While the narrative these days around Orson Welles tends to focus on his unfinished films or the wacky work he did in the latter stages of his career, like editing pornos, it can’t be overstated that he was an absolutely brilliant filmmaker. Of course, there’s “Citizen Kane,” but even the studio-mangled “The Magnificent Ambersons” shines in its truncated form, “The Stranger” is an underrrated gem, and then there’s “Touch Of Evil.” It’s a flat out noir masterpiece and audiences in the U.K. are going to get to see it on the big screen once again this summer.
As with many of his films, Welles saw his original vision for “Touch Of Evil” manhandled by the studio. After submitting his rough cut to Universal, the studio hired Harry Keller to shoot additional material. After Welles saw this new cut, he issued a 58-page memo to the studio outlining the changes he deemed necessary — but these were mostly ignored, and the movie went out in a 95-minute version. However, in the ’70s Universal discovered a 108-minute cut in the archives, and in 1998, after lengthy legal entanglements, a new version of “Touch Of Evil” was released using Welles’ original memo as a guide. This is the closest we’ll get to what Welles would’ve wanted without him being able to do it himself, and simply put, the movie is a knockout.
Starring Welles himself in one of his grimiest roles, along with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, from the opening moments of the fantastic tracking shot, you know that this tale of police corruption in a Mexican border town is going to be something remarkable. And it truly is.
“Touch Of Evil” hits the big screen in the U.K. on July 10th. Watch below.