The Immortal Story Blu-ray Review
“The Immortal Story” is a curious Orson Welles film.
Based on the Danish story written by Isak Dinesen (AKA Karen Blixen), the 1968 “The Immortal Story” is the first color film by Orson Welles. Clocking in at a mere 58 minutes, the film (which is narrated by Welles at times) tells the story of an old rich Merchant (Mr. Clay) in Macao who is nearing the end of his life in his home. While listening to his bookkeeper Mr. Levinsky, Mr. Clay is told a story about a rich man paying a sailor 5 guineas to impregnate his wife. Since Mr. Clay is a fan who is obsessed with facts and reality, he has a desire to make this legend a reality. Levinsky helps him in his task and recruits (and pays) Miss Virginie and a poor homeless sailor to make it happen.
When it comes to the filmography of the late great Orson Welles, the somewhat obscure “The Immortal Story” isn’t a film that is often mentioned. Admittedly it isn’t on the grand level of “Touch of Evil” or “Citizen Kane,” but it’s still an admirable Welles film nonetheless.
From the first frame “The Immortal Story” looks and feels like a very personal film for Welles. It almost comes off as an indie film or a stage play given that it was largely filmed in his home. Obviously though this is a little more than an indie film as it contains a talented cast and a very stylish cinematography.
From a thematic standpoint, ‘Immortal’ also feels like it is a passion project as it digs into concepts of mortality, storytelling, reality, power, and fiction. Given what I know of Welles and his work, these are all concepts that appear to apply to speak to Welles and I think it shows in the final product. For that reason alone, I think it’s worth watching.
Note: This Blu-ray contains the English version of the film and an alternate French version.
Presentation: 1.66:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital transfer is solid, but not without problems. Expect to see grain, flickers, and other print defects.
Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? Unfortunately, it sounds like a Mono track for sure. It’s not of the greatest quality but it’s adequate enough.
* A booklet featuring an essay by author Jonathan Rosenbaum.
* A weird and arty 42 minute narrated French 1968 Orson Welles documentary featuring photos, archival footage, discussions about his work, etc.
* A fascinating newly shot 14 minute interview with actor Norman Eshley (the sailor in “The Immortal Story”). He chats about how he got the part, Orson Welles, and his filming experiences.
* A 15 minute 2004 interview with DP Willy Kurant who talks about his work on “The Immortal Story,” Orson Welles, cinematography, etc.
* Another new interview. This 25 minute one is with Orson Welles scholar Francois Thomas who primarily talks about Karen Blixen.
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