952 The Magnificent Ambersons

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Big Ben
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:54 pm
Location: Great Falls, Montana

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#251 Post by Big Ben » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:21 pm

I'm under the impression that The Trial, at least in the US is in the public domain. I saw it maybe ten years ago on a very poor DVD and it's probably my favorite Welles. But I'm unsure if it holds as much public interest as his other works.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#252 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:23 pm

Discussion of the Other Side of the Wind moved to its thread

User avatar
FrauBlucher
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
Location: Greenwich Village

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#253 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Nov 25, 2018 2:16 pm

The Ambersons are on backorder on Criterion's site. December 17 is listed for availability.

User avatar
FrauBlucher
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
Location: Greenwich Village

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#254 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:28 am

I just watched it and oh boy, is it sweet. The stuff inside the Amberson mansion looks phenomenal. There is some softness here and there, but for the most part the detail is excellent. The supplement that discusses the cinematography and the DPs on the film is very interesting and explains why the look varies throughout the film. Fans will be very happy with this release.

Glowingwabbit
Joined: Wed May 01, 2013 1:27 pm

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#255 Post by Glowingwabbit » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:51 am

I didn't pick it up this go around (going to wait until the Feb sale), but I rented the dvd from my library. I've only listened to the Rosenbaum/Naremore commentary so far but it's really great and just wanted to recommend checking it out. It's my favorite of their Welles commentaries thus far.

User avatar
FrauBlucher
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
Location: Greenwich Village

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#256 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:40 pm

The supplements are excellent. The history and deconstruction of Welles’ vision is fascinating. But the biggest offense is the ending. If that exact film, without the backstory was made today the critics would kill that ending. It doesn’t work and just shifts the tone so dramatically. It’s too bad. But still love the film.

Looking forward to what CForums’ Welles expert, Mr Ryan, thinks of the release.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#257 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:51 pm

I'm very pleased with how Criterion handled this title, from the transfer and supplements to the package design. I agree that there is some softness at times in the image quality, but the majority of the film looks spectacular. The level of detail is such that I am just now seeing things that I overlooked the (literally) dozens of times I've watched the film before, like the "Amberson Hotel" sign adorning the building in the background of the shot where George strikes the man with his switch while driving his buggy through town. The detail can work against one's suspension of disbelief as well - I can now make out the dolly track covered with carpeting in an attempt to camouflage it as George first enters Mrs. Johnson's house (crew members undoubtedly pulled the carpeting away as the camera continued tracking into the set)!

The supplements go into great depth covering aspects of production that I find fascinating, such as the various cinematographers who were brought in to replace the demoted Stanley Cortez. I was greatly impressed with Christopher Husted's analysis of the original edit's symmetry when it first appeared in the CD liner notes of the re-recording of Bernard Herrmann's score in 1990; that he was able to expand on those notes with a new visual essay is very welcome, and this supplement effectively demonstrates how the 131 minute version was structured without having to go on at great length. I was disappointed with Simon Callow's contribution. While his interview is entertaining and enthusiastic throughout, by the second half he begins indulging in a lot of pat proclamations about Welles not giving a second thought about Ambersons after leaving for Brazil. Callow's increasingly flippant remarks not only contradict existing documentation, but his own published work on the subject. His carelessness is really showing when he states erroneously that principal photography was completed on December 8th, 1941 when it is correctly established elsewhere on the disc that the initial shooting went on well into January, 1942.

Is there another Criterion booklet that has more essays devoted to a film than this one? Molly Haskell's is especially insightful, but I like them all. The design of the booklet is really ingenious: while it will recall a shooting script for most readers, for me it suggested the cutting continuity for the 131 min. edit which, like the booklet, has large "X"'s through all of the pages where footage will be deleted.

User avatar
jbeall
Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:22 am
Location: Atlanta-ish

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#258 Post by jbeall » Thu Dec 13, 2018 1:27 am

The studio-ordered ending aside, I loved this movie. Probably my Criterion release of the year.

Calvin
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:12 am

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#259 Post by Calvin » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:07 am

Can anybody confirm whether the print of Pampered Youth that is included is different to that on the laserdisc? Certainly, it would seem so as this Wellesnet article from early last year notes that:
Significant segments seen in the two reel Pathescope Two To One that aren't on the laserdisc are Eugene's disgrace, exterior shots of the Amberson mansion before the ball, an explanation of the passage of time and both Eugene and Isabel's widowhood, midshots of dancing and the Eugene/Isabel reunion and Georgie/Lucy meeting; then Georgie's turning Eugene away at the door, Major Amberson's money troubles and death, George's unsuccessful search for work and employment as ditch digger, his automobile accident, and a sequence leading up to the fire where Isabel's boarding house landlady admits Eugene and leaves her frying pan to burn while distracted by gossiping and eavesdropping.
All of which seem to be present on the version included on the Criterion Blu-Ray, so I may have answered my own question.

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#260 Post by Drucker » Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:34 pm

I’ve fallen woefully behind on my kevyip, am an unapologetic Welles fanboy, and never have been someone that goes through the entire contents of every Criterion edition. With that said, I found almost every last thing in this edition valuable and it’s definitely one of my favorite Criterion editions ever, and has allowed me to evaluate the film that I’ve seen several times before in a new way.

Despite having read both Carringer books, his commentary is very helpful. He pauses frequently to allow his points resonate on the screen, he doesn’t editorialize on what he feels to be the disappointing nature of the film (as he does in his books), and it provides a very helpful broad overview—the highlights of which get deeper treatment by others. A lot of McBride’s content is stuff he goes over in his most recent Welles book (What Ever Happened To?) and helpfully contradicts Simon Callow in some ways (per Roger’s earlier point).

After watching the amazing extra on how’s Hermann’s score was to mirror the themes of the film, I thought to myself…is this the greatest film ever? Is this actually Welles masterpiece? There are scenes and moments which had me convinced, notably with Agnes Moorehead. Her scene on the stairwell and her scene in the kitchen (the Welles-shot ones at least) are magnificent, and reach absolutely amazing places from an acting standpoint. I’ve had that boiler scene stuck in my head for a week now, and it couldn’t be more than a minute long. I have probably spent a too much time in my life fantasizing about what that original cut would look like…and ascribing a more perfect film to Ambersons than it is.

I suppose what pulls me away from that opinion, something really striking after revisiting Kane, is that even if the original film were to remain intact, I do think Carringer’s point (which really isn’t explored much in the blu-ray) that the film was overly miserable, and non-stop negative, is a strong argument.

The first hour of Citizen Kane breezes by in an instant. If nothing else, it is actually incredibly joyful. We get a brash young upstart to root for during a significant portion of it. Here’s a rich guy on OUR side that is funny, powerful, out for the little guy, and at a time, even remains modest. His downfall is so exceptional because of the way that first hour plays out.

But what about Ambersons? As much as I love Welles, and as much as I personally am sort of an old coot in my friends group, it’s harder to root for an era. It’s even harder than that to root for an era without illustrating that era’s rise and what made it great. Instead we are plopped down at its end and assured “this way of life is better, and people will miss it.” I don’t know that the film really ends up effectively making that point.

I have no doubt the original cut of Ambersons was a masterpiece, and assuredly better than what we are left with today. Based on what is left and what we can glean from historical evidence (the final boardinghouse scene) it’s probable that many of the scenes in this movie are or were the finest Welles ever created: a perfect mix of artistry and studio expertise. Nonetheless, as likeable as some of the Ambersons are, Tim Holt is surely not. There downfall occurs without a period of time for the audience to build up sympathy for them.

Maybe the final film is just too good for this world. It seems like it could just be a film that is far too intelligent and artistic for wide audiences to appreciate. But after a decent amount of time with this disc this past week, I’m actually more skeptical than ever it would have surpassed Kane.

User avatar
Noiretirc
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 6:04 pm
Location: VanIsle
Contact:

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#261 Post by Noiretirc » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:16 pm

I have never been able to watch this film, knowing what they did to Welles' work. I get the feeling that experiencing the imposed ending would make me even more furious.

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#262 Post by Drucker » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:41 pm

Much of what exists is among the best stuff Welles ever did. I would watch it if I were you!

User avatar
Noiretirc
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 6:04 pm
Location: VanIsle
Contact:

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#263 Post by Noiretirc » Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:07 pm

Well, it looks like this edition is the best thing we have towards approximating the film that Welles wanted to make, so I'm sure I will get this. But I expect to be amazed and furious at the same time.

User avatar
hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#264 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:46 pm

Compared to most Hollywood films of the day, I don't think the original cut would have been a substantial hit, if at all, but I don't think it would have been a bigger flop. It's certainly more bleak than most Hollywood films, especially the original version, but 1) it's not exactly the standard for bleakness compared to what else would come out around the world, and 2) it was already adapted into a radio show and it was a Pulitzer Prize winning book, so the expectation should have been there for something this dark.

Anyway, George may be arse, but one of the best things about the film is the "comeuppance" and I think I get what Welles and Carringer meant when they said it's a very Midwestern thing (being one myself). He starts off as a privileged shmuck and while I buy Lucy's love for him, he's totally undeserving of it. But he does actually love her, and when everything changes, he naturally and convincingly changes for the better (and this is especially true in the original cut, where we see him traumatized more by the family's changing fortunes) and by the end, he is thoroughly humbled and becomes the man that Lucy DOES deserve. Even with the original ending, that small bright spot is nothing to sneeze at.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#265 Post by movielocke » Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:49 am

hearthesilence wrote:He starts off as a privileged shmuck and while I buy Lucy's love for him, he's totally undeserving of it. But he does actually love her,
I don’t think he even remotely loves her, women are possessions to him and he delights in his power over them, notice the first thing he eagerly tells his aunt after his father dies is that he now has absolute power over her, and he turns it into a joke about courtship (because he’s so dumb about the interest in his mother), he exercises the same selfish possession oriented absolute power over his mother as well, and every iota of his behavior towards Lucy is equally despicable and done in an identical manner to his vile behavior towards the other two women in his life.

I rewatched this again thinking maybe it’d be improved from the vhs days I last saw it in fifteen years ago, and it’s certainly an amazing package Criterion put together, but this kind of story is one of my absolute least favorites and I think the story—and its attendant ethos and perspective—are all kind of shit, to the point I really loath the film, perhaps not so much as I hate the similarly vile the heiress, but it’s still a relatively tortuous and dull thing to sit through.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#266 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 14, 2019 1:16 am

I'm not a huge fan of this or the Heiress either, but "vile"?

User avatar
hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#267 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:26 pm

movielocke wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:49 am
...women are possessions to him and he delights in his power over them, notice the first thing he eagerly tells his aunt after his father dies is that he now has absolute power over her, and he turns it into a joke about courtship (because he’s so dumb about the interest in his mother), he exercises the same selfish possession oriented absolute power over his mother as well, and every iota of his behavior towards Lucy is equally despicable and done in an identical manner to his vile behavior towards the other two women in his life.
Again, this is why I said he was undeserving of her love and wrote of the eventual comeuppance.

I'll add one thing regarding the feelings he had for Lucy before his mother died and the feelings he retained for Lucy at the very end - given the humbling changes he's gone through, it's misguided to presume that the parameters remain exactly the same.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#268 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:28 pm

Since the studio did everything they could to diminish George's obnoxiousness throughout the film, the contrast between his earlier behavior and his more humbled nature later in the film is not as apparent. Also, since the order of the scenes were altered in the final quarter, we're "told" (via Welles' narration) of George's comeuppance after his change of behavior has already been showcased in two scenes, obscuring the change even more. While most of the criticism of RKO's interference has (rightly) been aimed at removing the subtext of the changes in the town that cause the Ambersons to lose their prominence, it's been less reported that George's character arc was greatly hampered as well.

I like how De Palma (in the 2015 documentary) notes that he should have made the character of Sherman McCoy (played by Tom Hanks) in The Bonfire of the Vanities as obnoxious as Welles made George Minafer, but De Palma thought he would have wrecked his career following through on that!

User avatar
hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#269 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:46 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:28 pm
Since the studio did everything they could to diminish George's obnoxiousness throughout the film, the contrast between his earlier behavior and his more humbled nature later in the film is not as apparent. Also, since the order of the scenes were altered in the final quarter, we're "told" (via Welles' narration) of George's comeuppance after his change of behavior has already been showcased in two scenes, obscuring the change even more. While most of the criticism of RKO's interference has (rightly) been aimed at removing the subtext of the changes in the town that cause the Ambersons to lose their prominence, it's been less reported that George's character arc was greatly hampered as well.
"Obnoxious" feels too broad to do it justice - he comes off as more twisted and complex. I'd have to read Carringer's analysis again, but didn't he talk a good deal about a strong Oedipal subtext in the original script (linking it to a "Hamlet" reference that was also cut out), one that he argued was applicable to Welles himself? I hope my memory's mistaken, because I think the theory is overdone, but in the long cut, George's power play over his mother's relationships probably came off as fairly disturbing and harrowing.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#270 Post by movielocke » Tue Jan 15, 2019 2:04 am

domino harvey wrote:I'm not a huge fan of this or the Heiress either, but "vile"?
You’re right, too much hyperbole, probably because I’m stealing myself for rapturous excitement at its inevitable announcement. It’s more I find that world toxic, and it taints my perception.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#271 Post by Roger Ryan » Tue Jan 15, 2019 1:52 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:46 pm
...I'd have to read Carringer's analysis again, but didn't he talk a good deal about a strong Oedipal subtext in the original script (linking it to a "Hamlet" reference that was also cut out), one that he argued was applicable to Welles himself? I hope my memory's mistaken, because I think the theory is overdone, but in the long cut, George's power play over his mother's relationships probably came off as fairly disturbing and harrowing.

Carringer's essay was entitled "Oedipus in Indianapolis", so, yes, the author found a strong Oedipal subtext! To be fair, the Oedipal angle is absolutely part of the story and is present in Tarkington's novel even if not directly acknowledged as such. But I agree that Carringer's theory goes overboard, especially in trying to tie in Welles' supposedly conflicted feelings for his mother (he was nine when she died) to explain why he never staged a version of Hamlet nor performed in the play! In the essay, it's suggested that Welles deliberately tried to destroy Ambersons when he realized that the initial cut exposed his own Oedipal feelings. There is no evidence for this. Despite Carringer's claim that Welles demanded footage be cut that emphasized the Oedipal aspect of the story, very little of the deleted footage was colored by this. Certainly, the one scene that comes closest to showing the uncomfortable relationship between George and his mother (the exquisite death bed scene) has remained in the film. It would also be the most personal scene for Welles since he last saw his own mother on her deathbed, and he never indicated the scene should be cut.

Also, you're right - "Obnoxious" is too broad; I was using the term to reflect how the studio and certain members of the preview audience felt about the character of George. But the story does demand that the character be, essentially, unlikable, much like Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil who ultimately gains our sympathy without us ever admiring him. Other Welles characters, from Kane to Jake Hannaford, may have worst flaws than George Minafer, but they have a charming side that makes the ugliness more heartbreaking.

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#272 Post by Drucker » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:31 pm


User avatar
hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#273 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:12 pm

Jesus, this is a pretty Herculean effort. Just skimming it now, but it looks like he even fabricated stills from lost shots using existing materials via Photoshop. (Looking at the lost ending - Moorehead's face looks like it was duplicated from the same still for several re-created shots meant to portray different angles.)

User avatar
Finch
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:09 pm
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#274 Post by Finch » Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:06 am

The Egan site is a major accomplishment, I literally spent the entire day on it, reading the script and interviews. I then rewatched the film in the 4k resto. The most egregious trim for me is the shortening of Major Amberson's speech and specifically the point at which it occurs. Generally, I find Wise's editing gives the film little breathing space. And if length was such a concern, RKO should have accepted that the tacked on ending does little to lift the gloom and doom of the entire 80+ minutes previously and ended it a few minutes earlier on Georgie in his mother's bedroom. I'd kill to see the two porch sequences, the boiler scene and the ball scene in their original length. And of course the boarding house!

I also listened to Hermann's score on Youtube of which at best half an hour survives in the release version, intercut or replaced with the dreck Roy Webb composed. Can't blame him for wanting to have his name taken off the film. Track 19 and 20 of the original Hermann score is some of the creepiest and most haunting music I've ever heard. I

Should the rough cut surface one day, I'd love to see another edition put out with three different edits: 88 min theatrical, 131 min rough cut and a Touch of Evil-style reconstruction of the 117 minute edit.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#275 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:19 am

Ambersons is the current discussion topic in the Film Club. Come over and share your thoughts.

Post Reply