TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil on DVD

Welles Final Hollywood Masterpiece

Orson Welles' last Hollywood creation shows that changing times, and changing studio management, can bring new vision to the brass of Tinseltown.

When he first made Touch of Evil in 1958, Universal Studios pulled it away from his clutches and edited it their way over his protestations. Now, more than forty years later, some visionaries at Universal have finally allowed us to see a version of this "film noir" classic as close as possible to the way Welles envisioned his project.

Welles wrote, directed, and co-stars in "Touch of Evil," and his fingerprints can be seen all over it. It's a story about flawed people leading and defending their flawed lives, magnificently and innovatively directed and with (with one exception) perfect casting and performances.

The film stars Charlton Heston as Miguel Vargas, a Mexican narcotics cop who, upon crossing into the United States with his new American wife (Janet Leigh), crosses paths and swords with organized crime and a burned out and corrupt local police chief Hank Quinlan (Welles). Look, too, for Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich is cameo roles.

Welles' performance as the fat slob Quinlan is nothing short of amazing; he's old, fat, tired, jaded, burned out, defensive, offensive, desperate... Leigh is there mostly for decorative purposes, yet brings a real vulnerability to a part that ends up being basically a tennis ball being volleyed back and forth between Heston, Welles, and the drug lord.

Heston, a marvelous actor with incredible screen presence, shouldn't have been cast as Vargas. His acting is fine, but his complexion has been so darkened with makeup to make him look Mexican that he actually appears darker than the hispanic actors - and he speaks with no Spanish accent while hispanic-American roles are delivered with thick accents. It's the weakest part of the film and it does detract from this otherwise riveting motion picture.

No reflection on Heston, who undoubtedly has the talent to fake a Spanish accent, but Welles' should have made him do it.

Oh well, if that's the film's biggest problem...

According to the DVD, Universal grabbed the film from Welles' hands and edited it their way, and then showed it to Welles at a screening. Welles, appalled at what the suits had had done to his work, wrote them a 58 page memo arguing his case - most of which fell on blind eyes.

Now, however, Universal has taken that memo to heart and re-edited the film to make it as close to Welles' original vision as possible. Many of the changes are small, but one in particular leaps right out at you: the opening shot.

We don't know if they edited the visuals or not, but they've restored the soundtrack to the original intent, a tapestry of background noise and music that underlays the three-minute-plus shot, and it works beautifully.

The DVD itself has been restored as well, and the 16x9 anamorphic widescreen picture looks very good. There's a touch of softness to it, and it's quite dark, but this is undoubtedly intentional on the part of the director. The audio quality, which is Dolby Digital mono, is also very good.

For extras, you're given the entire Welles memo (which is a fascinating look into the mind of this innovative auteur), production notes, cast information, the trailer, and some trailers for a bunch of Universal's Hitchcock DVD's.

Touch of Evil isn't a particularly pleasant film, due to its dark subject matter but, at least in its restored incarnation, it's a legitimate cinematic masterpiece that belongs in the collection of cinema buffs.

Touch of Evil, from Universal Home Video
111 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh
Produced by Albert Zugsmith
Written and Directed by Orson Welles


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy

Updated May 13, 2006