Touch of Evil [DVD] [1958]

Orson Welles' film noir masterpiece (and final Hollywood film) Touch of Evil is presented on DVD in a manner that hews as close as possible to the director's original vision. As legend has it, the studio took control of Welles' film, barring him from the editing process. After first viewing the studio's truncated version of his film, Welles wrote a long memo (included in this package) detailing all the changes he deemed necessary. That memo was the basis for the reconstructed Touch of Evil presented here -- complete, uncut, and in widescreen format. The production notes offer full detail on the film's history. Also included are short biographies and selected filmographies on the film's colorful cast and crew, including Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Marlene Dietrich. This DVD also includes the original theatrical trailer and comes with Spanish and French subtitles and English captioning. For the film's legion of longtime fans, as well as those viewing it for the first time, this DVD offers a definitive and educational package.
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Overview

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Special Features

  • Welles' memo
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Cast and filmmakers

Synopsis

Touch of Evil
This baroque nightmare of a south-of-the-border mystery is considered to be one of the great movies of Orson Welles, who both directed and starred in it. On honeymoon with his new bride, Susan (Janet Leigh), Mexican-born policeman Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) agrees to investigate a bomb explosion. In so doing, he incurs the wrath of local police chief Hank Quinlan (Welles), a corrupt, bullying behemoth with a perfect arrest record. Vargas suspects that Quinlan has planted evidence to win his past convictions, and he isn't about to let the suspect in the current case be railroaded. Quinlan, whose obsession with his own brand of justice is motivated by the long-ago murder of his wife, is equally determined to get Vargas out of his hair, and he makes a deal with local crime boss Uncle Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) to frame Susan on a drug rap, leading to one of the movie's many truly harrowing sequences. Touch of Evil dissects the nature of good and evil in a hallucinatory, nightmarish ambience, helped by the shadow-laden cinematography of Russell Metty and by the cast, which, along with Tamiroff and Welles includes Charlton Heston as a Mexican; Marlene Dietrich, in a brunette wig, as a brittle madam who delivers the movie's unforgettable closing words; Mercedes McCambridge as a junkie; and Dennis Weaver as a tremulous motel clerk. Touch of Evil has been released with four different running times -- 95 minutes for the 1958 original, which was taken away from Welles and brutally cut by the studio; 108 minutes and 114 minutes in later versions; and 111 minutes in the 1998 restoration. Based on a 58-page memo written by Welles after he was barred from the editing room during the film's original post-production, this restoration, among numerous other changes, removed the opening titles and Henry Mancini's music from the opening crane shot, which in either version ranks as one of the most remarkably extended long takes in movie history. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Charlton Heston
    Charlton Heston - Ramon Miguel Vargas
  • Janet Leigh
    Janet Leigh - Susan Vargas
  • Orson Welles
    Orson Welles - Hank Quinlan
  • Joseph Calleia
    Joseph Calleia - Pete Menzies
  • Akim Tamiroff
    Akim Tamiroff - Uncle Joe Grandi

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