Movie Review: The Magnificent Ambersons


The tape started with the usual notice, “The following film has been modified from its original version.” HA! That’s rich. Talk about ironic.

A wealthy Indianapolis family has a spoiled child and experiences scandal and financial ruin.

I didn’t realize that this took place in Indianapolis. Sure, there’s a newspaper towards the end of the film that has the city’s name but I don’t remember the film saying where this took place. With all the talk about the advent of cars, I would’ve assumed this would be in Detroit or even the classic car capital of the world, Auburn, IN. Nope.

To say that I hated the main character is an understatement; I detested him. He would’ve received several spankings if I were his father. I’m with the townspeople in that his comeuppance would come swiftly. I found no reason to sympathize with him.

Sad to say, I had trouble keeping track of everyone’s names. It’s another one of those “name-tag movies” where you want them to wear name-tags for one reason or another. Here, people looked too similar and dressed the same. Sure, it may have been the fashion but my mind had trouble paying attention to the names.

Is there anything good about the follow-up to Citizen Kane? The sets and art direction are very detailed, as the cinematography shows. At the same time, there’s too much detail. My eyes were giving me fits as I had no clue where the focal point was. That, and the contrast values seemed to blend in with each other. It may be that I saw this on tape but I doubt it.

The cuts to this film, I think, were a blessing in disguise. Rather than spend 144 minutes with these so-called “magnificent Ambersons”, it’s shortened to 88 minutes due to cuts. Orson Welles didn’t like the cuts made but had to go to Brazil to make another movie. Those cuts were burned. Thus, we are left with this, “modified from the original version”. At the same time, the ending is clumsy. The cuts may have made this better, but we’ll never know.

Give it a year or so and maybe my opinion will change.


1001 MYMSBYD selection

400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for both years

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