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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

Orson Welles' mysterious 'Mr. Arkadin' complete

By Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press

A critic once called Orson Welles' 1955 drama "Mr. Arkadin" a "Eurotrash 'Citizen Kane' in reverse." To which I silently responded, "What's so wrong with that?"

The first time this fledgling Welles fan saw "Mr. Arkadin," in my college days, I figured it to be the B-movie version of his pulp masterpiece "Touch of Evil." Because I loved "Touch" and was raised on B movies, I was smitten, even if the plot in which a con man (Robert Arden) and his "exotic dancer" gal pal (Patricia Medina) track down the elusive millionaire of the title, and much chaos ensues made little sense. Plus, the dubbing of even the English-speaking members of the cast was often as bad as that of a chop-socky film.

Back then, of course, I did not know the history of "Mr. Arkadin," which is unraveled at great length in "The Complete Mr. Arkadin" (Criterion Collection), a three-disc set that includes two of the officially released cuts of the film, "Mr. Arkadin," subtitled "Corinth Version," and the version most people have seen on TV or in retrospectives, "Mr. Confidential," originally released in Britain.

Better than both, though, is the newly created version on the third disc, the "comprehensive version" in which two Welles historians take a crack at assembling a cut that Welles might have endorsed out of seven pieces of existing edits.

The convoluted history and various releases of the films are dissected in a 36-page booklet, and also in the multiple commentaries and copious extras Criterion has assembled. Those include three episodes of "The Lives of Henry Lime" radio series, in which Welles continued the adventures of the character he memorably portrayed in the 1949 drama "The Third Man."

ALSO RELEASED THIS WEEK

"Hostel" (Lions Gate), Eli Roth's follow to the gory but clever "Cabin Fever" is as sleazy as it is nasty. It's the tale of three backpackers who, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, are told of the unimaginable hedonistic pleasures to be enjoyed in Slovakia, a tip that turns out to be true. Unfortunately, the randy lads are not told what to expect back at their hostel, where the real games begin. Torture scenes that were cut in order to garner an R rating have been restored, and the commentary by Roth also includes a few words from Quentin Tarantino, who attached his name to the film as a producer, and therefore may someday be cited as enabler in what may be called the Cinema of Cruelty.

Edith Wharton never finished her novel "The Buccaneers," about two New York women who head to England in the early 1900s in search of suitable husbands, which did not prevent it from being made into one of the most popular British miniseries shown here on "Masterpiece Theatre" a decade ago. "The Buccaneers" is finally available on DVD (BBC), all five episodes on a single doubled-sided disc that allows no room for extras. Sisters Nan (Carla Gugino) and Virginia (Alison Elliott) St. George, with their crafty governess (Cherie Lunghi), set out on an elaborate march to matrimony in new territory. The production captures Wharton's observant wit and should please anyone still mooning over "Pride and Prejudice."

FAMILY DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

"Doogie Howser, M.D. Season 4" (Anchor Bay): This series, starring Neil Patrick Harris as a boy wonder who graduated from Princeton at 10 and was a second-year resident at Eastman Medical Center in Los Angeles at 16 when the show began airing in 1989, was one of the most gentle and reflective sitcoms of the era. Over four years, we were able to watch an otherwise-normal teenager grow into his body and his brain.

This 4-disc set contains the final 22 episodes, which had Doogie finding something like real romance with a nurse, while his all-too-normal best pal Vinnie (Max Casella) begins his career as a filmmaker.