Last year, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes revealed their "RT Archives" hub which would be used to preserve and revive authentic critical analysis of films from decades ago that may have been lost to time or simply had no presence on the internet. Now six months later it would appear that the archive has found a solid example of a potential troll review, one that panned the critically acclaimed Citizen Kane at the time of its release and has resulted in its RT score being reduced. The Orson Welles directed movie (the production of which was recently dramatized in Netflix's Mank) was among the few films with 100% "Certified Fresh" rating on the site, and now it's been reduced to 99%.
The review comes from The Chicago Tribune and film critic Frances Peck (writing under the pen name Mae Tinee, a play on "Matinee") who titled their review "Citizen Kane Fails to Impress Critic as Greatest Ever Filmed." Published Wednesday, May 7, 1941, the piece comes just days after the film's world premiere and begins: "You've heard a lot about this picture and I see by the ads that some experts think it 'the greatest movie ever made.' I don't." Peck's review continues, "It's interesting. It's different. In fact, it's bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value."
A write-up on Peck from the Women Film Pioneers Project describes her as having a "snappy, idiomatic writing style that could be controversial" and even noted that "the Chicago Motion Picture Owners' Association protested her 'frivolous treatment' of the movies." In other words, it seems like the author of this piece, while clearly a wordsmith with a tight knowledge of film (as her decades in the role indicate), was known to many for courting contrarian responses at times.
This style of writing and critique isn't unheard of even today though, like a few years ago when a lone pan of Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird knocked it down from 100% to 99% on Rotten Tomatoes; or notorious critic Armond White whose negative reviews of movies like Toy Story 3 and Get Out knocked those movies down from a perfect score to a mere 99%.
Many have claimed that the reduction in Citizen Kane's score on Rotten Tomatoes now means that another film is being considered the "best movie of all time" by the site. This isn't exactly true because even when Kane was among the exclusive list of titles to have a 100% rating it didn't have the most number of reviews.
Sitting ahead of Kane in terms of total reviews (having previously held 115 positives) are films like 2008's Man on Wire with 158, 1999's Toy Story 2 with 169, and, the king of Rotten Tomatoes and our hearts, 2017's Paddington 2 with 245 positive reviews. The sequel has held the title of Best Reviewed Movie on Rotten Tomatoes for over three years at this point.