I got the Citizen Welles set today, and it's better than expected, I guess, given the company's track record. The Stranger is the worse looking of the two films; the edition from Roan appears to be in worse shape speckle and dirt-wise, but it's sharper. This new transfer looks too soft and might suffer from too much digital tomfoolery. The Trial looks reasonably close to the Milestone edition. I hope to get some screen captures this weekend to compare. The Dolby 5.1 sound mixes were a waste of time; they didn't appear to be in use for the scenes I sampled, only occasionally popping up in heavy music or sound effects sequences.
The extras: Hearts of Age looked excellent, although Jeffrey Lyons' commentary is forced on you; if you want to watch it silent, you need to mute the sound out. Lyons' comments are fine, nothing too analytical, more just giving some general background, pointing out who the particular actors are. I haven't listened to his commentaries on either film yet. The documentary about the films and their restoration is okay; the first part goes into the background of the films, set to stills and sequences from each film. The second part goes into the restoration effort, which is decent, but nothing scintillating. It's similar to the docu on the Othello DVD. The end features a promo for producer Michael Dawson's Citizen Welles web site, which has since become a generic search engine for the web. All in all, not a total waste of $20, as both films look okay, and The Stranger has looked worse, although it doesn't look too hot here. My main complaint is the soundtrack fiddling. If they want to give us 5.1 re-mixes, fine, just give us the original mono as well. I have no doubt Welles would have loved the possiblities soundtracks could have offered him if he made films today, but he doesn't, and I would prefer they stand as they originally were made.