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 ... more »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« less
Buy this, even if you've already seen this film 20 times!
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 11/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Generally considered as the ultimate Film Noir (and the last film of the genre), TOUCH OF EVIL is certainly one of the most macabre, bizarre poignant films ever produced in Hollywood. The director Orson Welles is of course the man who made CITIZEN CANE, but many Welles affectionados such as Peter Bogdanovich actually consider TOUCH OF EVIL better than KANE; as a matter of fact the best film Welles has ever directed.Welles' bravula mise en scene, with the help of Russel Metty's startling black-and-white lighting and stunning camera movement, transform Venice, California into a chaotic frontier town between the US and Mexico. Charlton Heston, often refereed to as the most wooden actor in American cinema, gives a performance of his life as a Mexican cop. His casting may sound funny, but please forget that it's the same guy who played BEN HUR and Moses in the TEN COMMANDMENTS watching this movie then his highly energetic, rather over-the-top performance is actually convincing, especially as opposed to Welles' deliciously vicious portrayal of a corrupted American cop. It was actually Heston who suggested Universal that Welles would not only act in this film but also direct it, so you should give him some credit. Janet Leigh plays Heston's all-American wife "from Philadelphia", and is also quite marvelous in the way she turns out to be something else that we first think she is. With Hitchcock's PSYCHO and Anthony Mann's THE NAKED SPUR, this is probably her best performance. Metty's contrasty black-and-white photography also makes her very beautiful. She looks always better in blacho and white than in color, don't you think so?This unorthodox casting works, because the film is a bigger than life caricature. It is often unbelievably funny indeed, which makes the viewer unconfortable because the thematic matter treated in this film is certainly not a humorous one. Of course that was Welles' intention, to challenge and provoke the audience. The magnificent supporting cast including Welles' favorite actors Ray Collins and Joe Cotten (from the Mercury Theatre and CITIZEN KANE) and Akim Tamirof hightens the caricature nature of the film. Joseph Caleia who plays Welles' side-kick proves to be a marvelous actor, one of the best performance in the entire Welles filmography (that is, from another actor than Orson himself). The dark hummour of the film reaches one of the darkest, poignant criticism about justice and how the idea is executed in reality. How much is it allowed for a police officer to execute justice, what is the thin line between justice and the abuse of justice that leads to fascism and a police state? This important question in our modern society is the theme Welles attacks in this film. But as in most of Welles great achievments, the political/social concerns turns out to be only one aspect of the story. It also becomes deeply deeply emotional in the way it becomes a personal moral conflict as well. There used to be two versions of the film. The one hour and a half theatrical released version and the nearly two hours restored version. Though the longer version includes shots that were not done by Welles and Metty, the story is more comprehensible and Welles often proclaimed that he preferred the longer one (it was Universal who made the retakes and made the longer version, and why they did not released this one is a big mystery). But in the early 90's, a memo by Welles suggesting re-editing the 110 minutes version was discovered. So this so-called newly restored version (which should be called a re-construction since this version never existed; a great injustice that Welles was not allowed to touch the footage he himself had directed) was made, which is now on this DVD; with a beautiful digital wide-screen transfer that captures the deep blacks, menacing shadows and brilliant whites of Russel Metty's cinematography. The heaviest changes are made on the sequence that you might have imagined no re-editing could be done; the celebrated 3 minutes long take which opens the film. This newly reconstructed version (and Welles' memo reproduced as a supplement of this DVD) confirms one important aspect of Welles' works that he was almost obsessive about, but few critics have been noticing; his close attention in the use of sound. You can also notice his obbsession about making a film that sound distinctively different from conventional movies by listening to the audio commenatary by Bogdanovich on THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI-DVD (and reading the huge book of Welles-Bogdanovich interview edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum THIS IS ORSON WELLES; check the amazon.com bookstore!).Some TOUCH OF EVIL fanatics may regret that the famous Henry Manicini's opening theme music is now gone, but one has to admit that in the way Welles envisioned, the opening long take becomes far more powerful. As a stylish echnical tour-de-force as it is, the opening shot has now an almost documentary feeling about it, so immediate and raw, which obviously must have been the touch that Welles intended in this picture.Though there are not too many obvious changes made in what you see from the former restored version (except that most of the explanatory re-takes done by Harry Keller are mostly gone now), what you hear is very different and the atmosphere you get from the entire film is now something else. The film that used to be concerned as the ultimate example of Welles stylism has now became a great example of Welles' realism. His "realism" is something different from Rossellini's realism or Ken Loach realism. I would venture to say it's closer to something like Scorsese realism or Oliver Stone realism (if Orson were alive today, he ceratinly would have worked with Robert Richardson as his DP), and this amazing realistic feeling you get from the new TOUCH OF EVIL will certainly blow your mind away, even to those whom who have seen the movie for more than 20 times."
Randy A. Riddle | Mebane, North Carolina USA | 06/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, "Touch of Evil" is definately a classic.A couple of words about the aspect ratio as well as the various versions of the film that are available.TOE was originally released at 1.33:1 -- it was never filmed as a widescreen movie.There are three versions of the film floating around on video. The first was the theatrical release version that was edited without Welles' approval. It includes some sequences shot by other individuals at Universal to make the story easier to understand. This was the only version available up through the mid-80's.Around 1985, Universal attempted a restoration edit of the film that was closer to Welle's opinion. Released to art house theatres and on video, this is the commonly available version found on home video from Universal. The restoration did have its detractors -- the restoration, in addition to putting back more material intended for the film by Welles, also put in more of the material shot by the studio without Welle's permission.The third version, and probably the closest to Welles' intent, was released in 1999. In this case, original memos from Welles were used to re-edit the existing material and to eliminate the material not shot by Welles. The film also includes the fantastic opening sequence of the film without the opening titles superimposed -- the credits are seen at the end of the film. Also, the parallel stories in the film are more closely intertwined in the editing throughout the entire film. (In the original and first restoration, the plot lines are developed in a more conventional fashion.) This is the version due to be released on DVD."
"And this is where you're going to die..."
Michael Crane | Orland Park, IL USA | 07/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story is pretty much known by many that after the heated battle with "Citizen Kane," Orson Welles was never given complete control over his films again. This would lead to the studio editing his movies and changing things he didn't want changed. This was the case with "Touch of Evil," and of course this really upset Welles. Now circumstances are different, as the DVD "Touch of Evil" offers you the restored and uncut version that is as close to Orson Welles' vision as you can get. And the results are pretty amazing, I must admit. "Touch of Evil" is an outstanding film noir that is unlike any you have ever seen.It all starts with a car explosion that kills two. A Mexican narcotics investigator and a very obsessive and cold police chief are thrown into the investigation. That's only half the story, as the investigator's wife is confronted by a known criminal and his gang of hoodlums that threaten to cause trouble for them. And what's worse is that the police chief doesn't appear to be the most honorable man in the world, and perhaps is even crooked. This all leads to an explosive plot with an unbelievable finale that is both unpredictable and satisfying. It is very clear why "Touch of Evil" is hailed as a classic by many.It's great to see that the movie has been restored to Welles' original vision. I've never seen the studio version of the film, and I never want to. I'm sure they did a fine job butchering it. Welles has done for "Touch of Evil" what Hitchcock has done for "Psycho." The outcome is an authentic and exhilarating film noir that is very different from any other film noir that is out there.Charlton Heston is great in his role. He proves to be a pretty convincing Mexican narcotics investigator. Very hard to imagine, but it works on the screen. Orson Welles is unrelenting and chilling as the police chief, Hank Quinlan. No way in the world could the part have been played by anybody else. Janet Leigh also gives an unforgettable performance that gives the movie the extra kick it needs.The DVD has a few extras. The picture and sound is really good, considering how old of a film it is. It is a very clear-cut transfer that does the movie justice. Extra features included are production notes, cast and crew bios, the original theatrical trailer, and Welles' complete memo to the studio about how he felt about the changes forced upon the film. It would've been nice to see this film get the "2-disk" treatment, but hopefully that will happen sometime in the future. I think many will be impressed with the fact that the film is now uncut and restored, leading to them not being too let down that there aren't many extras."Touch of Evil" is a great film that kept my complete attention from start to finish. Some may not like it since the pace can be slow at times, but that is the nature of film noir. The overall product is a dark and haunting film that was groundbreaking then and continues to be groundbreaking now. Highly recommended for huge film buffs, but then again chances are you have already seen it. I was very pleased with the film and it will be one that I will watch again and again. If you're looking for a different and exciting experience, be sure to give it a try. After all, the worst that can happen is you not liking the movie in the end. I think it's worth the risk."
He Was Some Kind Of A Man
Neville Blender | Down Under | 08/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Touch Of Evil has been my all-time favourite film eversince I first viewed it with eyes fixed & mouth agape at the stunning opening sequence. The cinematography is amazing (apart from Robert Foster's corny inserts). Heston agreed to do the movie because he heard Welles was signed on. He would have done anything Welles told him to do, and it shows. Orson gives one of his best cinema appearances as the bent cop, Hank Quinlan. He uses great make-up & costume for the role which still fools viewers till this day. I'd like a dollar for every idiot who comments, "He's not looking too good in this film". Janet Leigh gives nice performance with broken arm & Akim Tamirof nearly steals all the thunder from the others with great character as head Grande. Dennis Weaver is perfect as goofball nightman & Deitrich is unforgetable. This is the greatest film noir ever made. With Welles behind & in front of the camera, it is a feast for all film lovers. After seeing the standard UCLA art house print & the restored print from recent years, I was so glad that someone decided to re-edit the film according to Welles' 58 page memo to MGM. The result is impressive to say the least. Not only do we get to see that famous opening crane shot without obtrusive opening credits, but the entire movie flows a hell of alot smoother & is easier to follow than the earlier theatre cut. Soon we'll all be able to see this masterpiece on DVD, re-edited & including Welle's 58 page memo. Who could ask for more?"
Will Welles' cut appear on DVD?
MikeFilm99@aol.com | New York, U.S.A. | 08/22/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was able to see Orson Welles' cut of "Touch of Evil" and it's MUCH better than the video version sold here. I'm wondering if ORSON WELLES' CUT will appear on DVD anytime soon."