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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles [Blu-ray]


(Chuck Workman, 2014)



Also available on DVD in the US and UK:



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Cohen Welles Project

Video: Cohen Media Group



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:31:13.718

Disc Size: 23,329,763,483 bytes

Feature Size: 19,544,389,632 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: May 26th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3552 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3552 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps



English (SDH), none



A Conversation with Chuck Workman (8:59)

• Trailer (2:06)
• 8-page leaflet with photos, chapter titles etc.





Description: Chuck Workman's documentary Magician: The Astounding Life and Work of Orson Welles surveys the influential career of the celebrated superstar by including clips from just about all of his movies. The filmmakers also reveal how he became one of the biggest stars in the world before the age of 25, battled his entire career to raise money to make movies the way he wanted to, and lived an outsized life until his death in 1985.


Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles looks at the remarkable genius of Orson Welles on the eve of his centenary - the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star, a Hollywood director (for some a Hollywood failure), and a crucially important independent filmmaker.

Orson Welles's life was magical: a musical prodigy at age 10, a director of Shakespeare at 14, a painter at 16, a star of stage and radio at 20, romances with some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Rita Hayworth. His work was similarly extraordinary, most notably Citizen Kane, (considered by many to be the most important movie ever made), created by Welles when he was only 25.



The Film:

Following his subject from child prodigy to complicated legend, the director, Chuck Workman, touches down so lightly on the mile markers of Welles’s life that he barely leaves an imprint. Artistic triumphs and financial flops, often one and the same, roll by in spotless slices, as do the voices of luminaries, living and dead (John Houseman, how you are missed), who sing Welles’s praises. Choosing breadth over depth — most maddeningly in a section dealing with the butchered ending of “The Magnificent Ambersons” — Mr. Workman faithfully records a career plagued by projects still unfinished or undone by legal disputes or lack of financing.

Similarly, Welles’s colorful personal life — a rich stew of wives, lovers, feuding daughters and paternity rumors — is skated over as if it were quicksand. What’s left offers little flavor of the mind behind the work, so when a former classmate describes Welles as having “absolutely no empathetic skills” (and then rejects a characterization of him as humble with a disgusted “ugh”), our ears prick up. But the revelations aren’t pursued, leaving the man whom the actress Jeanne Moreau beautifully pronounces “a destitute king” perched on his throne. If, as he claimed, he aspired to make movies “for something except entertainment,” what that might have been remains anyone’s guess.

Excerpt fromthe NY Times located HERE


No single feature-length documentary on the director of "Citizen Kane" is ever going to fully portray the scope of Orson Welles' triumphs, deflations and career eccentricities. Even Welles biographer Simon Callow is taking three volumes with it.

But Chuck Workman's documentary "Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles" feels almost willfully highlight-intensive, an archival/editing dare for this clip-assembly master to touch on as many elements as possible, as quickly as possible.

Excerpt from the LA Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The documentary Magician: The Astounding Life and Work of Orson Welles on Blu-ray from Cohen Media looks, for the most part, wonderful. Obviously we have many clips of different quality but the modern sequences are pristine in the original 1.78:1. Nice to see the plentiful footage from Chimes at Midnight looking so brilliant in 1080P (as we all keep our finger's crossed). The contrast in some of the black and white footage looks imperfect as if taken from a lesser and sometimes interlaced source. This Blu-ray video is what it is and for the most part is impressive - enough so that I would state that most will be very pleased with what they see in viewing this documentary on BD.






















Audio :

Audio gives the option of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at a whopping 3552 kbps and a simple Dolby Surround. There are a few separations but the film clips are mostly flat and narration from the centre channel. There is some music beyond those used in the film clips - classical and played beyond the clips into the narration (ex. Bacharach via Herb Alpert's 'Casino Royale') and the score adds to the gaps in the dialogue. It all sounds as parallel to the vintage clips used as could be expected - often superior in the robust lossless. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

Supplements include a 9-minute conversation with Chuck Workman hosted by Annette Insdorf plus a trailer for the documentary. The package contains an 8-page leaflet with photos, chapter titles etc.



What a very pleasant expose of Welles' life - thoroughly researched, a massive number of individual's inputting details (must be 100's of clips), relationships and it is the most complete that I have seen to-date - although so much is, perhaps appropriately, left unknown. What Welles fan would not want to indulge? It is divided into sections - separating his life into periods (Boy Wonder, Stage Craft, War of the Worlds, Women, The Gypsy etc.) The Cohen Blu-ray
offers a revealing documentary looking and sounding exquisite - possibly, as good as we are likely to see a lot of the Welles' work on digital. I will revisit this as there is so much to it that it's hard to digest all the information in one sitting. Certainly recommended!

Gary Tooze

May 23rd, 2015


Also available on DVD in the US and UK:



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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