Also known as: The Lost Films of Orson Welles (UK TV title) Release Date: October, 1995 (Chicago International Film Festival) Directed by: Orson Welles, Vassili Silovic, Oja Kodar Written by: Orson Welles, Vassili Silovic, Roland Zag Music by: Simon Cloquet-Lafollye Cast: Orson Welles, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Charles Gray, Jonathan Lynn, Oja Kodar
Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA), La Cinquieme Boa Filmproduction Ag Zurich, 88 Minutes
When Orson Welles died in the mid-’80s, he left behind some unfinished work.
None of it really saw the light of day until the ’90s when his creative and life partner Oja Kodar started compiling these works together and teamed up with other creatives in an effort to release them in some form. This is one of those releases.
This first debuted in 1995 and it’s really an anthology of unfinished films. Although, it feels more like of an anthology of shorts due to it being a varied mix of stuff, mostly little segments or scenes.
Overall, this isn’t all that cohesive and plays like a video mixtape of random Welles ideas that were put to film but never truly realized or massaged into what they could’ve been. That certainly doesn’t mean this is bad but it feels more like peering into his creative process and his experimentation. Honestly, I’m not sure what his plan was, if any.
I guess it’s hard to interpret what’s here but it’s still entertaining and the man was a fucking legend.
I can see people that are unfamiliar with Welles or who don’t already appreciate his work not digging this film at all. That’s fine. But for those who are intrigued by the man’s creativity and charm, it’s a fun look into what could’ve been.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries and films, many of which have already been reviewed here.
Also known as: Hoax (original script title), ?, Fakes, Fakes!!, About Fakes (working titles), Truth and Lies (alternative title), Fraude (Spain) Release Date: September, 1973 (Spain – San Sebastián Film Festival) Directed by: Orson Welles, François Reichenbach, Gary Graver, Oja Kodar Written by: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar Music by: Michel Legrand Cast: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Edith Irving, Francois Reichenbach
Les Films de l’Astrophore, SACI, Janus Film und Fernsehen, 89 Minutes
“What we professional liars hope to serve is truth. I’m afraid the pompous word for that is “art”.” – Orson Welles
People have debated for quite some time whether this is a documentary or itself a forgery. After seeing it, I think it’s a little bit of both while also just being a really cool art piece that Orson Welles left us with to cap off his filmmaking career.
The film examines two notable forgers. One man makes fake Picasso paintings, the other wrote a fraudulent biography about Howard Hughes.
I loved the opening sequence of this scene, which set the stage for the film’s story and tone, as Welles did magic tricks for children while describing how magicians were actually actors.
It’s actually kind of hard to describe what the film is, though. While there seems to be some truth that this is based on, the movie begins to take some creative and narrative liberties, as it takes the viewer down a strange, jovial and entertaining rabbit hole. Before you realize what’s happening, you’re lost in this deep well of Welles’ creativity.
Some describe this as a film essay but it’s definitely a real work of art and it displays how “outside the box” Welles’ thinking and creativity were.
What really grabbed me with this film was the style of editing. Welles always did things before the rest of his contemporaries caught on (or stole from him) and this movie is no different. He has these stylish, quick edits that move the narrative along pretty quickly and with that, make this a much more energetic documentary than what was the standard in the early 1970s.
I also love his style of narration and how he acts out scenes the way he does as a presenter. Welles was never short on charisma and charm and despite his older age, he hasn’t lost it. Frankly, I could watch the guy talk about anything for hours and he’d still make it entertaining even if the subject matter wasn’t very interesting.
F for Fake is an unusual but really original film. It makes you ponder its legitimacy but that’s also the point. Welles was a clever guy and himself a true magician of his preferred art form. In the end, does the legitimacy even matter, as long as you were entertained?
I guess that’s a question for modern times, as so many people take everything at face value, verbatim, with no real desire to look for the actual truth. But then again, Welles was always well ahead of his time.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: Orson Welles’ other pictures.
Release Date: July 9th, 1942 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Orson Welles Written by: Orson Welles Based on:The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington Cast: Joseph Cotton, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, Erskine Sanford, Richard Bennett, Don Dillaway, Orson Welles (narrator)
“Something had happened. A thing which, years ago, had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town, and now it had come at last; George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance. He got it three times filled, and running over. But those who had so longed for it were not there to see it, and they never knew it. Those who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him.” – Narrator
While this is considered to be one of Orson Welles’ all-time classic motion picture masterpieces, I was somewhat underwhelmed by it.
The main reason is because it felt like it needed more meat and potatoes. The story was a bit skeletal and I felt like I needed to know the characters on a deeper level to be more invested into the story and their lives.
However, this problem with the film isn’t really the fault of Welles, as his original cut was 148 minutes, not the 88 minutes that this ended up being. Had this film had that extra hour, I think it would’ve been a much richer, more intimate and more complete body of work that could’ve possibly lived up to the iconic status of Welles’ previous film, Citizen Kane.
Still, most professional film critics today seem to have a very positive view on this film and apart from the issue I already mentioned, it’s easy to see why.
The film is absolutely stunning and beautiful. This “magnificent” world looks authentic and lived in. The sets are perfect but even more than that, the lighting, cinematography, shot framing and general mise-en-scène are stupendous. But coming off of Citizen Kane, Welles’ had already proven himself as an absolute maestro of cinematic craftsmanship and artistry. This honestly just adds even more credibility to the man’s legendary, iconic status as a filmmaker and visionary.
Additionally, the picture is superbly acted with Welles’ regular star, Joseph Cotton, taking the lead but also having solid assists from Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins and others. Also, Welles’ narration adds an extra level of magic to the film.
All those solid positives aside, though, it still suffers from a lack of depth and context. The film is full of many characters, all of whom are interesting, but only a few really get explored at length. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Welles’ intent but the finished film is somewhat diminished but this.
Ultimately, this is still a very good, almost great, motion picture. But it also makes me yearn for what could have been had Welles’ intended vision actually made it to the silver screen.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other early Orson Welles pictures.
Release Date: August 30th, 2018 (Venice premiere) Directed by: Morgan Neville Music by: Daniel Wohl Cast: Orson Welles (archive footage), Alan Cumming (host, narrator), Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Peter Jason, Cybill Shepherd, Frank Marshall, Beatrice Welles, John Huston (archive footage), Dennis Hopper (archive footage)
Tremolo Productions, Royal Road Entertainment, Netflix, 98 Minutes
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a pretty fascinating documentary but then Orson Welles, the film’s subject, is an immensely fascinating guy.
This tells the story of Welles’ attempt at trying to complete what would have been his final film: The Other Side of the Wind. However, the picture, despite Welles’ best efforts and years spent filming footage, would not see the light of day.
Beyond that, this explores why it never materialized into a final, complete form. It looks at Welles’ rocky relationship with the Hollywood elite but also shows how passionate he was about the project, which seemed to be ever evolving and not something that had any sort of definitive framework.
More than anything, this was a great documentary simply because it showed us an intimate look into Welles’ life and career at its final stages. He was a lovable, charismatic guy that remained somewhat enigmatic till the end.
It’s also worth seeing for any Welles’ fan, as it does show a lot of the footage that was filmed for The Other Side of the Wind. And even if you don’t get a clear understanding of what the film was to be, you do at least come to understand, as much as a mortal can, Welles’ creative process and motivation in making it.
This is a stupendous documentary film on the man and his brand of filmmaking. And since it is on Netflix, those with the streaming service should probably check it out.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other documentaries on Orson Welles and filmmaking from his era.
Release Date: August 8th, 1986 Directed by: Nelson Shin Written by: Ron Friedman Based on:The Transformers by Hasbro, Takara Music by: Vince DiCola Cast: Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Orson Welles, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Scatman Crothers, John Moschitta Jr., Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta, Clive Revill
Toei Animation, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, Hasbro, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 84 Minutes
“Megatron must be stopped… no matter the cost.” – Optimus Prime
I’ve been meaning to revisit this for awhile, as I’ve also wanted to review the television series seasons after the movie. However, my DVD was missing and I just found it under my DVD shelf. It could’ve been there for years.
Anyway, having dusted this off, the 20th Anniversary Edition, I fired it up and gave it a watch. Man, it’s been too long and it doesn’t matter that I have nearly every line of dialogue still memorized, because every time I see this, it still feels like the first time.
I love this movie and it’s definitely the better film between it and Hasbro’s other major motion picture: G.I. Joe: The Movie. This was also the only one to get a theatrical release, as the backlash this film received, as well as it under performing, made them re-think their strategy.
However, the backlash and criticism was stupid and I wrote about it here.
Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that the franchise’s primary hero was killed off in the first act of the film. In fact, it gave this film much more weight than an episode of the cartoon could have. It also paved the way for a new line of toys and characters, which is really what this franchise was designed for.
For fans of the animated show, this movie was larger than life. It took these beloved characters and their universe and threw them up on the big screen and gave audiences a story that was worth that larger piece of real estate.
Now the plot isn’t perfect and the film has a few pacing issues but the pros far outweigh the cons and Transformers has never been cooler than it was with this movie.
The animation is done in the same style as the television show except it’s much better and the film looks stupendous. Honestly, it still looks great and it has held up really well, even with modern CGI and computer programs doing most of the heavy lifting.
Transformers: The Movie still feels like a living, breathing work of art. It’s an animated film of the highest caliber from an era that was stuffed full of so much fantastic pop culture shit.
That being said, there wasn’t an animated film that I appreciated and enjoyed as much as this one when I saw it. Looking at it now, I still feel the same way, other than a handful of Japanese animes that I discovered later.
Sure, this is no Akira but for something produced by an American company, it’s light years ahead of its domestic competition. Hell, I even prefer it over the best Disney movies of the ’80s.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the original Transformers television series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
Also known as: Martians!!! (working title) Release Date: April 27th, 1990 Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson Written by: Patrick Read Johnson, Scott Lawrence Alexander Music by: David Russo Cast: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Ariana Richards, Gregg Berger, Fred Applegate, Wayne Alexander, J. J. Anderson, Patrika Darbo, Tonya Lee Williams, Tony Cox, Orson Welles (voice – archive footage)
Silver Screen Partners IV, Smart Egg Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, 100 Minutes
“Look, when a vastly superior alien culture comes all this way to take over your world, certain basic laws of planetary conquest apply. For example, when someone points a Quad Vectored Hypo Thermic Cosmo Blaster at you, it’s a fair bet you are about to become toast.” – Giggywig, “Will you please sit down and be quiet?” – Mrs. Vanderspool, “[Mrs. Vanderspool is rather overweight] Or perhaps in your case, a whole loaf of toast!” – Giggywig
Some movies just don’t age well. This is one of them.
Granted, I was a kid when I saw this and even though I loved it when I saw it in the theater and then on VHS, a dozen times, it was always a cheesy and goofy movie.
That being said, I still found the movie entertaining enough to sit through for 100 minutes and I loved the practical effects, especially in regards to the animatronics of the Martians.
The story sees a small group of Martians miss the fleet going to war. While searching for the fleet’s signal, they intercept a broadcast from Earth, falsely interpreting that as a news report that the Martians have invaded their insignificant neighboring planet. So these Martians head to Earth to help an invasion that isn’t actually happening.
I can’t quite call this an outright parody, even though it’s an obvious homage to alien invasion science fiction like War of the Worlds, which is actually the broadcast that they perceived to be a legitimate news report in the same vein that many humans did in 1938.
This is almost a stoner comedy for kids but without the drugs. It kind of reminds me of 1986’s Howard the Duck in a lot of respects. I’m also one of the few people on Earth that like that movie, even though George Lucas has since disowned it.
While the film does have a plot, it’s a pretty simple one and the majority of the movie is just a series of humorous gags and jokes with a lot of crude, juvenile humor. You know, the best kind of humor from the best time that kind of humor existed.
I really like Royal Dano in this and I feel like that guy doesn’t get enough credit. He’s a solid and fully committed character actor that, at the very least, brightens any production he’s ever been a part of.
Additionally, I really connected with Ariana Richards in this. She’s most famous for being the young girl in Jurassic Park but, as a kid, I connected with her love of aliens and science fiction. The fact that she spends 75 percent of the film dressed like a xenomorph from the Alien franchise made my day back in 1990 and it’s still kind of cool. I also really enjoyed the little kid dressed like a duck the whole movie, who only removed his duck bill for the film’s big finale.
This is bizarre and borderline corny but I wouldn’t call it a waste of time. It was a decent way of wasting 100 minutes. I don’t think I’ll watch it again in the near future, or ever, but it was fun revisiting all these years later, even if it didn’t live up to my memories of it.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: other juvenile sci-fi comedies of the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Also known as: Confidential Report (UK) Release Date: June 27th, 1955 (Barcelona premiere) Directed by: Orson Welles Written by: Orson Welles Based on: original radio scripts by Ernest Bornemann, Orson Welles from The Lives of Harry Lime Music by: Paul Misraki Cast: Orson Welles, Robert Arden, Paola Mori, Akim Tamiroff, Michael Redgrave
Filmrosa/Cervantes Films/Sevilla, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes (Spanish version), 95 Minutes (public domain version), 98 Minutes (TCM print), 99 Minutes (Corinth version), 106 Minutes (The Comprehensive Version – The Criterion Edit)
“You are simply a fool. I will not ask you your price, because you have nothing to sell. But, still, I’ll make you an offer. I am going to give you something to sell. And, then, I will pay you for it. Come on. You have tried to threaten me with a secret that does not exist. Now, I will make you a present of a real one. The great secret of my life.” – Gregory Arkadin
Mr. Arkadin is an Orson Welles movie that has eluded me until now. While I’ve known of its existence since I was studying Welles in my high school film studies class, I knew that it was a film that had a half dozen different edits, lots of missing pieces and it wasn’t really a complete body of work.
It’s not quite a lost film, as a 95 minute version of the film has existed in the public domain for quite some time, but much of it was lost and even with the more recent Comprehensive Version, we still don’t have an edit of the film that is Orson Welles’ complete and realized vision.
The genesis of this film is pretty interesting though, as the story was adapted from a few episodes of the radio series The Lives of Harry Lime. Fans of Welles probably already know that he played the character of Harry Lime in Carol Reed’s film-noir masterpiece, The Third Man.
Additionally, Welles once referred to this film as the “biggest disaster” of his life. This was because he lost creative control after missing an editing deadline, which then led to the film’s producer taking over and eventually releasing several different edits of the picture. The multiple edits created a lot of confusion and none of the released versions of the film were done so with the approval of Welles.
The Comprehensive Version, which is the edition that I watched and am reviewing here was made by taking pieces from the multiple versions of the film and trying to re-edit them into a form that makes the most narrative sense. However, the film still doesn’t feel whole and it isn’t.
That being said, it’s kind of difficult to review a film that isn’t complete and ultimately, wasn’t a fully realized concept brought to life by the artist that created it.
But you can still see how good it was by seeing some of these segments come to life. Welles employed great cinematography and one can’t deny that the film looks good and consistent with the level of visual storytelling that his movies were known for.
It’s also finely acted, even if some moments might not feel as coherent as they should. That’s not the fault of the actors, that’s the fault of the producer and editor. Well, at least they should take the blame based off of their involvement in making a chopped up and messy version of what this was intended to be.
It’s sad that this film didn’t get to be seen in its best form. The most recent form that exists is seemingly the best and it is still watchable but it just makes me wonder how different Welles’ version would have been. Additionally, for those that don’t know the full story behind this film, how would they see it? As a bad movie, a confusing one or even as an example of Welles not being on his A-game?
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: Orson Welles’ other noir-esque pictures.
Release Date: June, 1968 Directed by: François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif Written by: Maurice Bessy, François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Pierre Vaneck (narrator)
Orson Welles has always fascinated me. Well, at least since I learned about him extensively in my high school film studies course.
Luckily, there are a ton of biographies and documentaries about the man and his work.
This documentary is unique though, as it was made for French television in the ’60s. I guess it didn’t actually air and was sort of lost to time and only resurfaced after being included in a Criterion Collection featuring some of Welles’ work.
The short film doesn’t play like a standard biographical documentary, though. It really just follows Welles around a bit, talking about his struggles in getting his art made, while also editing in some clips of Welles interviews.
This is a pretty up close and personal peek into Welles’ life at the time that this was made and honestly, it feels kind of like a time capsule.
While I wouldn’t call this a spectacular piece or the best of the many Welles documentaries, it is still worth a look for those who feel like they may want to see the man, as himself, more intimately.
I also couldn’t find a trailer for this short ’60s documentary, probably because one doesn’t exist, so I instead posted one of my favorite Welles scenes of all-time.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries, which there are plenty of.
Release Date: October 11th, 2004 Directed by: Frederick Baker Written by: Frederick Baker Cast: John Hurt (narrator)
Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes
The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.
So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.
This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.
What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.
This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.
Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with:The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.
Also known as: The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (original title), Orson Welles’ Othello (Germany) Release Date: November 27th, 1951 (Turin premiere) Directed by: Orson Welles Written by: Orson Welles Based on:Othello by William Shakespeare Music by: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, Alberto Barberis Cast: Orson Welles, Micheál Mac Liammóir, Suzanne Cloutier, Robert Coote
“Oh beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” – Iago
Othello is one of my favorite plays by William Shakespeare and over the years I’ve seen several adaptations of it. I have to say though, this one is probably my favorite.
While it does alter the story somewhat, the gist of the story is here. I just feel like it’s condensed with some alterations just to keep it at a reasonable running time. But it was also filmed in segments over several years, so the pace of the production could’ve also had an effect on the finished product and the creative liberties it took.
But I think that Orson Welles truly respected the material and tried to do the best adaptation he could. He certainly didn’t fail and the end result is pretty exceptional.
Although, Orson Welles was a true filmmaking auteur and a remarkable actor. So whether he is behind the camera or in front of it, it’s near impossible not to be captivated on some level.
While this isn’t as famous as his pictures Citizen Kane or The Magnificent Ambersons, it employs a lot of what he learned on those films.
Welles is a maestro of mise-en-scène and he goes to great lengths in his shot framing, cinematography and lighting to make something so rich and alluring. Hell, just the opening sequence of robed silhouettes walking for five minutes in high contrast chiaroscuro is visually striking and sets the tone for the narrative, as well as the ocular allure.
Welles plays Othello and while in modern times white actors playing roles in blackface is considered highly offensive, it was a product of its day when this was made. That doesn’t make it right but for anyone trying to adapt Othello, this is a challenge that they had to deal with. And it wasn’t because there weren’t talented black actors, it’s due to the fact that there had to be interracial exchanges of romance, which wasn’t allowed by Hollywood in 1951.
In fact, 1957’s Island In the Sun is said to be the film with the first interracial kiss but it actually isn’t. The kisses that were shot were edited out and the filmmakers only gave viewers a passionate dance and a romantic embrace. The first actual interracial kiss didn’t come until 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and even then, it was obscured and shown in reflection.
The point is, Welles’ Othello predates Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by 16 years. Had Welles cast a black actor, this is a real issue he would have had to deal with in how the picture was filmed and ultimately, in how it would have been received by audiences and within his own industry, who were still not willing to get past their own bigotry.
I think that the point of the Othello story is its examination of racism. Regardless of how Welles had to present his vision, the film still carries that message and frankly, it’s films like this that helped eventually open some of the doors in Hollywood. I think that Welles knew this and he acted out the role of Othello with real passion. And it’s hard to deny the level of craftsmanship he put into the film as the visionary behind it.
Besides, it was Welles himself who wrote in a 1944 issue of Free World magazine that, “Race hate must be outlawed.” He would also go on to star alongside Charlton Heston (in brownface) in 1958’s Touch of Evil, a film-noir dealing with racial tensions in a California/Mexico border town.
Getting back to the film itself, I’d say that the only thing that somewhat hinders the picture is the rest of the cast. It’s not that they are bad or incapable but next to Welles, they seem out of their depth and overpowered. While Welles certainly won’t downplay his performance, his best films are well cast with other players who can hang with him and enhance his scenes. For instance, the aforementioned Charlton Heston, as well as frequent collaborator Joseph Cotton and his wife of four years, Rita Hayworth.
Now while I feel that the pace and running time were fine, I was actually so into this that I wouldn’t have minded if Welles took this motion picture to the three hour mark. I think it would have made the production more difficult than it already was but with Othello, he crafted a silvery and majestic film that carried a strong, worthwhile message.
It does what it sets out to do within 90 minutes, though. So I’ll take it and appreciate it.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other Orson Welles films, specifically Macbeth and Chimes at Midnight.