The online reviews database Rotten Tomatoes has unearthed a negative 80-year-old write-up of “Citizen Kane,” stripping the cinematic classic of its perfect score among critics and demoting it below movies including “Paddington 2” and “The Terminator.”
Orson Welles’ masterpiece is widely considered one of the most important titles in movie history, pioneering a number of filmmaking techniques that are still in use today.
But it apparently underwhelmed one critic for the Chicago Tribune, whose lukewarm review has come back to tarnish the movie’s legacy eight decades after it was written.
“‘Citizen Kane’ presents an almost clinical dissection of a complete egotist,” the review reads. It goes on to dismiss the film’s use of moody sets: “I only know it gives one the creeps and that I kept wishing they’d let a little sunshine in.”
The review was added to the Rotten Tomatoes website on March 2, but has only been noticed in recent days. The website links out to a newspaper clipping of the decades-old story, and its addition means “Citizen Kane” now no longer has exclusively positive reviews.
Welles’ film still enjoys 116 positive write-ups on the website, but the sole black mark removes the film from the exclusive “100% club” — a collection that features movies including the first two “Toy Story” installments, the much-loved “Paddington” sequel and Arnold Schwartzenegger’s action classic “The Terminator.”
The offending review appears to have been written anonymously, with its byline “Mae Tinee” an apparent pun on “matinee.”
The same critic is listed as the author of a number of contemporary reviews for the Chicago Tribune between the 1920s and 1960s — they were more complimentary of other classics, including “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Casablanca.”
The write-up notes the hype that already surrounded the movie on its release, but the critic was nonetheless unmoved. “‘Citizen Kane’ fails to impress critic as greatest ever filmed,” the headline reads.
Welles was a 25-year-old phenomenon when his debut feature film, based on the life of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, was released. He also starred in the movie, and his directorial creativity — along with cinematographer Gregg Toland’s distinctive deep-focus frames and unusually angled shots — revolutionized movie-making.
“Mank,” a biographical film about “Citizen Kane” writer Herman J. Mankiewicz, was nominated for a number of Oscars at last week’s Academy Awards, ultimately losing out on the Best Picture prize to “Nomadland.”