on 6 January 2005
A wild, quirky ride of corruption and intrigue, this noir thriller is brilliantly acted by Orson Welles and Charlton Heston, where Welles, as an American sleazy police chief investigating a murder in a Mexican border town, tangles with Heston, as his counterpart in the town. Welles was originally just slated to act in this film, but at the insistence of Heston, he was also made director.
The critical and box office response was poor however, and so disappointing to Welles, that he never made another film in Hollywood.
The cast is terrific: Janet Leigh plays Heston's naïve bride, and Akim Tamiroff one of the town's major bad guys. It also has a number of interesting cameos (though if you blink you might miss some of them), including Joseph Cotton, Keenan Wynn, Dennis Weaver, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mercedes McCambridge, and best of all, Marlene Dietrich, who looks up from her tarot cards to tell Welles "your future is all used up".
Russell Metty's cinematography is unique and innovative, and Henry Mancini's jazz score outstanding.
Peculiar and bizarre, this film needs more than one viewing to fully appreciate, and to sort out its complex plot of many crooked paths. Welles also wrote the script, and it is spoken in a realistic manner, with dialogue overlapping, and people talking at once.
Heston thankfully does not have accented English, but instead looks handsome with dark makeup and a mustache, on the other hand, Welles has a speech pattern that fits his seedy character, as he slurs and sputters through his words.
This is a stupendous, one-of-a-kind piece of filmmaking, now acknowledged as a classic noir.
DVD extras include Welles' memo, theatrical trailer, production notes, cast and filmmakers. The film has been beautifully restored, and total running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.
The work of Orson Welles often gives rise to debate and heated argument (dating back to production, when there was a ferocious scrap between Welles and his financing studio over editing matters...), so to fire things up let me first say that I am not a big fan of his famous earlier works such as 'Citizen Kane' or 'The Magnificent Ambersons' - they simply don't excite or entertain me enough; 'Touch of Evil' on the other hand does ! I consider this film to be not only his best, but also one of the best films of all-time and certainly the best true 'Film Noir' in existence - although the much more modern, but slightly less 'Noir', Roman Polanski classic 'Chinatown' comes VERY close.....
So, a film that deserves to get the Blu-ray treatment in the hope of an improved presentation/special packaging and specialised British producer 'Eureka !' have done just that. Firstly, it should be noted that the disc content is essentially the same as the 50th anniversary DVD - but that is only available in a Region 1 guise.
It's difficult to say too much in detail about the plot without spoiling things for potential first-time viewers, but a flavour of the content is that it involves a feud between a Mexican government official and the local American police in and around a shanty town which sits right on the border separating the two countries, with the various unsavoury happenings involving murder, harassment and corruption. Add the cinematic ingredients of a presence from Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and a host of much smaller parts by VERY well-known actors, the stunning filming technique/direction of Welles, some truly grotesque/over-the-top characterisations and a rousing musical soundtrack by Henry Mancini (which really doesn't get enough mention or credit) and you can hopefully appreciate the potential for something special.
Despite not wanting to cover the plot too much, I can't proceed without mentioning the opening to the film: a miraculous, continuous, sweeping, high/low tracking scene lasting several minutes which covers the journey of a specific car around the town towards and across the local border checkpoint. The composition is something to behold, especially as it also manages to include a multitude of ancillary activities as well as introducing the Heston/Leigh characters.
I've mentioned the quality of the filming and direction (Welles also wrote the screenplay, adapted from an earlier printed work by the way), but the acting techniques are also worthy of particular mention as Welles made a special effort for minimal rehearsals to be conducted. This results in the interplay between characters being particularly realistic and in-keeping with the overall (dark and sordid) tone of the film, with much interruption, unexpected 'pauses' and people speaking over each other - watching the film is almost like witnessing one big, long argument ! So, this film is dominated by Welles, both behind and in front of the camera and it is a truly exhilarating experience which also clearly influenced more recent work....
Over the most recent DVD this Blu-ray adds 'original' full-frame viewing options for the 1958 Theatrical Version and the 1998 Reconstructed Version as well as a chunky booklet AND the opportunity to get a Steelbook edition - naturally I succumbed and got the Steelbook (and have added photos of it to the main Amazon page for your perusal and titillation, but note it is only available from another retailer !). The case colouring is rather weird, a bit like the film, being an overall vivid Orange embellished with a picture of the Welles character in the film - it is labelled as being a Limited Edition, but I think that may well be just the case for the Steelbook (if the sale process for the now OOP Steelbook of the recent 'Metropolis' pressing by Eureka! is anything to go by, noting that the standard Blu-ray is still available retail...).
I already have this film on DVD, but not the latest 50th anniversary edition so the Blu-ray was a justifiable purchase - and it was worth it. I have only watched the 1998 Restored version, but can confirm that after some initial concerns (the presentation doesn't start by being particularly striking) the picture is for the most part very good, but not brilliant. I suspect that this is about as good as 'Touch of Evil' will ever be presented, but don't expect the kind of rich/supremely sharp picture some other restoration works on Blu-ray of B/W films have recently been; I think a lot of this is probably due to the filming technique, as much of it was handheld, mostly filmed in darkness with little added light and the initial production process, rather than a 'duff' restoration !
Certain scenes suffer from high levels of grain and/or blurriness - this may well be scenes that are added/not of the original version (I can't be bothered to check what bits of the film are different, sorry), but as the film progresses the presentation rapidly progresses to being permanently of the highest standard that has been achieved for the restoration. Contrast levels are good, but not starkly dark black/bright white, with an excellent level of sharpness and, especially, brightness. Edges are very well defined but there is the occasional presence of 'shimmering' from specific parts of the background and what appears to be a type of motion-blur, a bit like what poor screens display with fast-moving objects. The most vivid aspect of the presentation is the sound, which despite 'only' being 2.0 does get the DTS-HD Master Audio treatment - so it is beautifully clear, although clearly mono (you cannot improve to stereo if the original is mono so this is, again, as good as is possible) meaning that if your speakers are widely separated from the screen (like mine are, for the more usual surround sound) voices are coming from the sides, when the mouths are central !
I could notice no difference in quality between the full-frame and widescreen variants, but do note that whilst the wider format does crop the picture, comparison (which I of course did !) shows on my TV that it is only at the top (about 1/10 of the overall full-frame picture), whereas MORE is shown at the bottom and the sides - as a result I prefer the widescreen version, as I think the framing techniques employed by Welles lend themselves better to what you can see with that format (ie the sides) as opposed to full-frame.....
There is a good Internet-based review which has screen caps of various scenes/compares the different DVD/Blu-rays editions. As Amazon stops reviews containing website URLs, I have added a customer discussion with the link - it is dated 18 Jan 12 and entitled 'Link to Internet review showing screen caps of various scenes and comparison of the DVD/Blu-rays editions'.
One caveat, as mentioned a little earlier, I could not exactly reproduce the 'cropping' of the widescreen version that those comparisons show. On my TV the top is cropped but there is additional 'coverage' to the sides BUT ALSO the bottom, which the review does not show and in fact suggests that the WS version crops the bottom as well !
For 'Touch of Evil' aficionados I have one final comment about the different versions. If you watch the theatrical version the film credits are overlaid onto that marvellous opening scene BUT the ending just fades to black, whereas if you watch the restored/director's version the opening scene is shown in all its glory without any 'unwanted' intrusions but the ending fades to the film credits with a different 'flavour' to the closing music; so, for me, neither is perfect as I would like to see the restored/director's version with the 'abrupt' ending ! It would have been better if the restored/director's version had an unaltered ending, which then made a transition to the credits after a short pause (as has been done with some other classic film restorations) so you can interrupt it to get the full effect of the ending....
I have yet to sample the extras, but I am aware of many complimentary mentions for the multiple commentaries plus there are (as mentioned earlier) the same featurettes as the latest DVD so there is more to look forward to, as this film is not just entertainment but interesting as a study into filming techniques etc.
One of the most impressive films of all-time, and one of my most favourite, gets excellent treatment for this restoration. I've seen comparison screen captures to the recent 50th Anniversary DVD edition, so am confident this Blu-ray offers a worthwhile 'upgrade' option, especially if you are able to get the (collectible ?) Steelbook edition as well the informative/substantial booklet offering and the full-frame viewing options for those who prefer the film that way. In either format, overall the presentation is very good (after a slightly shaky start) with good sharpness/clarity and a clear soundtrack.
on 26 March 2015
TOUCH OF EVIL  [Limited Edition] [Blu-ray + Digital HD with UltraViolet] [US Import] A Stylistic Masterpiece!
Directed by Orson Welles, ‘Touch of Evil’ is a film noir masterpiece whose Hollywood backstory is as unforgettable as the movie itself. Starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Orson Welles, this dark portrait of corruption and morally compromised obsessions tells the story of a crooked police chief who frames a Mexican youth as part of an intricate criminal plot. Featuring three versions of the film – the Preview Version, the Theatrical Version and the Reconstructed Version based on Orson Welles’ original vision, Touch of Evil is a “a stylistic masterpiece!” (Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide) that stands the test of time.
FILM FACT: The film opens with a three-minute, twenty-second tracking shot widely considered by critics as one of the greatest long takes in cinema history. In 1993, ‘Touch of Evil’ was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Cast: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joanna Cook Moore, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver, Val de Vargas, Mort Mills, Victor Millan, Lalo Rios, Phil Harvey, Joi Lansing, Harry Shannon, Rusty Wescoatt, Wayne Taylor, Ken Miller, Raymond Rodriguez, Arlene McQuade, Dan White, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marlene Dietrich, Mercedes McCambridge, Keenan Wynn and Joseph Cotton (Uncredited)
Director: Orson Welles
Producers: Albert Zugsmith and Rick Schmidlin (1998 restoration and director's cut)
Screenplay: Orson Welles, Franklin Coen and Paul Monash (Uncredited)
Composer: Henry Mancini
Cinematography: Russell Metty, ASC
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 111 minutes; 96 minutes and 99 minutes
Region: All Regions
Studio: Universal Studios
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Honeymooning with American wife Susan Vargas [Janet Leigh] in the frontier town of Los Robles, Mexican special narcotics investigator Mike Vargas [Charlton Heston] finds business interrupting pleasure when a car bomb kills the town's boss. Required to investigate, Vargas finds himself up against Hank Quinlan [Orson Welles], a local detective with a reputation for getting his man by fair means or foul. Resentful of Mike Vargas' authority in the case, Hank Quinlan decides to tamper with evidence to ensure that a perpetrator is found. What's more, Hank Quinlan leans on local racketeer Joe Grandi, to ensure that Mike and Susan's stay in Los Robles is a most unpleasant one.
Orson Welles' glorious, if temporary, return to the Hollywood fray after years of studio neglect is one of his richest and most rewarding pictures. Adapted by Orson Welles himself, from a shelved Paul Monash script based on a minor novel by Whit Masterson (which Orson Welles famously never read), it's a supremely confident and stylish work. From the legendary opening tracking shot, still technically mesmerising with Russell Metty's black and white photography creates a strange chiaroscuro, noir landscape (though a straggler of the genre, the film stands as one of its finest entries) in which is quintessential Orson Wellesian themes of evil, corruption, and moral ambiguity loom large.
Orson Welles further evaded studio control by shooting much of the picture on location. He had originally asked to make the film in Tijuana, but the executives had feared that was too far from Hollywood for them to call the shots. Instead, he proposed shooting in Venice, California, for a few days. Once he got there, however, he settled in for most of the remaining shoot. By then, the executives were thrilled with each day's rushes, so they pretty much left him alone. Throughout filming, Orson Welles tweaked the script to get each scene just right. Usually he started his re-writes as soon as the day's (or night's) shooting was done and finished his re-writing in time for the next day's work. Nobody could tell when he was sleeping.
The most famous sequence in ‘Touch of Evil’ was the lengthy tracking shot that opens the film. The three-minute-plus shot opens with an unseen figure planting a bomb in a car, follows the car through the border town's streets, picks up Heston and wife Janet Leigh as they cross the border and ends as they kiss, and the bomb explodes off-screen. Welles spent an entire night getting the shot just right. When the customs officer questioning Heston and Leigh kept flubbing his lines, Welles told him to mouth the words. They could dub the right lines in later. They finally got the shot at the last possible moment - the sky was just turning pink in the east.
A fine cast more than match the coruscating material: Charlton Heston untypically restrained in Mexican garb strikes the right note of outrage in the face of judicial perversion and there is fine support not only from Janet Leigh but strong contributions from Marlene Dietrich, a young Dennis Weaver, and Joseph Celleia as Hank Quinlan's devoted partner. Orson Welles however towers over the proceedings, on-screen and off. Hank Quinlan is a grotesque, hauntingly recognisable creation, embittered by the past and forever doomed to seek former glories and is totally masterful!
Although ‘Touch of Evil’ was largely neglected in the U.S., the picture's European release was met with critical raves. It even won Best Picture at the Brussels Film Festival. That didn't change any minds at Universal, where the film was written off as a loss. But over the years, ‘Touch of Evil’ continued to find its audience through television and film society screenings which eventually sparked an interest among several of the film's admirers to restore it. The process began in the early 70s when Robert Epstein of the UCLA Film and Television requested a print to show at UCLA for the studio. When the film was screened it ran 108 min. and he believed he found Welles' lost cut; this was reported in The Hollywood Reporter at the time. But this was only a preview cut with many shots that Welles did not direct. A real turning point came in 1992: producer Rick Schmidlin read an article in Film Quarterly by Jonathan Rosenbaum that used excerpts from a 1957 memo Orson Welles wrote to studio chief Edward Muhl offering editing suggestions for Touch of Evil. As producer Rick Schmidlin brought in Oscar® winning editor Walter Murch who had just won two Academy Awards for ‘The English Patient’ and Orson Welles scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum as consultant to help construct the current 111 minute version.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘Touch of Evil’ is presented in an aspect ratio 1.85:1 with a stunning 1080p encoded black-and-white image that provides an extremely satisfying high definition picture. Grain is visible along with plenty of detail. Watching this edition offers an experience as close as one can imagine to sitting in a film cinema watching the film being projected. I should note that there are two different transfers to see here. One is for the 1998 Reconstruction, which is radically different throughout the film and would never be able to be seamlessly branched from the others. The second transfer is for both the Theatrical Release version and the longer Preview Version, which simply adds another 13 minutes of footage. Given the two transfers, you may see minor differences here and there as some viewers have noted in various forums. Without getting into the endless discussions of various people’s opinions about the aspect ratio, we understand that this is the proper aspect ratio in which to view the film.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – ‘Touch of Evil’ gets an English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix, for all three versions that presents the dialogue clearly and, in the case of the restored version, provides a variety of music and sound effects at easily discernible levels. This isn’t a surround mix, of course, but it definitely gets the job done in presenting both the words and the world of the film.
Blu-ray Special features and Extras:
Orson Welles’ Legendary 58 page booklet ‘Touch of Evil’ Memo To The Universal Studio. Dated 5th December 1957.
Digitally Re-mastered and Fully Restored from High Resolution 35mm Original Film Element.
Reconstructed 1998 Film Version: Re-edited in 1998, this definitive cut of the film is reconstructed to Orson Welles’ original version based on the 58 page Memo to the studio. With additional information we find out that in 1957, Orson Welles completed principal photography on ‘Touch of Evil’ and edited the first cut. Upon screening the film, the Studio felt it could be improved, shot additional scenes and re-edited it. Orson Welles viewed this new version and within hours a passionate 58 page Memo requesting editorial changes. This particular film version represents and attempt to honour those requests and make ‘Touch of Evil’ the film Orson Welles envisioned it to be, and stated that, “I close this Memo with a very earnest plea that you consent to this brief visual pattern to which I gave so many long hard day’s work.” – Orson Welles.
Theatrical 1958 Film Version: This version of the film was seen by the U.S. audiences when it was released in cinemas in 1958.
1976 Preview Film Version: Created prior to the cinema version, this cut of the film incorporates some of Orson Welles’ requests and was re-discovered by Universal Pictures in 1976.
Audio Commentary: Reconstructed 1998 Version Commentary with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Reconstruction Producer Rick Schmidlin: The two stars of the film share their memories of working with Welles, while Rick Schmidlin alternates between pointing out specific changes and prompting the actors with questions about their experience. Some of the stories from Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh are repeated in the two documentaries, but with their memories prodded by Rick Schmidlin, they relate additional detail that makes this track especially totally informative and entertaining. On top of all that it is to my mind the definite audio commentary out of the all the audio commentaries to listen to.
Audio Commentary: Reconstructed 1998 Version Commentary with Reconstruction Producer Rick Schmidlin: In his solo commentary, Rick Schmidlin recounts in great detail the lengthy history of his efforts to interest Universal Studio in reconstructing the film in accordance with Orson Welles's Memo and his subsequent work with Editor Walter Murch on the 1998 reconstruction version. This is also a total bonus, as Rick Schmidlin gives us so much more information about his involvement with the Reconstructed 1998 Version audio and being solo without Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh in the studio with him, he is able to really get into a full flow of fascinating information. Again this is a real tour-de-force audio commentary not to be missed.
Audio Commentary: Theatrical 1958 Version Commentary with Writer/Filmmaker F.X. Feeney: You get to hear that F.X. Feeney is a massive long-time [obsessed] fan of the Theatrical 1958 Version, even as initially released. F.X. Feeney is an ideal guide to its themes, nuances and visual strategies of this 96 minutes film version. Although he notes various plot holes that are addressed in the Reconstructed Version, he tries to make a respectable case for the efficacy of the 1958 Theatrical Version. But to me it is my least favourite version, as far too much was edited out of the 1958 version and is a very disjointed presentation and you lose the plot, as there are too many holes.
Audio Commentary: 1976 Preview Version Commentary with Orson Welles Historians Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore: This is also a very informative audio commentary by two massive fans of the film, but despite it provides very little information about the Preview Version itself or any comparison between it and the 1958 Theatrical Version. Instead, the two commentators focus the film's themes and Orson Welles's underlying concerns, subjects they are uniquely qualified to address. But despite this, it is a must hear audio commentary and will keep you totally entertained and amused by all their comments throughout this 1976 Preview Film Version.
Feature Documentary: Bringing Evil To Life  [480i] [4:3] [20:58] With this brilliant retrospective documentary, features Robert Wise [Filmmaker]; Allen Daviau [Cinematography]; Peter Bogdanovich [Filmmaker]; Charlton Heston [Ramon Miguel (Mike) Vargas]; Janet Leigh [Susan Vargas]; Dennis Weaver [The Night Man]; Bob O’Neil [Picture Restoration] and Valentin De Vargas [Pancho]. This feature discusses the original production of the film and what happened in post-production after Orson Welles left to pursue another project. (Charlton Heston is admirably frank about the consequences of that action, noting that Orson Welles committed a major no-no and never got to direct a studio picture again in the United States.) (This feature was clearly prepared around the same time as the cast commentary, with contemporary interview footage of both Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh.)
Feature Documentary: Evil Lost and Found  [480i] [4:3] [17:04] With this behind-the-scene documentary with a look at the reconstruction of ‘Touch of Evil’ and the 3 versions of the film. This is a continuation of the above documentary “Bringing Evil To Life” and features Janet leigh [Susan Vargas]; Bob O’Neil [Picture Restoration]; Charlton Heston [Ramon Miguel (Mike) Vargas]; Rick Schmidlin [Producer of Editorial Change]; Peter Bogdanovich [Filmmaker]; Jonathan Rosenbaum [Consultant]; Walter Murch [Editor]; George Lucas [Filmmaker]; Curtis Hanson [Filmmaker] and Robert Wise [Filmmaker]. This feature discusses the work done by Walter Murch with Rick Schmidlin, Jonathan Rosenbaum and others to follow the Welles’ memo in re-editing the film. There is some repetition with the first featurette, but this is still all helpful material. But with this particular documentary, at the end we get a personal video tour with Curtis Hanson, who is in Windward Pacific in Venice California and points out the specific building locations used in the Orson Welles ‘Touch of Evil’ to give the impression that we was at a specific Mexican Border Town. We are also informed that the town was built and developed by Abbot Kinney (1850 – 1920) and when oil was discovered, the place finally fell into disrepair. This is a brilliant extra bonus to this specific Evil Lost and Found documentary. A must view.
Theatrical Trailer: This is the Original Trailer for ‘Touch of Evil’  [480i] [4:3] [2:08] This is of very bad quality and such a shame they could not of found a more pristine copy and especially in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Finally, Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil' is a genuinely remarkable motion picture that displays one stroke of cinematic genius after another, a brilliant piece of work with an interesting backstory to match. Starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Orson Welles, the crime thriller is a deliciously lurid tale of corruption, murder, and the morally compromised, which still stands as a stunning, stylized noir masterpiece. The Blu-ray arrives with spectacular picture, strong audio and satisfying bonus features. All in all, this is a classic masterpiece that rightly belongs in any respectable cinephile's ultimate collection. But one interesting fact I want to bring to your attention and in all the Audio Commentaries, is that they are stunned by Marlene Dietrich performances and how the actors would kill to be in the film with her. But they also love Marlene Dietrich classic comment to Orson Welles in saying, "Your future is all used up," plus the final scene at the end of the film when Marlene Dietrich turns round and says, “Adios.” Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on 11 November 2003
The greatest "B movie" of all time.
What started out as a contractual obligation of Orson Welles grew into the creation of a finely directed and competently acted masterpiece of cinema history. Adapted from the book "Badge of Evil" this is a story of police corruption along the Mexican border. This film has everything! The opening sequence illuminates the flawless cinematography (this is the five minute tracking of the car), superb acting (Of course, Orson Welles and Charlton Heston are in the picture) and genre defining one liners that have become cinema history (the final word from Marlene Dietrich - need I say anymore?). This is film noir at its most bewitching. Savour every second from one of the greatest films from cinema's golden age.
There are several exceptional things about this DVD, not least that it has been totally restored to Welles's vision after meddling by the studio detracted from its original impact (Welles did seem prone to this kind of interference, perhaps an indication of his abrasive and independent character.)
In this form, you can drink in the seedy sleazy ambience like few other films - it's peeling off the walls, you can almost smell it. Apart from Charlton Heston and Vivien Leigh, all the characters reek of stale sweat and corruption. This is archetypal film noir, shot in dense B&W, with atmosphere derived in huge part from the brilliant cinematography, camera angles, lighting, sets, music.
Everything Welles did here is magnificent, original and innovative, none more so than the opening shot: it lasts four minutes, during which the camera swoops around the Mexican border town, spying the bomb being placed in the car boot, then interplays the traffic junctions while Heston and Leigh walk towards the border. The car comes back into shot repeatedly then stops or turns off, before they all meet again at the border post. This is filmwork fashioned from sheer genius, setting the tone for the film without words. In fact, words can barely do it justice.
The plot might be termed good old-fashioned melodrama that would not be to every taste, though in the hands of a superb cast assembled here it could scarcely be performed any better. Not the stuff of an epic, but as a film constructed in the image of its director it ranks not far short of Citizen Kane. To be admired as much as enjoyed.
on 11 December 2008
Firstly, this is NOT - EMPHATICALLY NOT - the 1958 original. The opening contains a rationalisation of the restoration process, the screen credits are removed, and - most importantly - Henry Mancini's magnificent score is removed. If this doesn't bother you, then this ranks alongside The Maltese Falcon and The Third Man as among the greatest films of the Black and White era. Film historians and Universal Pictures please take note *This film rightly became a classic before anyone "restored" it*, and it should be available in a 2-disc edition (Somewhat in the way Blade Runner now is). Having said all that, Awesome Orson was never better than here - his portrayal of the fall of Hank Quinlan is breathtaking, and with fine performances from Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and an underappreciated Joseph Calleia, not to mention Marlene Dietrich's last great role, there is not a dull moment in this masterpiece.
on 23 August 2015
5 stars but there is some mannerism and coldness that might make it lose one star.
Because I still think that the film, as a whole, is less great than single scenes.
It feels like Welles, in his constant and genius re-thinking of cinema and genres, ended up to focus too much on creating stunning scenes and stressing on the noir moods than to keep up the rhythm of the film, which should also come from script, characters and an organic continuum of scenes and moments, where the story unfolds because of characters' motifs instead of his creator's pleasure of manipulating things and people, just to shock and surprise the audience. Basically, it is a fantastic post-modern film, made ages before postmodernism (like Tarantino), resulting to be too cold and "planned". Still I find it enourmously entertaining and, if it is even for the opening sequence, and the bitter closing line, it should be bought with no second thoughts.
Remastering is spectacular and extras are great.
The first attempt to reconstruct the director's cut was made in Italy in the late eighties by the authors of a late night public tv show, who got hold of the negative and screened that version on tv.
on 23 November 2011
Gotta say I am glad to see this classic in HD. All THREE versions (five, if you count the different aspect ratios) have finally seen the blu ray format. Was excited watching these, but was a bit let down by the high contrast in the picture. The grays look almost white! Some shadow detail, but not much. The Universal Anniversary DVD had a much "darker" picture that really made this film noir classic look good. The detail on the blu rays are really good (looks like very little DNR was used), but the image doesn't "Wow" me like some other blu rays of films from the '50s. Although watching the full-frame versions, the image looked better. In this case, smaller the picture...the better.
The prints are seriously clean from scratches and dirt. Each version is from different sources, of course.
The theatrical cut is presented in your choice of 1.37 or 1.85 aspect ratio. The same with the 1998 restored version (which looks best in 1.37 ratio). The preview version is presented only in 1.85. The hefty booklet that comes with it explains about the different aspect ratios. I love widescreen movies, but these work better in the square format without the top and bottom being masked off. It's your choice.
I just wished they would have given us different options for the audio. I am a firm believer that mono needs to be confined to the center channel speaker in a surround sound set up. The only option for English is 2 channel and it is spread wide across the front speakers where, to me, becomes annoying.
The special features seem to be retreads from different prior DVD releases (at least the Universal ones here in the states) but are still exciting to watch along with this exciting masterpiece.
This is the best, so far, this classic has looked because of the 1080p resolution (DVD will never compare to blu ray). Just wished it was darker and looked more film noirish.
All in all, get this "limited edition" on blu ray! And fall in love with this classic all over again.
Eureka did wonders with this masterpiece!
on 13 October 2011
I had never heard of this title when it popped up on the DVD review site I peruse but after a quick read of what exactly I was seeing I was pretty sure I wanted to see it.
Written, directed by and co-starring Orson Welles (no introduction needed), starring a bizzarely made up to be Mexican Charlton Heston (before Ben Hur) and Janet Leigh (before Psycho) this is more Hitchcock than Hitchcock!!! A cracking film noir, just at the end of the great noir period apparently, the movie opens with a dizzyingly complicated 3 plus minutes tracking shot and ends with a delicious twist in its dark tail.
Its a story of two distinct branches of Law Enforcement dealing with, broadly, cross cultural hatred, terrorism, narcotics, murder, double crossing and intrigue. Wonderfully shot the tale unravels imaginatively under the direction of Welles, who apparently encouraged his co stars to help with dialogue and scripting.
In 1958 the finished film was roughly edited by Welles, who was very happy with the result, but destroyed later by studio execs who thought it better to tamper with the work of a film making genius. Only 50 years later do we now get to see the film as close as possible to how the great man intended it. And it looks great.
With great performances from all the players, especially Welles as tough talking detective Hank Quinlan, a moody atmosphere and a typically unsettling score the film ticks all the boxes and deserves the status of a noir classic.
Also, kudos must go, as always, to the Eureka Masters Of Cinema series as this blu ray edition is simply fantastic. 5 versions of the movie in their proper aspect ratio, 4 commentaries, 2 worthwhile featurettes and an extemely insightful book. Top class.
on 3 January 2013
This is most definitively Orson Welles best movie next to Citizen Kane. Pure evil ;-)
This Eureka! edition is a pure treat with all these different versions and lots of extra's and reading material.