The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

US Criterion Collection 2018 Blu-ray edition

Text below written 2019-01-28



YES, finally
... film lovers, cineastes and Orson Welles aficionados have waited and waited .... and in November 2018 it happened, a
blu-ray release of the restored The Magnificent Ambersons, the film many consider to be not just Orson Welle's best film but also the
greatest film ever made. And, this even though only a skeleton remains of what would've been the young film genius elegiac vision of
the decline of a once prominent family in Indianapolis, of the inexorable passing of time and how the lives and the memories of people
once lived are lost in time. The human situation, sort of ....

"George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance ........ but those who had so longed for it were not there to see it and they never
knew it, those who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him"

Yes, some serious stuff, insightful, dark and depressing but also very poetic and kind of beautiful. And this, the assholes at RKO had
previewed for a young saturday night audience. Catastrophe, and as Welles was hired by them to make another artmovie, a follow-up to
Citizen Kane, and which he did with the Ambersons, the following slaughtering of the film and degradation of Welles as a director must
have been well planned by the powerful enemies that Welles had gotten after making Kane, the stooges of William Randolph Hearst.

The Amberson Mansion


The butchering of The Ambersons may be the biggest crime against the Film Art ever in history and this blu-ray has lots and lots of extras
describing this horrendous act from RKO. They cut some 40 minutes or more, re-shot scenes and added a new disgraceful ending (and
probably threatening the actors, longtime friends and associates of Welles in the Mercury Theatre, to do so).
There are tons of material written by cineastes and experts about the butchering of The Magnificent Ambersons. Obviously it's the second
part of the film that suffered the most and it feels fragmentary and chopped up, hurried as scenes are missing.

The editor Robert Wise, and later a fine director himself, has been the Fall Guy, taking the heat for cutting Ambersons up and he repeated in
interviews that the film needed extensive cutting and that the unseen long version of the film has grown to a masterpiece only in our minds.
Well, it's not Wise that's the Bad Guy, it's the SCUM bosses at RKO that will suffer eternal shame in the cinematic hell for their deeds.
One of these assholes was Jack Moss who, according to a witness mentioned in the Bill Krohn interview in the extras to the old DVD edition
deliberately tossed all Welles telegrams and letters from Brazil with editing instructions away unread .... what a detestable creep.

The film is based on the 1917 novel by Booth Tarkington and obviously i'm the only one that finds similarities with Thomas Mann's master-
piece Buddenbrooks written around 1900. Both novels deals with the decline of a once rich family and with a spoiled child getting it's come-
uppance. The Magnificent Ambersons could also have been titled "The Comeuppance of George" as the George Amberson Minafer of the
film and his pride and arrogance makes him totally unable to adapt to his surroundings and the passing of time and which leads finally to the
strong and poignant conclusion of this masterpiece of a movie.

The cinematography by Stanley Cortez (Welles scholar Francois Thomas assess that he shot about 57 minutes of the film; Masuraka 10
minutes) is exquisite, and also so the sets with the interior of the Amberson mansion. The acting from Joseph Cotten as Eugene Morgan,
Ray Collins as uncle Jack and the much hailed Agnes Moorehead as the unhappy and often hysterical aunt Fanny are great.

But, with time i've come to really appreciate the performance of Tim Holt. Holt, the cowboy western filmstar and stuntman. Once i found him
slightly stiff and annoying and maybe my least favourite actor in the film, but now i'm very impressed. Tim Holt is perfect in the role and he
carries the film somewhat as this film mostly is about him, as a symbol for a person, a family that can't adjust to the times.
Surely one of the most underrated performances in film history and unfortunately no interview with this enigmatic actor seems to exist.
That's the thing missing with the extras in this Blu-ray and the old DVD, (old) interviews with the actors, Cotten, Moorehead, Holt etc. about
their memories and recollections of working with Welles on this film masterpiece. Inside information of what really happened. Nope, No.

The Extras on the Criterion Collection Blu-ray:

Two audio commentaries: 1. Robert L. Carringer (recorded in 1986) discusses the edits undergone and the footage missing from the existing
version, 2. James Naremore and Jonathan Rosenbaum discuss the origins of TMA in Booth Tarkington's novel, Welles adaption of it and
the formal and aesthetic brilliance of the film even in it's extant form

Simon Callow (2018) author of Orson Welles biography discusses TMA - A Dangerous Nostalgia (26 minutes),
Peter Bogdanovich interviews with Orson Welles - Audio excerpts (36 minutes),
The Cinematographers (2018) - Welles scholar Francois Thomas compares the work of TMA's primary cinematographer Stanley Cortez with
that of the various others who worked on the film (15 minutes),
Orson Welles on the Dick Cavett Show (May 14 1970) 36 minutes and Orson Welles for sure was entertaining to listen to,
Interview with Joseph McBride (2018) Orson Welles scholar discusses the Studio politics and the external circumstances that led to the re-
editing of TMA (28 minutes),
The score (2018 video essay) Bernard Herrmann scholar Christopher Husted "Graceful symmetries: Welles long version of TMA and Bernard
Herrmann's score (19 minutes),
Pampered Youth - a two reel segment from the 1925 silent film adaption of Booth Tarkington's novel from UK 1931 version (28 minutes),
AFI Welles symposium - audio excerpts from 1978 "Working with Welles" (30 minutes),
Orson Welles Radio Plays - 1938 Seventeen by Booth Tarkington and 1939 TMA (The Mercury Theatre On the Air),
Trailer and a Booklet with scholar texts

The old UK DVD

Tim Holt as George Amberson Minafer and the amazing Agnes Moorehead as aunt Fanny Minafer

IN SWEDISH BELOW (written in September 2012)

OBS! FET-SPOILERS nedan
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Filmen startar i en bedrägligt glättig och en aning nostalgisk stil år 1873 med Orson Welles narratorsröst och där en mindre stads anonyma invånare
likt en grekisk kör kommenterar rikingarna, familjen Ambersons göranden - "The Magnificense of the Ambersons was as conspicuos as a brass band
at the funeral", och åren och årtiondena flimrar förbi.
Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello) är kär i och uppvaktas av uppfinnaren Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten), men gifter sig med en Wilbur Minafer.
De får en son George (som vuxen spelad av Tim Holt) som bortskämd och arrogant högmodig önskas allt illa av omgivningen .... Welles narration:

- "They did hope to live to see the day when that boy would get his comeuppance".

Filmen går in i en sorts "filmisk realtid" i och med den stora balscenen, när George återvänder från sitt första år på college och Ambersons håller en
storartad bal - den stora balscenen som Orson Welles narratorsröst bygger upp och som sedan mest blir en puff, tydligen klippte nidingarna på RKO
bort den enastående scenen mästerligt fotad av kamerageniet Stanley Cortez, en scen där kameran elegant följt de dansande från rum till rum.
På balen möter George Eugene's dotter Lucy (Anne Baxter) och allt är frid, The Ambersons befinner sig på sin glittrande höjd. Den lyckliga delen av
filmen kulminerar med vinterutfärden ..... men snart dyker mörka stråk upp då familjens ekonomiska problem omnämns och det stora fallet väntar.

Tim Holt är bra som den irriterande George, uppblåst och dryg och stolt över sin familjs anor och ställning i staden. Han föraktar "uppkomlingen"
Eugene Morgan, uppfinnaren av automobiler, horseless carriages och blir rasande när han får höra att hans mor alltid varit kär i honom och han gör
allt för att förneka sin mor lyckan att, när hon blivit änka, äntligen få gifta sig med Eugene.
Interiören av Ambersons väldiga hus är MAGISKT fotat av Stanley Cortez med vackra djupfokusbilder och är platsen för de märkliga dialogerna
mellan George och den obetalbara Agnes Moorehead's Aunt Fanny (undrar om något liknande hade hörts tidigare på film ?).

Joseph Cotten är som alltid bra i rollen som Eugene, Ray Collins är bra som morbror Jack, Dolores Costello OK som modern, Anne Baxter sådär
som Lucy, och en scen mellan Lucy och Eugene (där de verkar knata i trädgården) är obegriplig och faller ur ramen efter omstuvandet av filmen.
Några märkliga scener är: den där Lucy och George vandrar längs den lilla stadens gata och man i fönstrens reflexioner och av ljuden förstår att
automobilerna tagit över gatubilden, den där den åldrade och förvirrade morfadern Amberson försöker förhålla sig till den nya dystra situationen
(bara Orson Welles mina damer och herrar, bara Orson Welles, You Genius You) och den avslutande ENASTÅENDE scenen, där en förtvivlad
George ber vid sängen till en frånvarande Gud och Orson Welles narratorsröst anknyter till filmens början med de geniala orden - STÅPÄLS -

"George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance ........ but those who had so longed for it were not there to see it and they never
knew it, those who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him"

Trots den grovt stympade och (av Robert Wise) omklippta versionen, och trots den fullständigt gräsliga slutscenen som lades till där Joseph Cotten
och Agnes Moorehead vandrar i sjukhuskorridoren efter att ha besökt George ( de måste ha skämts som hundar nära vänner till -och medarbetare
till Orson Welles sen många år i Mercury Theatre), trots detta är filmen en av filmhistoriens största mästerverk. Tänk då hur den hade varit i Orson
Welles original. Det bortklippta materialet förstördes och lär tyvärr aldrig dyka upp från något dammigt lager någonstans. Sad.
Enligt legenden skulle dock en råkopia av TMA ha skeppats ner till Brasilien, men filmälskare har letat igenom Brasilianska arkiv i jakten på The Holy
Grail of film utan att finna något. Men, drömmen är förstås att denna gåtfulla kopia en gång hittas på en bortglömd lagerhylla någonstans.

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The Criterion Collection restored 2018 Blu-ray edition is presented in a 1.37:1 fullscreen ratio with a LPCM english audio and english subtitles

The old UK DVD (seen above) also had a black & white fullscreen presentation with mono audio and subtitles, and as an Extra:
An Interview with Bill Krohn - An Unfinished Masterpiece (18 minutes from 2001, french audio with english subtitles) and a Trailer.
The DVD had a dark poor picture

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