Touch of Evil
begins with one of the most brilliant sequences in the history of cinema; and ends with one of the most brilliant final scenes ever committed to celluloid. In between unfurls a picture whose moral, sexual, racial, and aesthetic attitudes remain so radical as to cross borders established not only in 1958, but in the present age also. Yet, Touch of Evil
has taken many forms. The film as released in 1958 was certainly compromised from Orson Welles'
vision, but a brilliant and lengthy memo written by Welles to studio heads in 1957 - taking issue with a studio rough-cut had some influence on a subsequent preview version shown to test audiences (and rediscovered in the mid-1970s) as well as the 1958 theatrical version. Forty years later, in 1998, Universal produced a reconstructed version of the film that takes into meticulous account the totality of Welles' memo, and ostensibly represents the version of the film that most closely adheres to his original wishes. Charlton Heston
portrays Mike Vargas, the Mexican chief of narcotics who sets out to uncover the facts surrounding a car bomb that has killed a wealthy American businessman on the US side of the border. As Vargas investigates, his newly-wed wife Susie (Janet Leigh
, two years before Hitchcock's Psycho
) is kidnapped by a gang out to exact vengeance for the prosecution of the brother of their leader (Akim Tamiroff). Meanwhile, Vargas' enquiries become progressively more obfuscated by the American cop Hank Quinlan (played by Welles himself, in one of the most imposing and unforgettable screen performances of his career), a besotted incarnation of corruption who alternately conspires with Susie's captors and seeks solace in the brothel of the Gypsy madame (Marlene Dietrich
) who comforted him in bygone times.
Welles' final studio-system picture has at last become secure in its status as one of the greatest films ever made. It remains a testament to the genius of Welles - a film of Shakespearean richness, inexhaustible. LIMITED EDITION 2 x BLU-RAY ONLY
- New high-definition masters of five variants of the film: the 1958 Theatrical Version in both 1.37:1 and 1.85:1, the 1958 Preview Version in 1.85:1, and the 1998 Reconstructed Version in 1.37:1 and 1.85:1
- O4 x audio commentaries, featuring: restoration producer Rick Schmidlin; actors Charlton Heston & Janet Leigh, with Schmidlin; critic F. X. Feeney; and Welles scholars James Naremore & Jonathan Rosenbaum
- The original theatrical trailer, which includes alternate footage
- Bringing Evil to Life + Evil Lost and Found two video pieces [21:00 + 18:00]
- Optional English SDH subtitles on all versions of the film
- A 56-page booklet featuring essays by Orson Welles, François Truffaut, André Bazin, and Terry Comito; interview excerpts with Welles; a timeline of the film s history; and extensive notes on the film s versions and ratios
Considered by many to be the greatest B movie ever made, the original-release version of Orson Welles' film noir masterpiece Touch of Evil
was, ironically, never intended as a B movie at all--it merely suffered that fate after it was taken away from writer-director Welles, then reedited and released in 1958 as the second half of a double feature. Time and critical acclaim would eventually elevate the film to classic status (and Welles' original vision was meticulously followed for the film's 1998 restoration), but for four decades this original version stood as a testament to Welles' directorial genius. From its astonishing, miraculously choreographed opening shot (lasting over three minutes) to Marlene Dietrich's classic final line of dialogue, this sordid tale of murder and police corruption is like a valentine for the cinematic medium, with Welles as its love-struck suitor. As the corpulent cop who may be involved in a border-town murder, Welles faces opposition from a narcotics officer (Charlton Heston) whose wife (Janet Leigh) is abducted and held as the pawn in a struggle between Heston's quest for truth and Welles' control of carefully hidden secrets. The twisting plot is wildly entertaining (even though it's harder to follow in this original version), but even greater pleasure is found in the pulpy dialogue and the sheer exuberance of the dazzling directorial style. --Jeff Shannon
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.