Holt's jealousy of any suitor who might approach his widowed mother is one of Welles' most interesting portraits of a disturbed psyche, on the level of the director's own portrayals of spiritual decay in Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil, or Anthony Perkins' guilty victim in The Trial. Welles' ability to convey these fairly subtle psychological perceptions on film is one of the less recognized facets of his genius, as is the way his celebrated skill at camera and set design is used to conjure up very particular times and spaces. The transformation of a small-town Arcadia into an industrial slum is one of Magnificent's most compelling subplots. Of note is Agnes Moorehead's wonderful work as the bitter spinster Aunt Fanny, with Ray Collins also good as an avuncular uncle. The Magnificent Ambersons was the one that got away from Welles -- later in his life, he was spotted crying during a late-night TV showing of the movie.
-- Gregg Rickman
The Magnificent Ambersons screens Wednesday, March 17, at 2, 7:15, and 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Clayton), S.F. Admission is $6; call 668-3994.