In 1955, Associated-Rediffusion invited celebrated auteur director Orson Welles to shoot a series of 26, 30-minute programmes titled Around the World with Orson Welles. In this travelogues, Welles would explore the mysteries, cities and people that defined Europe. Although 6 episodes would only be made, so far 5 have only surfaced, and finally with this release the missing episode, Revisiting Vienna (also known as The Third Man Returns to Vienna), can be seen for the first time.
Enamoured with the advent of television and recognising its power as a medium, Welles' developed a style of travel journal that is still an integral part of travel shows today. Part documentary, part home movie (he sometimes used a single camera) and part cinematic essay, Welles explores not the world as the title says, but his beloved Europe. The European continent had enamoured Welles since he travelled there when he was younger, and the continent bolstered his love of cinema.
The episodes are not perfect; some are incomplete, while others are deeply flawed. However, they remain compelling, only just for Welles' perception of Europe but as well as the footage of a post-war Europe. His fascinating insight into the Basque Country is also particularly brilliant to watch. You will find that his narration and the style of the documentaries are slow, but don't forget these were filmed for television in its infancy, and here Welles' already has a firm grasp on the medium.
The most interesting portion of this release, however, is the extras. Though Revisiting Vienna is amazing to watch with Welles visiting key locations from The Third Man, the extras include a documentary and reconstruction of The Tragedy of Lurs, which was the unfinished seventh episode of the series which concerned the controversial Dominici murder case in France. It's an incredible insight in to what could have been. There was not stuff like this being aired on television in 1955 and Welles investigation could be viewed as a template for many documentary series which followed many decades later. Also featured is an interview with Welles in which he discusses his career.
The Blu-ray is a must for any fan of cinema and any fan of Welles. It is a curious rarity, not perfect and incomplete, which shows Welles influence as a documentary maker of television, recognising the power of the box from its very inception.
AROUND THE WORLD WITH ORSON WELLES / CERT: E / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ORSON WELLES / STARRING: ORSON WELLES, ELAINE DUNDY, KENNETH TYNAN, ART BUCHWALD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW