Touch of Evil (1958) (Masters of Cinema) [Blu-ray]
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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's 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's original vision was meticulously followed for the film's 1998 restoration), but for four decades this original version stood as a testament to Welles's 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's 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 the DVD edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This film is Orson Welles through and through. It's dark, it's dingy and it's hopeless. Everything you want from a film noir, and it has a gripping plot to boot.Published 12 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great movie, great ways to watch it (1998 remastered edition, 1958 theatrical version and preview version) and great picture and sound quality. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Orson Wells plays a bitter, twisted, lonely old cop who's wife was strangled many year ago, a gun shot wound has also left him partially crippled. Read morePublished 5 months ago by L.W