The advantage of using IMAX technology in a film of this nature is that the viewer can more easily appreciate the awe-inspiring architectural treasures that influenced the making of San Simeon, William Randolph Hearst's "c... more »astle." This 40-minute film also includes stunning aerial footage of the castle itself and the California coastline it overlooks. It isn't, however, for the hardcore architecture aficionado or Citizen Kane fan, on the hunt for inside dope on the real Xanadu (Charles Foster Kane's baroque fortress in Orson Welles's classic). The events from Hearst's life that inspired the design of San Simeon, such as a trip to Europe with his mother, are re-created with actors. The costumes look authentic and dialogue is kept to a minimum, but these are fairly static tableaux. Photographs and silent film footage document the building of the castle and the guests (Clarke Gable, Charlie Chaplin, and such) fortunate enough to enjoy its pleasures, such as swimming, horseback riding, and feasts in La Grande Casa. However, recordings or readings from books and letters might have helped to bring this material to life. This is a broad look at an architectural wonder that lies somewhere between beauty and kitsch. Although the film isn't billed as a biography of "The Chief," a more personal approach might have made for a more compelling feature, but probably wouldn't have utilized IMAX technology so well. Special features include Web links and trailers for four other IMAX features. --Kathleen Fennessy« less
"The misleading title of this DVD borders on outright fraud. The majority of this whopping 38-minute film is a re-enactment of Hearst's childhood told in a style appropriate for kindergartners. After 20 minutes, we adults awaken from our slumber to see actors playing Hearst and Julia Morgan pantomiming discussion about the castle while the insipid voice-over drones on. The final few minutes of this turkey re-enact a weekend at San Simeon in the most irritating way possible. Cameras sweep briskly through a few rooms of the monumental castle without pause or significant comment, as if this brief part of the movie were just a trivial afterthought.A disaster, an embarrassment, and a major disappointment. Avoid, avoid, avoid."
Did not show much of Hearst Castle
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The film talks mostly about Hearst than Hearst Castle. It is a very short film (only 38 minutes) and less than 8 minutes were used to show the Castle. If you expect to tour the castle, you will be greatly disapponted."
A Tour of the Castle is not the Focus
Rebecca Johnson | Washington State | 12/05/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for a detailed tour of the Hearst Castle, this DVD will be slightly disappointed. What you might enjoy is the story leading up to the building of the castle, although far too much time is spent on the details and far too little time is spent on the glorious castle.
While there are quite a few black and white photos, the only areas this DVD really focuses on is the swimming pool, dining hall, one or two main rooms and one bathroom. Yes, this is very sad for anyone who was dreaming of a tour of San Simeon, as I was.
The "aerial footage" is similar to seeing a beautiful woman 5 miles down a beach. Look, they just don't get close enough for you to fully appreciate the castle.
Now, I must say, the trailers for the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Hawaii and "Whales" looked absolutely stunning. I will definitely take a look at all those movies.
The one to three star votes are unfortunately very accurate. I'll give them a three stars for effort, but I'd like to give them one star for the disappointment I felt at not really seeing much of the castle.
Look, if you are just interested in the events leading up to the building of the castle, this might be a good choice. If you are looking for a movie to watch while you drink a cup of tea, this movie will at least keep you company.
Personally, I'd rather be swimming in that amazing pool. Now there is something to write home about and someone does. The swimming pool is perhaps the most interesting part of this movie. Don't blink. You might miss it.
~The Rebecca Review"
Gary Peterson | San Diego, California USA | 07/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
Recently, my wife and I took a short vacation break and visited the central California coast staying in San Simeon. Unfortunately, the road to the north was closed due to a wildfire near Big Sur. Cambria was open and raking in the tourist dollars. The highlight of the trip was our visit to the Hearst Castle where we took tour #1 (deemed best for first-time visitors).
I had heard of the Hearst Castle, of course, but I was still overwhelmed by the scale and magnitude of the place. The architecture, art and landscaping all overpowered my senses. No matter what you might have read or heard or seen, you just have to visit this place to experience the awesome magnitude. Our basic tour was only the beginning. Four other tours were available for those who can't get enough or those who want to come back for repeat visits. The State Park management, by the way, was absolutely first rate, so a return visit is a pleasant thought.
As a part of the tour, visitors could view a movie (this DVD) in a large-screen theater and the DVD was for sale as a remembrance. The movie was quite interesting and very well done, as I would expect of things associated with the National Geographic Society. It outlined something of the history of the Hearst family and especially of William Randolf Hearst's boyhood experiences of visiting Europe with his mother. The movie also chronicled Hearst's collaboration with architect/artist/civil engineer Julia Morgan as they attempted to construct something to rival the magnificent architectural wonders of Europe placed in a central California setting. Old photographic and movie clippings, including shots of celebrity visitors, were added to the presentation, as were some magnificent aerial shots of the Castle and the surrounding California countryside.
The film was short (about 45 minutes), but was exceptionally well done and very informative. If you're interested in the Hearst Castle it would be an excellent place to start whether you visit the castle of not. We were introduced to the wonder of the castle first, and then viewed the film. It added greatly to the tour experience. However, We could have viewed the film first and then gone on the tour. It would work equally well either way. The DVD is an excellent documentary and would be of interest in itself.
A Brief History of the Inspiration, Ingenuity and Megalomani
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 07/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you can't make the trek to San Simeon in the middle of the California coastline, you may find this 2006 DVD the next best thing to being there. Running 40 minutes, this 1996 IMAX documentary was produced specifically for the National Geographic Theater at the Hearst Castle Visitors Center with the intent of providing tourists the history and cultural context for publishing magnate William Randolph Heart's palatial weekend home. Directed by Bruce Neibaur, a specialist in IMAX documentaries (Mysteries of Egypt), the feature is a condensed dramatization of the genesis and construction of the undeniably magnificent estate that rests in splendor five miles up the hills. You will learn that Hearst Castle was built on what started as a 40,000-acre ranch that Hearst's father, George Hearst, originally purchased in 1865 after he struck it rich in silver. During periodic camping trips in the area during his childhood, young William became fond of this site. His mother Phoebe, a former schoolteacher, also took him on holiday to various European castles, museums and other important attractions, all of which made a vivid impression on him.
When Hearst inherited the ranch in 1919 upon his mother's death, the property had grown to an astounding 250,000 acres, and construction on the estate began that same year. It continued unabated through 1947, when Hearst stopped living there due to ill health. San Francisco architect Julia Morgan was the pivotal figure who designed most of the buildings and kept Hearst in check for his excesses (for example, building him a private zoo) and his impulsiveness in tearing down structures and having them rebuilt at a whim. Dominated by John Gavigan's reassuring narration, unknown actors play the key roles, including Hearst as well as a fictional starlet who was invited to one of Hearst's typically elaborate weekends when he would invite a plethora of Hollywood stars and world-famous dignitaries to have fun. Although that sounds like a lot of ground for this film to cover, the abbreviated length of the movie feels just right for covering the history of the subject. Production values are first-rate, and the DVD captures the IMAX experience to a surprising degree."