Confidential Report (1955)

Confidential Report (AKA “Mr. Arkadin”)confidential report poster
Directed by Orson Welles
Written by Orson Welles
Filmorsa/Cervantes Films/Sevilla Films, Mercury Productions/Bavaria Film
First viewing/Netflix rental


Gregory Arkadin: A scorpion wanted to cross a river, so he asked the frog to carry him. The frog refused because the scorpion would sting him. That would not be logical, explained the scorpion, because if he stung the frog they would both drown. So the frog agreed to carry the scorpion. Half way across, the frog felt a terrible pain – the scorpion had stung him. There is no logic in this, exclaimed the frog. I know, replied the scorpion, but I cannot help it – it is my nature.

Like Lady from Shanghai, the plot of Orson Welles’ film is all over the place.  Unlike that film, Confidential Report is not rescued by the acting and only partially redeemed by the style.

The story is mostly told in flashback as Guy Van Stratten relates his experiences with Arkadin to the dying Jacob Zouk (Akim Tamiroff), an old associate of the billionaire. Cigarette smuggler van Stratten (Robert Arden) and his girlfriend are on the docks at Naples when they witness the shooting of Bracco.  They are on hand to hear his dying words which are the names of two people that he says will be the couple’s fortune – Gregory Arkadin (Welles) and Sophia.

After he is released from jail on his smuggling conviction, Van Stratten proceeds to Spain where he hopes to meet Arkadin.  He figures the best way is through Arkadin’s daughter Raina, with whom he soon falls in love.  Arkadin is obsessed with Raina (Paola Mori, Welles’s then wife) and monitors her with spies at all times.  Finally, Arkadin offers van Stratten a huge fee to compile a report on himself, claiming he suffers from amnesia and can remember nothing prior to his arrival in Zurich with one suit and 200,000 Swiss Francs.

mr. arkadin 2

Van Stratten then travels the world looking for clues to Arkadin’s identity and interviewing his former associates.  As those associates start mysteriously dropping like flies it is clear Van Stratten is in great danger.  With Mischa Auer as the ringmaster of a flea circus, an unrecognizable Michael Redgrave as a very weird antique store owner, and Katina Paxinou as Sophia.

confidential report 1

This is one of those multi-lingual films in which many of the characters are dubbed into English, a feature that does not improve one’s perception of the acting.  Robert Arden’s von Stratten does not appear to be dubbed by another actor, but his may be the worst performance in the film.  Anger seems to be his favorite emotion to the exclusion of any subtlety.  The story is confusing and episodic with many Wellesian anecdotes and tongue-in-cheek pronouncements.   Even I thought the movie had its moments though, and many like it much more than I.

The film has been re-constructed several times.  I watched the Criterion Collection’s “Comprehensive Version”.

Orson Welles dubbed the voices of several of the supporting male characters.

Clip – A Georgian toast to friendship

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