I watched The Magnificent Ambersons, an Orson Welles film that is also, as just about every write up about it I've found on the internet has said, a terrible tragedy. I knew from the beginning of the movie that, after Citizen Kane, Welles was never again granted full control over any of his movies. I knew there would be wonky edits and maybe even blunderingly inserted scenes. Oh, and it was so . . .
Partial scenes of vicious cinematic genius are followed by standard, plain-Jane 1940s swill. The ending, in particular, feels horribly wrong, and even worse after having read about the original ending. The excised scenes were apparently destroyed by fire, which some claim was without malice towards Welles and simply a matter of spring-cleaning RKO Studio's storage. Others say differently.
Somewhere in this footage is a frightening, big, alien story about the world changing into something where wires and noisy, steaming machines are commonplace, slowly, innocently propagating over old, beautiful homes and families. There're terrifyingly ingenious shots of an early automoble trundling over a snow coverd hill under an enormous, skeletal tree . . . Agnes Moorehead in a black dress screaming as she fumbles through shadowy halls . . . An old, dying man with oddly poetical, senseless words . . .