952 The Magnificent Ambersons

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domino harvey
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#201 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:16 pm

Yep, just checked and I sold it last November for $48

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#202 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:00 pm

Most of the bonus features are what I expected, but I'm very pleasantly surprised about the Christopher Husted interview. Husted's fascinating liner notes to the re-recorded full soundtrack to the film (released in the early 90s) tipped me off to Welles' brilliant original structure which was to present a series of scenes in the film's first half that are mirrored by scenes in the second half (often taking place in the same space), each of which comment ironically on the earlier companion scenes. Herrmann's original score supported this structure by using similar themes and motifs for the companion scenes with the cues in the second half of the film becoming increasingly minor key or outright discordant. Sadly, much of that intriguing structure was ruined by the re-editing/re-shooting, not to mention the elimination of nearly half of Hermann's cues. I look forward to hearing Husted's take in 2018.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#203 Post by Gerald Christie » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:41 pm

I kind was feeling that Criterion hadn't been putting that much effort with their releases save for the occasional title. This surely makes up for it, as it looks like an all around terrific and comprehensive package. Plus, the fact that it includes two audio commentaries, something that they haven't done in a long time as far I remember and input from the terrific Molly Haskell is another highlight. I find it interesting that this one and True Stories have features that are exclusive to the bluray edition, granted it's just content from the booklet but still. I'm curious what that might mean going forward...
That being said, I'm on the fence on whether I should but this one or not. My experiences with Orson Welles films have been mixed, for some reason try as I might I just can't warm up to them. I've seen The Lady from Shanghai,Touch of Evil, Citizen Kane, Macbeth, Chimes at Midnight and Othello and most of them I hated. The only ones I liked were the first two from the list. What are the odds of liking this one?

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domino harvey
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#204 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:45 pm

Hey those first two would be in my top three Welles picks with the Trial, and I didn't like Ambersons much at all, for whatever that's worth. I am unconvinced the missing reels would have saved this, though I plan to give this another try with this package

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#205 Post by Big Ben » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:51 pm

Ambersons is mostly directed by Welles so I would say no. Some forty minutes were removed and a new ending was shot. Ambersons more than anything, at least to me personally is a bit of a curio piece because the missing footage has become the stuff of legend. The original negative is gone and the only possible original footage was sent to Welles in Brazil and is considered lost. As has the preview footage prints. This has given the film a sort of mythic quality in the "What could have been." department. Speaking again for myself I don't think it's fair to say it could be one way or another because we haven't seen the original film so the film must stand as it is now. Robert Wise, one of the men who shot the new footage stated that the newer version was better than Welles' original. Make of that what you will.

I'm really looking forward to revisiting this film regardless and I'm hoping the extras can provide more information about this whole mess.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#206 Post by Werewolf by Night » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:04 pm

domino harvey wrote:It was released on a DVD included with the Blu-ray box of Citizen Kane, but it was a separate DVD with its own case and UPC.
It was briefly available on its own, too. I bought it new from Amazon in August 2012 for $10.66.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#207 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:15 am

Did the Criterion LD have the Carringer stills/storyboard reconstruction of the original ending or am I confusing this with the book?

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#208 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:26 am

Big Ben wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:51 pm
...Robert Wise, one of the men who shot the new footage stated that the newer version was better than Welles' original. Make of that what you will...
That's not quite how Wise assessed the situation. He said the final released version played better for an audience than the initial version, but acknowledged that Welles' original cut was greater "as an achievement". In a nutshell, Ambersons was an art film that RKO needed to be a commercial film. Wise agreed with this even as he tried to support the artistic integrity of Welles' original conception. While Wise has historically taken most of the blame for the re-cutting and re-shooting, nearly all of the major alterations were conceived and imposed by Welles' business manager Jack Moss (whom Wise did not always agree with). Also, contrary to the commonly held notion that Wise began his directing career doing the re-shoots for this film, the only footage he directed that's in the film is Major Amberson's heartbreaking rumination in front of the fireplace (which Welles had set up, but needed Wise to take over so he could direct another unit shooting at the same time). During post-production, Wise was asked by Welles to direct a new version of a bedroom scene between Tim Holt and Delores Costello, but this footage was ultimately discarded.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#209 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:55 am

FYI, there were more changes than what Big Ben estimated. I’d say at best an hour of what Welles had in the work print survived but it may be closer to 45 minutes. (Surely someone has timed and added up a total.) There were just too many reshoots beyond the ending, especially in the second half, and they really pile up as we get near the end.

And the lost scenes aren’t so mysterious, there’s a LOT of visual documentation beyond the script pages for what was actually shot.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#210 Post by aox » Thu Aug 16, 2018 9:06 am

Does anyone have a good link or can explain the story behind the theory that the full cut with all of the missing footage did make it down to Brazil but was subsequently lost? Any history of the search, who went down to search, theories of what happened to it, and where it could currently be? or, how at this point no believes it ever existed or doesn't exist now? What's the history and status of the search?

The discovery of all of the Metropolis footage ten years ago gives me a slender bit of hope.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#211 Post by diamonds » Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:31 am

The extensive Vanity Fair piece should have some of what you're looking for. It traces the copy that was sent to Brazil, how it may or may not have been destroyed, even has a tantalizing anecdote from a man who swears he found it in a mislabeled can and projected it.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#212 Post by Big Ben » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:18 pm

Thanks for all the info folks it's been really insightful. I'm pleased to be learning new things about this whole affair. It's interesting to see how Ambersons has sort of "become great" as a result of it's production history independent of the actual quality of the film itself.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#213 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:44 pm

aox wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 9:06 am
...The discovery of all of the Metropolis footage ten years ago gives me a slender bit of hope.
The difference here is that the original long version of Metropolis was actually in release (for a short time anyway) prior to the recutting, giving that South American businessman a chance to obtain a copy. Ambersons was never released in a version other than the 88 min. final cut, so the existing prints were all under studio control more or less (note that an early version of Welles' contemporaneous production Journey Into Fear was released for a week or two before being withdrawn and a print of that version has survived). During post-production, 24 reels of 35mm film pertaining to Ambersons was shipped to Welles in Brazil along with 10 reels of material from Journey. Fourteen of the Ambersons reels contained the fairly polished 131 minute edit that Wise completed under Welles' instructions; the remaining ten reels were described by Wise as alternate takes/editing choices. As the Vanity Fair article notes, all of these reels were left in the archives at Cinedia Studios in Rio where RKO had an office until the mid-40s when the RKO home office requested the reels be "junked". There is no confirmation the reels were destroyed beyond a handwritten note on the request telegram. But since the reels cannot be found, it's not likely they exist.
hearthesilence wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:55 am
FYI, there were more changes than what Big Ben estimated. I’d say at best an hour of what Welles had in the work print survived but it may be closer to 45 minutes. (Surely someone has timed and added up a total.) There were just too many reshoots beyond the ending...
The reshoots (the ones not under Welles' supervision, anyway) only amount to approximately seven or eight minutes, so you're still getting 80 or so minutes of Welles-approved footage in the 88 minutes that remain. The greater damage, apart from the deletions, is the reordering of the footage. For example, the opening montage was shuffled around in an attempt to cover over a section that was deleted, resulting in the narration appearing illogical (note that the line "...against such a homespun background..." is meant to refer to the thriftiness and conservative nature of the town, not the "...all-day picnics in the woods, an open house on New Year's..." etc. which the Amberson family took part in). The re-sequencing also changed the arc of Tim Holt's character who was meant to appear more contrite earlier than is shown in the released version.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#214 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:05 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:44 pm
The reshoots (the ones not under Welles' supervision, anyway) only amount to approximately seven or eight minutes, so you're still getting 80 or so minutes of Welles-approved footage in the 88 minutes that remain. The greater damage, apart from the deletions, is the reordering of the footage. For example, the opening montage was shuffled around in an attempt to cover over a section that was deleted, resulting in the narration appearing illogical (note that the line "...against such a homespun background..." is meant to refer to the thriftiness and conservative nature of the town, not the "...all-day picnics in the woods, an open house on New Year's..." etc. which the Amberson family took part in). The re-sequencing also changed the arc of Tim Holt's character who was meant to appear more contrite earlier than is shown in the released version.
Wow, it kind of feels like more because there's quite a few scenes that were definitely effected. Off the top of my head, the one Wise did, Fanny's breakdown (quite a contrast when they switch over to Welles's incredible shot that moves quickly through the house, exposing how it's become a ghost of its former self), Eugene's visit with the crappy lighting and blocking and melodramatic direction with Fanny in tears, and the ending of course (I think it was a handful of shots, but I want to say it was only two setups - one in Eugene's office, which looks NOTHING like how it did in Welles's version, drenched in darkness, and the clumsy looking tracking shot of Eugene walking with Fanny down the hallway). I can't remember if it was completely reshot or if it had more to do with heavy editing, but the scene involving Lucy's fainting was drastically changed to detrimental effect.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#215 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:09 pm

At least Kurosawa's Idiot was only slashed to pieces by the studio (with stupid intertitles to fill in some of the gaps created) -- the cinematography and performances themselves were not mucked up....

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#216 Post by Drucker » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:37 pm

Big Ben wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:18 pm
Thanks for all the info folks it's been really insightful. I'm pleased to be learning new things about this whole affair. It's interesting to see how Ambersons has sort of "become great" as a result of it's production history independent of the actual quality of the film itself.
As one of the board's Welles' devotees, I think it's safe to say if you love the man and his work, it's easy to picture how Ambersons would have looked had it not been destroyed (especially that last shot of Cotten driving into the city), and feeling that it would be a masterpiece. If you're not a Welles die-hard, then the mythology around the film is likely to be a "so what?" to you.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#217 Post by beamish14 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:52 pm

Very excited for this release, but I am disappointed that there is no attempt to reconstruct lost scenes with Herrmann's score. There are a number of stills that I don't believe have ever been published, including a shot of the town that has become completely industrialized at the close of the film. Storyboards and production design materials would've been great, too.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#218 Post by Big Ben » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:12 pm

Drucker wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:37 pm
Big Ben wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:18 pm
Thanks for all the info folks it's been really insightful. I'm pleased to be learning new things about this whole affair. It's interesting to see how Ambersons has sort of "become great" as a result of it's production history independent of the actual quality of the film itself.
As one of the board's Welles' devotees, I think it's safe to say if you love the man and his work, it's easy to picture how Ambersons would have looked had it not been destroyed (especially that last shot of Cotten driving into the city), and feeling that it would be a masterpiece. If you're not a Welles die-hard, then the mythology around the film is likely to be a "so what?" to you.
I haven't seen the film in maybe ten years and from what I remember at the time I really liked what I saw it's just well...obviously incomplete. Of course I believe that Welles' version would have been better I just think that Ambersons has taken on a "great mystique" of it's own because of it's production history. The idea and knowledge of the missing footage adds to it's mystique, much like the missing footage to Stroheim's Greed (Although I doubt Greed would have been an easy watch at it's original length.). I don't in any way dislike the film but I think right now it's very much a "could have been" sort of deal. And reading that story about how Welles reacted upon seeing it on TV just makes me feel worse about it as I've no doubt his original cut was better. It's awe inspiring that RKO would remove so much at the behest of producers because of teenagers in a screening.

I don't think Ambersons is close to my favorites like The Trial or Touch of Evil because it's unlikely we'll never see a full version. I don't think that's much of silly statement to make.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#219 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:03 pm

beamish14 wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:52 pm
...There are a number of stills that I don't believe have ever been published, including a shot of the town that has become completely industrialized at the close of the film...
There are numerous frame enlargements printed directly from the deleted footage (Welles requested Wise do this so he would have some visual reference when making editing decisions long distance), but I have been unable to find one showing the final matte shot of the industrialized city as Eugene is driven away from the boarding house. Joseph McBride says that Peter Bogdanovich showed him the still in 1970, but it hasn't been seen since (Bogdanovich said he returned everything to Welles).
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:09 pm
At least Kurosawa's Idiot was only slashed to pieces by the studio (with stupid intertitles to fill in some of the gaps created) -- the cinematography and performances themselves were not mucked up....
Having just seen the Kurosawa film two weeks ago, I'm thinking its mutilation was worse than Ambersons from a simple storytelling perspective. The whole first hour of The Idiot is nearly incomprehensible whereas Ambersons still works as a story even as its missing material that would have explained character motivation, supported plot points, and provided an incredibly rich subtext referencing the industrialization of the town. As clumsy as some of the re-shot footage and re-editing looks, it's nothing compared to the ridiculous editing choices in the Kurosawa film (specifically, I'm talking about the laughable "time-lapse" wipes used to shorten scenes where no apparent time has passed).

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#220 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:35 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:15 am
Did the Criterion LD have the Carringer stills/storyboard reconstruction of the original ending or am I confusing this with the book?
It had the script for the ending and a single still—the storyboards are cut off before the ending, the assumption being that the rest were either lost or Welles hadn't settled on an ending at that stage. Carringer's book has some additional stills, but the storyboards end at the same point (the car accident scene).

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#221 Post by CSM126 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:14 pm

Very happy about this. Ambersons is, obviously, a flawed film but I still like it quite a bit. Might dust off the laserdisc for one last time before this blu comes out. Even on that rickety old format, the beauty of this film shines… well, in the Welles portions anyway. The reshoots are lit all wrong and stick out, but that makes the artistry of the original sections all the more obvious.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#222 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:26 am

hearthesilence wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:05 pm
Wow, it kind of feels like more because there's quite a few scenes that were definitely effected...

So I took a few minutes and got an exact count: the total amount of non-Welles footage in Ambersons accounts for 9 minutes, 50 seconds out of the 88 minutes. Those fifty seconds belong to the shot of Eugene as he finishes writing his letter to Isabel then looks it over. The original scene began and stayed with Isabel reading the letter (in the released version, we join that original footage halfway through the scene). Since Joseph Cotten's voice-over runs throughout, as scripted by Welles, I don't find the new shot to be a detriment to the intention of the scene. That leaves nine minutes of re-shot footage that does alter Welles' original intentions.
hearthesilence wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:05 pm
Off the top of my head, the one Wise did...
While it has been commonly thought that Wise directed the re-shot bedroom scene between George and Isabel, the bedroom scene that Wise directed isn't in the released version. Welles requested Wise shoot a new bedroom scene to provide the necessary continuity to cover a large experimental cut of 15 minutes out of the middle-of-the-film prior to the first preview. Wise wasn't keen on the idea of cutting so much footage, but shot the scene as requested. Ultimately, most of the footage Welles had considered cutting was reinstated for the final released version making the Wise-directed scene obsolete. The bedroom scene that appears in the released version was shot after the initial previews by the film's assistant director Freddie Fleck, who handled the rest of the re-shoots as well. His name is the one on the daily production report for the shooting of the scene (whereas Wise is credited as "director" in the production report for the earlier version of the scene Welles had requested).

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#223 Post by aox » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:29 am

diamonds wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:31 am
The extensive Vanity Fair piece should have some of what you're looking for. It traces the copy that was sent to Brazil, how it may or may not have been destroyed, even has a tantalizing anecdote from a man who swears he found it in a mislabeled can and projected it.
Fantastic read. Thanks for posting.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#224 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:50 am

Roger Ryan wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:26 am
Those fifty seconds belong to the shot of Eugene as he finishes writing his letter to Isabel then looks it over. The original scene began and stayed with Isabel reading the letter (in the released version, we join that original footage halfway through the scene). Since Joseph Cotten's voice-over runs throughout, as scripted by Welles, I don't find the new shot to be a detriment to the intention of the scene.
Yeesh, isn't that where Joseph Cotten solemnly looks up and straight past the camera as his voiceover starts up? That was pretty detrimental to me, just flat out drippy.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#225 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:02 pm

So, Robert Wise has been blamed by most people all these years for the work of Fred Fleck (who seems never to have moved -- officially -- beyond being an assistant director....

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