Hearst Castle: Building the Dream (1996) Poster

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A Brief History of the Inspiration, Ingenuity and Megalomania That Made Hearst Castle
EUyeshima11 July 2008
If you can't make the trek to San Simeon in the middle of the California coastline, you may find this 2006 DVD the next best thing to being there. Running 40 minutes, this 1996 IMAX documentary was produced specifically for the National Geographic Theater at the Hearst Castle Visitors Center with the intent of providing tourists the history and cultural context for publishing magnate William Randolph Heart's palatial weekend home at San Simeon. Directed by Bruce Neibaur, a specialist in IMAX documentaries ("Mysteries of Egypt"), the feature is a condensed dramatization of the genesis and construction of the undeniably magnificent estate that rests in splendor five miles up the hills. You will learn that Hearst Castle was built on a 40,000-acre ranch that Hearst's father, George Hearst, originally purchased in 1865 after he struck it rich in silver. During periodic camping trips in the area during his childhood, young William became fond of this site. His mother Phoebe, a former schoolteacher, also took him on holiday to various European castles, museums and other important attractions, all of which made a vivid impression on him.

When Hearst inherited the ranch in 1919 upon his mother's death, the property had grown to an astounding 250,000 acres, and construction on the estate began that same year. It continued unabated through 1947, when Hearst stopped living at the estate due to ill health. San Francisco architect Julia Morgan was the pivotal figure who designed most of the buildings and kept Hearst in check for his excesses (for example, building him a private zoo) and his impulsiveness in tearing down structures and having them rebuilt at a whim. There are unknown actors playing all the key roles, including Hearst as well as a fictional starlet who was invited to one of Hearst's typically elaborate weekends when he would invite a plethora of Hollywood stars and world-famous dignitaries to have fun. Although that sounds like a lot of ground for this film to cover, the abbreviated length of the movie feels just right for covering the history of the subject. Production values are first-rate, and the DVD captures the IMAX experience to a surprising degree.
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The Anti-Citizen Kane
yawn-216 June 2012
Well, this is the best spin ol' fascist, racist press baron Hearst will ever get on the most benign part of his life story. Since the man's lasting public image has been almost entirely shaped by Citizen Kane since the 1940's, it's probably good that something like this film is around as a modest counterpoint. Never mind that even some of the guides at the castle will tell you that the Hearst family's primary reasons for donating it to the state were more about tax avoidance than any great desire to share it with the 99%. Beautifully made and quite spectacular on the IMAX screen at Hearst Castle, I can't imagine why anyone would want to own a copy, unless there is no possibility of ever seeing it there.
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I'd rather have seen a documentary.
TOMNEL23 February 2008
Beautiful landscapes and some information on William Randolph Hearst are evened out by terrible writing and acting to make this Imax film very average. And it could be good, had they put a little more into the writing, and into the casting department. What we have here is a 40 minute movie depicting William Randolph Hearst's life....sort of. What is actually portrayed is his life as a kid, and then as an older man building the beautiful castle. It is narrated by some fictional pilot who flies guests to the castle, then later narrated by a female guest explaining how great this place is. If you're watching this, most likely, you're about to take the tour and find out how great it is for yourself. One scene in the film where Young Hearst and old Hearst look at each other with kind of a silent happiness at what they've accomplished is one of the worst scenes in modern cinema. So, go see this if you have an hour to kill before your tour is ready, but you won't like it.

My rating: ** out of ****. 40 mins.
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Excellent depiction of the imagination of William R. Hearst.
rberge8 July 2001
I saw this film on the Experience tour at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. This film accurately portrays the life of William Randolph Hearst as it relates to the building of Hearst Castle. It begins with his father finding a silver claim and continues on through Hearst's childhood and his eventual plans and construction of the beautiful Hearst Castle on the central coast of California. I highly recommend making a trip to San Simeon and touring this landmark.
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