even explicit) assertion that it is the writer’s own view that really describes the film’s central great qualities. Such an invocation of a critical “Rosebud” – the observation or critical approach that really serves to throw the jumbled mass of Citizen Kane into focus – is to be expected. One such critical “Rosebud” is Noel Carroll’s essay on the film, which speaks of two contradictory meanings in the film and suggests a way of reconciling them. In this essay, I will use Carroll’s article as a starting point for a survey of popular writers on Kane (Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, and David Thomson) and more academic approaches (Carroll, David Bordwell, and Laura Mulvey), noting in particular their divergent approaches to the key question: what is Citizen Kane really saying?

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