Inside the Making of Orson Welles’s Most Underrated Film

Including stolen furniture and a possible KGB connection

A scene from "Mr. Arkadin"
A tense moment from "Mr. Arkadin."
FilmPublicityArchive/United Arch

In the last 10 years, a host of lost or uncompleted projects from Orson Welles have seen wide release. These include his influential Shakespeare adaptation Chimes at Midnight, which was restored and widely distributed in 2016, and his never-completed final feature The Other Side of the Wind, which saw release two years later. And while there are still some gaps in Welles’s body of work — including footage cut from The Magnificent Ambersons — more of his work than not can be easily seen.

All of which makes it a perfect time to revisit one of Welles’s most underrated films, the noir-influenced Mr. Arkadin. Writing at CrimeReads, Craig Pittman delved deeply into the film’s troubled history — which included Welles and his cohorts “borrowing” hotel furniture for one location and a funding source that may have involved a KGB agent laundering money he’d stolen from his supervisors.

Pittman notes that Mr. Arkadin, about a man tasked with uncovering the truth about a mysterious millionaire, plays out like a funhouse mirror version of Citizen Kane. It also had its genesis in a radio drama spinoff featuring Welles’s character from The Third Man — yes, decades before Disney+ expanded the MCU, Orson Welles was expanding the Harry Lime cinematic universe.

So why isn’t Mr. Arkadin better known? Some of it has to do with the multiple versions of it released — the Criterion Collection’s edition contained three different cuts of the film. Pittman’s article explores the differences between them, and offers a recommendation on the best place to start. But if you’re looking for a gripping way to spend a couple of hours, this film is a fine way to do exactly that.

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