Sunday, 9 May 2010


The magnificence of the Ambersons is a shadow of what might have been, or so we have been led to believe. Mutilated beyond recognition, the director betrayed, a masterpiece destroyed, or so we are led to believe. I think we have to take a more realistic view. The Welles faction claims the above while the anti-Welles faction cites Welles' irresponsibility as the cause. The DVD has an extra in which a French critic gives a third, more reasoned explanation, that it was simply circumstance. I'm in the middle but think that Welles (and I'm a great admirer) bears a lot of responsibility although the new ending forced on the film by RKO is unforgiveable. But, all that taken into consideration, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is still a masterpiece - even at the ridiculous 88 minutes that we have. If we judge what is in front of us it is damn near perfect except for the final, horribly inappropriate, scene not directed by Welles, which betrays what goes before. If we do take into account the partisan battles surrounding the film then it remains a towering monument to Welles' gigantic talent that so much of his vision remains. It is mind-boggling good and in Agnes Moorehead it has one of the greatest performances by an actress in the history of Hollywood. Rating *****

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