RKO 281

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

A Golden Globe winner for the “Best Picture made for TV” is one honor that is richly deserved for the new, HBO original movie “RKO 281”. RKO, the studio responsible for bringing us the movie in question, Citizen Kane, was the studio’s 281st movie…hence the name of the movie. While it’s true that HBO has been doing nothing short of an outstanding job in the original movie market for years, they have also put out their share of award-winning television series (Sex and the City and The Sopranos are two of thier current gems).

Mounting an all-star cast, RKO 281mananges to tell the story of how Citizen Kane, widely accepted as the best movie ever made, almost never made it to the screen. The story opens when Orson Wells (Liev Schreiber) is just 24 years old, about the time he was starting to make Citizen Kane. Already highly respected as a prodigical director, Wells was offered and expected to film the movie adaption to his famous “War of the Worlds” radio stint. Instead, he convinced the RKO studio to let him shoot this movie. With help from his friend (who came out of his alcoholic shell to help write) Herman Mankiewics (John Malkovich), they collaborated on what was to become known as “Citizen Kane”. Now I personally have never seen Citizen Kane, but I want to more than ever. Evidently, Kane was more of a personal attack on media press giant, William Randolph Hearst (played to a tee by James Cromwell). The names were changed and some shots altered, but when it came right down to it, it had Hearst written all over it. The film (Citizen Kane) also has several anti-sematic undertones in it, which scared the owners of all the other major studios, who were evidently all Jewish. With Fox, Universal, Warner, Paramount and Disney suddenly pooling their money to buy up every print of the film, this was all the sudden not a laughing matter. Still, the film got made despite all the efforts of others.

RKO 281 has endless possibilites as a trailblazer behind dozens of potential storytellers. If the story behind this movie is so interesting, imagine if they made a movie like this for all the AFI 100 films! Mostly due to the cast, which consists of such heavyweights as John Malkovich, Roy Scheider and James Cromwell, it’s almost impossible not to have a hit movie. Though this probably doesn’t happen much anymore, the battle over to make a film or not to make a film is always an issue. If you’re a fan of Citizen Kane, this has some very keen insight into the genius of Orson Wells and if you’re not a fan, then just sit back and enjoy a quality movie…

Video: How does it look?

Shot for television, but shown in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen! The picture quality of RKO 281 stands right up with a major studio release in terms of quality. Colors are very bright, but muted a bit to deal with the date of the film and detail is razor sharp. The only thing that I noticed was a bit of edge enhancement, which seemed a bit “fuzzy” to me. Otherwise, it’s a near perfect transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

Also a suprise, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Though mostly surround in nature the 5.1 track does have a few places where it can shine. Dialogue is clean with no distortion and surround effects, what few there are, are used with great effect.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Not much here, there are some very informative cast and crew bios, but that’s about it. With the top notch effort that HBO usually puts into their DVD’s, this would have been a place to really show their stuff. Still, the disc is well worth the money, and if nothing else is worth a reatal.

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