The Immortal Story (Directors Suite) (1968)

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Released 13-Sep-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Alternative Version-French Version - Une Histoire Immortelle (48:34)
Audio Commentary-by Dr Adrian MArtin, Assoc. Prof of Film Studies, Monash Uni
Booklet-an essay by Dr Adrian Danks, Head of Cinema Studies, RMIT
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 60:07 (Case: 58)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Orson Welles

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jeanne Moreau
Orson Welles
Roger Coggio
Norman Eshley
Fernando Rey (Uncredited)
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Erik Satie

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

Orson Welles is famous for directing, writing and producing Citizen Kane, the film cited among contemporary film critics as the greatest film of all time. Welles is less known for his unique career and his struggle to equal that groundbreaking film. The Immortal Story represents Welles in the last third of his film career when he struggled to make films independently. In fact, Welles' unfinished films from 1958 (when he made his last Hollywood studio film, Touch of Evil) until his death in 1985 are equal in number to the ones he completed: four.

The Immortal Story is the third completed film Welles made after 1958. It is adapted from Danish writer Isak Dinesen's story of the same name about a rich merchant in Macao, Mr Clay, who hears about a common sailor's tale from his bookkeeper about an old man who pays a young man to impregnate his young wife. Clay is so shrewd and manipulative his only companion is his bookkeeper, Levinsky. Clay's business partner committed suicide as a result of Clay bankrupting him and so his daughter, Virginie, accepts Clay's offer to make this 'immortal story' factual by spending a night at his house with a young sailor. Virginie does this to extract revenge on Clay, whereas the young sailor does it for the money. Clay simply desires to make a common tale factual. Yet in doing so, he falls victim to the power of the story, and he dies and is unable to prevent this tale from remaining fictional.

Welles planned to film a two-part anthology based on another Dinesen story ,The Deluge at Nordenay, but was unable to due to his concern about the credibility of the Hungarian producer who was to finance the film. The Immortal Story was filmed with financing from a French television channel. It was contractually filmed in colour and was therefore the first film that Welles made in colour; he had disliked producing colour films up to that point. It was also filmed on a low budget, using only a few locations around Welles' residence in Spain.

The soundtrack uses one piano solo piece, Gnossienne No.1 by Erik Satie. The use of this music and the period of the film evokes other films which were made later and have a higher profile such as Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975) and Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993). This was also the third Welles film which starred French actress Jeanne Moreau, an actress who Welles called, the greatest actress in the world. Fernando Rey, the accomplished Spanish actor who gained international acclaim for his work with director Luis Bunuel, appears uncredited in a minor role at the beginning of the film. At sixty minutes, this is Orson Welles' shortest feature film, its brevity perhaps explaining its theatrical release alongside Bunuel's 42-minute feature, Simon of the Desert. This 2010 Region 4 release onto DVD by Madman's Directors Suite label represents only the second release of The Immortal Story onto DVD after the Region 2 Italian release of the film in 2003. The film has not been released in the United States at the time of writing this review.

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Transfer Quality


This release onto DVD represents the best presentation of the film currently available on DVD. IMDb states that the film was shot in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. I highly doubt the accuracy of this assertion. The film is presented in a 1:66:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced and I believe this was the original aspect ratio.

The average bitrate of the main presentation in English is 5.58 m/b per sec. The French version of the film is available as an extra on the DVD. It is about 11 minutes shorter and has an average bitrate of 6.1 m/b per sec. The film does not have compression issues, although it does look better in the English version.

The Immortal Story was shot in Eastmancolor. This film process tends to fade, with cyan colours more effected. As such, the film has a predominant red and yellow colour scheme, with blues and greens looking much lighter. There are speckles of film artefacts, mainly dust marks, but these are not numerous. There are also some instances of telecine wobble and some scenes do contain film grain.

Surprisingly, Madman have not provided subtitles in English for the main feature. The French version of the film does have optional English subtitles in yellow.

The Immortal Story has been released by Madman on a dual-layered DVD9 disc which is 5.05 gb in size. Both the English and French versions of the film are contained on each layer of the DVD, so there is no RSDL change on the disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The audio soundtrack is not as refined as the video transfer, although it is a lot better then the audio transfers found on previous releases of the film on VHS video.

The main soundtrack and the audio commentary by regular Madman commentator Dr Adrian Martin is encoded in Dolby Digital English 2.0 at 224 kbps. The main soundtrack has audible background hiss and contains crackles and pops from time to time. Due to Welles favouring post-synchronisation of his films during this part of his film career, the dialogue is not always synchronised with the audio.

The film uses one piece of music by Erik Satie, Gnossienne No.1. This is performed on piano by Jean-Jacques Barbier and Aldo Ciccolini. It is a beautiful and memorable soundtrack.

There is no surround channel usage because the main soundtrack is mono. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Alternative Version - French Version Une Histoire Immortelle (48:34)

The French version of the film is available from the extras menu. The video transfer is softer than the English version. It is also about 11 minutes shorter. It seems some of the location scenes at the opening of the film and the longer dialogue scenes between Clay (played by Welles) and his bookkeeper have been cut in this version. Unfortunately, just like the short film extra (Orson Welles' Ghost Story) on the recent Madman Directors Suite release of Welles' Confidential Report it seems that this extra has been vertically stretched to fit into a 16x9 enhanced widescreen frame (at a ratio of approximately 1:78:1) whereas the original aspect ratio of this alternative version, in my opinion, is equal to the English version, which is 1:66:1.

Audio Commentary by Dr Adrian Martin, Associate Professor and Head of Film and Television Studies, Monash University, and Co-editor of Rouge magazine

Dr Martin again provides a superlative audio commentary to support this DVD release by Madman's Directors Suite label. He discusses the background to the project, its context in relation to Orson Welles' film career, the original story by Isak Dinesen (or Karen Blixen, famous for her novel Out of Africa) and scene-specific details relevant to understanding the main characters and the plot. Dr Martin also mentions popular views on the film and on Welles' film career and offers his own informative opinions on these matters. Do note, this audio commentary is available from the Setup menu on the disc, not the Extras menu.

Booklet - The Immortal Story: Like the Sound of the Seas Deep Within a Shell, an essay by Dr Adrian Danks, Head of Cinema Studies in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University and co-curator of The Melbourne Cinematheque

Dr Danks' essay was originally published online at senses of cinema website here. Dr Danks presents some interesting views on the metaphorical link to the demise of Clay and Welles' film career. He also makes a link to Welles' themes in his films and the themes used by writers Marcel Proust and Jorge Luis Borges. He ends his essay by providing some insight into the meaning of the seashell and its use in the film's final scene.

Four Directors Suite trailers

There are four Directors Suite trailers for Peter Brook's Lord of the Files, Otto Preminger's Whirlpool and Fallen Angel and Jules Dassin's Brute Force.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The only other version of The Immortal Story released on DVD is an Italian Region 2 release by RHV from 2003. This release does not contain the quality of extras found on the 2010 Region 4 Madman Directors Suite release. It does include the English and French versions of the film, as well as an Italian dub version.


The Immortal Story is a minor film in Welles' career in relation to his other films such as Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil. For fans of Welles' cinema, this release of The Immortal Story is a must-have addition to the film collection, as this release represents the best version of the film currently available on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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