40 years after being truncated by Universal Studios and dumped into theaters on the bottom half of a double-bill, Orson Welles's classic film noir TOUCH OF EVIL finally gets the treatment it deserves, reissued in a beautifully reconstructed "director's cut" that incorporates about 50
editing and soundtrack alterations which were based on a 58-page memo written by Welles to heedless studio executives in 1957.
Charlton Heston stars as Mexican lawman Vargas who clashes with corrupt police detective Quinlan (Orson Welles) while investigating a murder in a small town along the US-Mexico border. The new version is not so much a restoration as it is a revivification, presenting the film according to Welles's
original intentions for the first time, and changing the film in subtle, but very real, ways without including any new footage. Taken separately, the 50 changes don't seem that radical, but together, their impact on the final film makes the story easier to follow and results in a movie that now
seems less like a pulpy crime thriller and more of a tragic character study. It's as if a layer of haze had been peeled away, making the visuals even more astounding and the performances fresher than ever, and revealing all of the buried social comment involving prejudice, poverty, and abuse of
power. The most significant change is the removal of the superimposed credits from the legendary opening crane shot, a spectacular three-minute continuous take in which a bomb is placed into a car trunk and we then follow Vargas and Susie along the streets of the border town until the car
explodes. The technical virtuosity of the shot is no longer obscured, and with the removal of the jazzy bongo theme as well, Welles's dense soudtrack can be clearly heard. Similarly, the sound for the entire picture has been remixed, permitting Welles s mastery of overlapping dialogue and multiple
conversations to come through with crystal clarity, and also contributing immeasurably to the film's feverish atmosphere.
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