DVD REVIEW: The Complete Mr. Arkadin

The Criterion Collection
Movie ••• Picture/Sound •••• Extras •••••
Orson Welles's 1955 attempt to create a European counterpart to Citizen Kane is marred by badly miscast American costars and the producer's interference in postproduction. Nonetheless, Mr. Arkadin remains a fascinating failure, built around baroque imagery and some spectacular cameos (Michael Redgrave, Akim Tamiroff, Katina Paxinou). This three-disc set includes the 99-minute U.S. cut, the badly re-edited 98-minute British incarnation under the name Confidential Report, and a 105-minute "Comprehensive Version" recently assembled by European Welles scholars in accordance with the director's known intentions. Not too surprisingly, the new cut is more coherent and involving than either of the previous ones.

Images look as good as can be expected from a 50-year-old, extremely indie production. But detail is fine, even in deep-focus compositions and convincing shadows (though a few artifacts are visible). Sound effects seem a bit crisper in the new version, but dialogue is clear in all three cuts.

The set is loaded with extras: three 1951 BBC Harry Lime radiocasts with Welles (alas, the recordings are in poor condition), a scholarly commentary that's much stronger on analysis than production details, and interview segments with Welles biographers Simon Callow and Peter Bogdanovich that cover a lot of interesting territory. You also get alternate takes, rare footage of Welles directing, Spanish-language excerpts with different actresses, a 36-page booklet of essays, and a copy of the novel, attributed to Welles, which reads like a radio play and helps flesh out the characters. [NR] English, Dolby Digital mono; full frame (1.33:1); three dual-layer discs.

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