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RKO 281 - The Battle Over Citizen Kane
RKO 281 - The Battle Over Citizen Kane
Actors: Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Brenda Blethyn
Director: Benjamin Ross
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
R     2000     1hr 23min

The orson welles-directed citizen kane then known as rko 281 was loosely based on the life of newspaper publisher william randolph hearst. But not so loosely that he didnt want it destroyed before the public could ever see...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Brenda Blethyn
Director: Benjamin Ross
Creators: Chris Zarpas, Diane Minter Lewis, Ridley Scott, Su Armstrong, John Logan, Richard Ben Cramer, Thomas Lennon
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, All Made-for-TV Movies
Studio: Hbo Home Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/25/2000
Original Release Date: 11/20/1999
Theatrical Release Date: 11/20/1999
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 23min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 8/7/2009...
a movie everyone should see. if you love citizen kane you will love this movie!
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Great film marred mostly by DVD inadequacies
tropic_of_criticism | 06/27/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Telling true stories is always a tricky affair. Unlike simple fiction, you have to tell the truth *and* a good story simultaneously. I don't know how good the *truth* is in RKO 281. I'm not a CITIZEN KANE expert. The closest I come is being able to mention that the screenplay is based on an acclaimed PBS documentary. If PBS' history was right, I guess, RKO 281 stands a better chance of being real as well.I do know, however, that the *story* of RKO 281 is good enough that I want to *believe* it's the truth. In this current era of unrestricted parody and vigorously litigated free speech cases, it's hard to imagine a time in America where artistic criticism of a private individual would've caused movie studios consternation, but RKO 281 convincingly captures the fear of the period. Along the way, it gives us a tantalizing peek into the lives of the people involved with CITIZEN KANE, dropping hints about their personalities. I found myself constantly wanting to know more about the characters than this movie told, but there's enough characterization here for a great story. This is, after all, not a biography of Orson Wells or William Randolph Hearst, but the story of the making of one film. HBO managed to assemble a stellar cast to inhabit the lives of these characters for this made-for-cable movie, and the money was obviously worth it. Each major character is consistently well acted, and one can't help but be drawn into their stories. John Malkovich and Liev Schreiber's Mankiewicz and Wells play particularly well off each other, defining the moral heart of CITIZEN KANE as they show themselves to be each other's conscience. Having the friendship parallel the creation of the film is a clever dramatic tool, serving up a human subplot while simultaneously moving along the greater narrative. Absorbing as the characters are, however, it's not a perfect film. Details about the Hearst side of the argument are sketchier, and despite attempts to explore the personal relationship between Hearst and his mistress, we're left asking significant questions about him. Was he really as cold-blooded as portrayed here, or was he just personally wounded by CITIZEN KANE? What happened to his threat to expose Hollywood if the movie was released? Though in decline, he still retained newspapers at the time of the movie's release, so why didn't he carry through with his threat to publish details about Hollywood's private lives? Wouldn't that have sold papers and increased his revenue at a time when he needed the money? RKO 281 builds Hearst up as a heavy in its first hour, and then kind of just forgets about that side of him in the second. In my mind, there's a metamorphosis of his character from confident to defeated that isn't sufficiently explained in the movie. [DVD notes: For a film about the making of film, this DVD has ironically no additional features. This is an entirely criminal example of neglect, and the film loses mass quantities of brownie points for it. At the very least there should've been a director's commentary. Additionally I think it would've made some great sense to have packaged this as a double DVD, along with the PBS documentary.]"
Good idea, poor execution.
Leigh Melton | Dawsonville, GA | 10/12/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)

""Inspired" by the American Experience documentary on the making of 'Citizen Kane', this film might have been a good one had the writers stuck to the facts (and in this case truth is much more interesting and surprising than RKO 281's fiction) and the cast been of a better caliber. In other words, a good idea, poor execution. Melanie Griffith's execrable performance is so bad it's beyond laughable and is a total insult to the talented and bewitching Marion Davies. John Malkovich is wasted and I'm afraid that Welles is too much of a giant for Liev Schrieber; (perhaps Vincent D'Onofrio could have handled the role). After watching this film I had to put in "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" from the Kane DVD to purge the sour taste of infotainment brought on by this HBO production."
My review of RKO 281
Leigh Melton | 08/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a wonderful movie that had to be made. Citizen Kane is widely regarded the greatest film ever made and this is the story of how close it came to never being released. Liev Schriber (sp.) gives a masterful perfomance as the legendary filmaker Orson Welles, and James Cromwell is brilliant as media tycoon William Randolph Hearst whom Citizen Kane was based upon. John Malcovich and Roy Schieder also give great perfomances as the film's writer and producer. The dialogue is wonderful, the name of the writer escapes me for the moment. And so is the musical score which has some of the music from Bernard Hermann's score of Citizen Kane. If you have never seen Citizen Kane I suggest you do so and if you liked it, see RKO 281 next, and see how the world of cinema was forever changed by a rogue 25 year old fledgling director."