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'Citizen Kane' At 70: Film School In A Box For The Serious Cinephile

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It's time again for our movie critic Bob Mondello's latest home-viewing recommendation. This week, Bob takes a look at a 70th anniversary Blu-Ray release of what many call the greatest film of all time: Citizen Kane.

Tragic, demanding, controversial, larger-than-life, and a mystery even to those who knew him. That's newspaperman Charles Foster Kane, and those terms could also be applied to theater genius Orson Welles, who produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in Citizen Kane when he was all of 25.

The extras in this boxed set (many of which were also in the standard DVD set released a decade ago) make it easy to watch and re-watch his performance, and the intricate jigsaw puzzle of a film it's in, first to revel in its storytelling, then to learn why cineastes love it so much. The geek-squad explanations are handled in two full-length commentaries — one by director Peter Bogdanovich, the other by critic Roger Ebert (both recorded for the 60th anniversary release).

Each of them dissects virtually every shot — think of it as a filmmaking class in a box. The Blu-ray set includes posters and storyboards, a reprint of a 16-page souvenir program from 1941, and even some Schwab's Pharmacy receipts for three cases of scotch. The receipts bear the initials O.W. (no doubt he required them for medicinal purposes while editing).

There's also a two-hour documentary recounting the panic Welles caused with his War Of The Worlds radio show (the event that got him a Hollywood contract), and also the war waged against the film by newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, who thought Kane (with some justification) was a personal slander.

The great filmmaker Robert Wise, who edited Kane when he was still a kid, says he saw the film a little differently. In retrospect, he tells an interviewer, the story — outsized, sad especially at the end, but brilliant — seemed as descriptive of Welles as it was of Hearst.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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