Chris Morris writes this article in August 2001, just as the popularity of the relatively new home video format DVD was starting to gain popularity. Movie titles were released incrementally in this new all-digital format.
Morris writes that the popularity of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane has created a high demand for the film to be released to the new DVD video format. Warner Home had been working on a 60th anniversary release and it was planned for the 25 of September in that same year. This new release was widely expected to be visually and sonically ungraded from the previous releases to home video. Morris writes that Warner, in their attempts to rerelease Citizen Kane, had originally not been able to find a suitable quality source film. RKO’s original camera negatives had been burned in a 1980 vault fire and as a result had also hampered past efforts a restoration. The 1991 VHS release had featured the copy owned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, however this print had dirt and scratches on it, among other defects. Morris reports, however, that after patient and careful searching, Warner had found a new nitrate fine-grain print in a European archive and that this copy has offered better picture quality and served as an improved audio source. The improved audio quality is very important because the original score had a very high dynamic range. He also reports that the new DVD release would include an interview with Roger Ebert, a 1941 newsreel about the film’s premiere, and the documentary film of the Hearst-Welles conflict, The Battle Over Citizen Kane.
One might think that just like a personal computer user, large Hollywood movie studios would have countless backup copies of their master reels. This seems not to be the case. A fire at a single film vault destroyed RKO’s only master copy. Orson Welles was the recipient of the actual production negatives and his copy was also lost in a fiery accident in the 1970s. By re-mastering and fully digitizing the remaining high quality prints, the data can be stored in numerous locations very inexpensively and very safely. As we learned in class, nitrate has a propensity to catch on fire and is very dangerous in that respect. We also learned in class that Hollywood is usually very slow to adopt new media formats. DVD hit store shelves in mid-1997 yet this movie was released in late 2001, almost 4 years later. The studios might have an excuse in this case – the long and lucky search for a suitable master copy.
Monahan, Mark. "Music that makes a man a killer Bernard Herrmann's film scores spoke as loudly as any dialogue, says Mark Monahan." The Daily Telegraph 1 July 2006. 8 April 2008.
Mark Monahan writes about Mr. Bernard Herrmann’s musical career spanning from Citizen Kane in 1941 through Taxi Driver in 1976. Monahan asserts that creating music for motion pictures is an incredibly arduous task and that the people responsible for it are extraordinarily talented. He feels that cinema would be unimaginable if not for the fantastic and wild feelings created by film scores. Monahan writes that he considers Bernard Herrmann to be one of the leading film composers of the last 100 years. Herrmann, a Russian born immigrant attended NYU to study music and made his Broadway debut at the young age of 20. He began composing for CBS radio shows and this put him into contact with Orson Welles. Welles took Herrmann on for the film Citizen Kane, and thereby launched the composer’s long and successful scoring career. After Kane, Herrmann teamed with Hitchcock and was responsible for the musical scores of all the great Hitchcock films through the end of the 1960s. Monahan has much respect for Herrmann’s talent. He writes that, “Rather than merely setting the scene or complementing the action (though they do both magnificently), [Herrmann’s scores] virtually are the action, brilliantly elucidating the characters' gnarled inner lives.” He says that the opening scene of Citizen Kane (the ascending of Xanadu’s fence) is given “a sense of dread, regret and death of the soul…” Herrmann’s most famous musical passage is the shrieking violins of the Psycho’s shower scene. In his later career he works for French and American New Wave filmmakers.
The musical score to any film is one of the most psychologically defining aspects of the experience. The music, much like lighting, sets a mood. Before the audience even knows what will happen on screen, they can get a sense of what might happen just based on the musical foreshadowing. Herrmann brilliantly uses his musical score to set the mood and tone in Citizen Kane. In happy scenes such as those with the young Kane attending parties in his honor, the music is light and we think nothing of it. In more dramatic scenes such as the initial scene of Xanadu, the newsreel scenes, and the final scene of the film with the revelation of Rosebud, the music obviously takes a more dramatic and serious tone.
Leff, Leonard J. "Reading Kane." University of California Press; Film Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 10-21
In this article, critic Leonard J. Leff comments on the meaning of Rosebud.
Leonard Leff aims to examine and explain certain questions regarding Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. He writes that he wants to comment about the arranger of the images, the audience, and a method of reading the film that would allow one to understand his or her reactions to viewing the film and understand the meaning of what they are seeing. Leff begins by describing the methods of presentation of the character Charles Foster Kane by following the journey of Jerry Thompson, the newsreel reporter asked to discover the meaning of Kane’s last word “rosebud.” The history of Kane’s life is given as a summation of the experiences of those few people closest to him. Though Leff mentions the contributions of Kane’s second wife, Susan Alexander, and his long time companion Mr. Thatcher, he focuses on the revelations from Kane’s personal diary. From this point, the author moves his focus to the symbolic meaning of the sled called “Rosebud.” Does the sled give insight into Kane’s life? Does it help the audience understand the character? Can it be seen as a “missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle?”
Mr. Leff’s explanation of the meaning of the sled gives fascinating insight into Charles Kane’s persona. Rosebud is a sled. It is the sled that Kane was playing with on the day he was sent away from his home and his parents. Leff goes as far as to try to relate the sled as a symbol of Kane’s past – a symbol of his home before his great wealth. Leff writes of Kane’s reaction to leaving is mother, “From Charles’s sullen face, the film cuts to neither Thatcher nor the father. Instead, it dissolves to the boy’s sled. The sound of a train whistle far in the distance, connoting Kane and his guardian’s movement east…” Is the sled a huge puzzle that offers closure to the film? Leff argues that the film affirms this. The viewer is given a huge “rush” -- the timpani rolls, the music retards and crescendos, and the camera slowly zooms into “Rosebud.” The revelation may not solve anything because Mr. Thompson never makes the discovery, but the viewer is given a sense of closure.