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Touch of Evil (SE)
DVD disk
10.15.2008 By: Sturdy
Touch of Evil (SE) order
Director:
Orson Welles

Actors:
Charlton Heston
Janet Leigh
Orson Welles

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When a bomb explodes and kills a man near the Mexico-USA border, two of both countryís best detectives find themselves at odds over how to investigate the case. Soon, their attention is drawn towards attacking each other and neither of their lives will ever be the same again.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I had never seen TOUCH OF EVIL before I watched it on DVD, but I was well aware of all the drama surrounding the film. Itís one of the more famous cases of a studio taking over a film and changing the finished product from what the director originally envisioned. If you keep up with the news in Hollywood, you already know that things havenít gotten much better and studios are still changing movies from what their directors want.

Although it may be sacrilegious to question the great Orson Welles, I have to side with the studio on this one. After watching three different versions of the film, I found Orsonís original vision (the restored version) to be the weakest of the bunch. It was too long and too monotonous to keep the audienceís attention. This really only needed to be a 90 minute film, so the studioís original cut proved to be the stronger of the three versions, even though it cut out some important scenes.

The problem with the film, at least with Orsonís version, is that the story is too simple to be dragged out to two hours. The focus quickly moves from the bombing to the two detectives trying to ďgetĒ each other. But we know quickly that Orsonís character is the bad guy and Charltonís character is the good guy. Itís a simple game of cat and mouse, but we already know what moves are going to be made next, so there was no need to drag out the suspense.

Of all the films that are getting remade these days, I actually think this is one that could be remade better. One of the problems Orson had was the fact that he made this film in 1958 and not 2008. He was limited by what he was allowed to show on screen and the results made the film weaker and tamer than what it should have been. Thereís an intense scene with Janet Leigh that has to be explained to us because Orson couldnít show a woman getting attacked and drugged back in those days. Thereís another scene (that was unnecessary) where the detectives walk into a strip club and all the ďstrippersĒ are in full body suits. Itís minor, but if you canít be realistic, itís better to do something else. The irony, of course, is that the studio thought his original vision was too risquť for American audiences.

Overall, TOUCH OF EVIL is not Orsonís best work, but we may never really know what kind of film he wanted. The restored version is based off a 58 page memo he wrote to the studio, but without him watching and blessing the final product, we can never be sure. Although I appreciated his amazing ability to make art with a camera, I didnít find the movie to be that interesting. But I will say that the long, opening scene was incredible.
THE EXTRAS
Perhaps the coolest thing about this DVD is the fact that they included an actual copy of the typed memo from Orson Welles to the studio in with the DVD set. Itís amazing how much detail Orson put into the memo and how passionate he was about the film.

Commentary with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Rick Schmidlin Ė Preview Version: Wow. This is a great commentary and is full of great facts and explicit details about the making of the film. To have two legends and one expert talking about a classic film like this is such a treat for film fans. I highly recommend this commentary to anyone that loves film.

Commentary with F.X. Feeney Ė Theatrical Version: This is the weaker of the three commentaries and turns into a little bit of an Orson-praise fest. He keeps it going pretty well, but he could have used some help from some other participants.

Commentary with Rick Schmidlin Ė Restored Version: Itís amazing how well Schmidlin knows this film. The track is a little rough to listen to because heís reading from notes or a document the whole time, but he still has a lot of interesting things to say.

Bringing Evil To Life (20:58): I like making of featurettes on older films because they rely more on actors telling stories than showing behind the scenes footage. It was nice to hear from everyone and listen to them talk about the making of the film. They touch on the changes the studio made, but everyone was on their best behavior.

Evil Lost and Found (17:05): This goes into more detail on the trials and tribulations revolving around the post production of the film. Again, no one comes out and insults the studio or Orson, but you canít help but feel there was something that wasnít being said. Itís a nice history lesson, but Iíd like to know what was really said between the studio and Orson.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Everything about the film is great, except for the story. Orson had a way of making magic with a camera and his techniques and tricks he used here are legendary. I think the film is worth a watch (especially the long, opening shot) just to admire his filmmaking, but not so much for the film itself.
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