The second film from Orson Welles is finally getting a cut close to the filmmaker’s wishes – using a technique that’s worked for Doctor Who.

A new version of Orson Welles’ infamously butchered second picture, The Magnificent Ambersons, is being created to match what seems to be Welles’ original plans.

According to WellesNet, the filmmaker Brian Rose has spent the last couple of years recutting the Ambersons based upon notes from 1942 that reveal how Wells had cut his workprint. This leaves several scenes unfinished, and those will be reconstructed with animation and voice actors.

This is an approach well-known to fans of Doctor Who.

At the moment there are placeholder scenes and pencil tests making up the missing portions of The Magnificent Ambersons, with soundalike casting, voice recording and final animation to follow. The running time is 131 minutes and 45 seconds, which is consistent with the version Welles showed to preview audiences, but rather short of the longest, 148 minute iteration that is known to have existed. The difference between the 131 and the 148 here seems to have been Welles’ own refinements.

The released cut, for those who do not know it, runs to just 88 minutes. It’s really not a bad film, but the compromises were significant, unnecessary and very regrettable.

Images at WellesNet show some of the animatic-looking stand-in shots, revealing how much effort it’s going to take to even fairly approximate any of the missing material. Here’s an example, showing a still of Agnes Moorhead and Joseph Cotten in a lost scene and, below that, the placeholder frame showing what Rose will be recreating with CG.

 

The original plan, Rose says, was for this to be a personal, not-for-profit project. Now it has become so ambitious that he hopes to “make it widely available through a collaborative effort with the film’s rights holders.”

Essentially, this tells us that we may not yet ever see the fruits of Rose’s labours. 

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.

 



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