BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE MAGNIFICENT WELLES

By • Oct 1st, 2007 •

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“So, did you really want to whip America into a Martian Invasion frenzy?” “What do you really have against poor William Randolph Hearst?” These are questions one might want to ask if they spent an evening with the late great Orson Welles.

Stage Direct, a Seattle based theatre company tries to make this possible with their video presentation THE MAGNIFICENT WELLES. Their 93-minute video is simply a taping of a one man performance by writer/producer Marcus Wolland. Wolland portrays 27 year old Orson Welles in 1942, waiting out the storm of two (at the time incomplete) important film projects in a Brazilian hotel. The film projects of course, are THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Welles’ second film for RKO, and in this writer’s mind, one of the most important, beautifully made films of wartime Hollywood) and IT’S ALL TRUE, his filmic contribution to the war effort. Wolland, who looks like a somewhat heavier version of 1940’s Welles, does a rather impressive job. He captures the mannerisms found in young Orson Welles, the same facial expressions Welles used in portraying Charles Foster Kane are imitated here. Welles is a tough character to play. He was charming, arrogant, ingenius and stubbornly idiotic all at the same time. That’s a handful for any actor. Here we see Welles engage in a telephone argument with RKO exec George Schaffer, dictate editing instructions to AMBERSONS’ editor, Robert Wise. He also reflects on his upbringing, and his explosive work on the stage and radio before highlighting Hollywood history. Fans of Orson Welles (I happen to be one) won’t get much new information out of this video. They already learned all the information contained here from documentaries and books on Welles and CITIZEN KANE. Film students just learning about KANE, TOUCH OF EVIL, and Welles’ contribution to the growth of film could find this a fun learning experience.

There’s something else interesting about this release. As I stated before, it is a videotape of a performance that was held before a live audience (you can occasionally hear the audience laugh at Wolland’s jokes) A trailer at the beginning of MAGNIFICENT WELLES reveals that Stage Direct, the theatre company, is marketing video recordings of their other stage presentations, as well. It allows usually struggling regional theatre companies to market their plays even further. Let’s see if this works.

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