Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Did you ever catch the Citizen Kane pterodactyls?
There are dinosaurs in Citizen Kane.
No, seriously, hear us out on this. This is one of the greatest bits of film trivia we've heard in a while.
Before the advent of greenscreen technology, many films in the 30s and 40s used "rear projection" for complicated scenery. Pre-recorded footage of a background was projected onto a screen behind the main scene, creating the appearance of a larger and more bustling setting. Filmmakers used this extensively to put views outside car windows, but it could also simulate filming in an environment that couldn't otherwise be practically used.
RKO Pictures used rear projection for jungle scenes in 1933's The Son of Kong. As part of the pre-recorded jungle scenery, effects artists added silhouettes of flying pterodactyls to the background. This was a King Kong movie after all. Perhaps in a cost-cutting measure, Orson Welles chose to re-use Son of Kong's rear projection footage for a swampy picnic scene in Citizen Kane. He did not remove the pterodactyls. If you pay very close attention during the scene (embedded above), you can see them flying around in the background.
So yes: there are dinosaurs in Citizen Kane. It's unknown if anyone caught this during production, but we wouldn't put it past Orson Welles to leave them in intentionally. Of course, if you want a little more context, you can always watch the full movie (available in our collection, HU DVD 434).