Touch of Evil begins with one of the most brilliant sequences in the history of cinema; and ends with one of the most brilliant final scenes ever committed to celluloid. In between unfurls a picture whose moral, sexual, racial, and aesthetic attitudes remain so radical as to cross borders established not only in 1958, but in the present age also. Yet, Touch of Evil has taken many forms. The film as released in 1958 was certainly compromised from Orson Welles' vision, but a brilliant and lengthy memo written by Welles to studio heads in 1957 – taking issue with a studio rough-cut – had some influence on a subsequent preview version shown to test audiences (and rediscovered in the mid-1970s) as well as the 1958 theatrical version. Forty years later, in 1998, Universal produced a reconstructed version of the film that takes into meticulous account the totality of Welles' memo, and ostensibly represents the version of the film that most closely adheres to his original wishes.
Charlton Heston portrays Mike Vargas, the Mexican chief of narcotics who sets out to uncover the facts surrounding a car bomb that has killed a wealthy American businessman on the US side of the border. As Vargas investigates, his newly-wed wife Susie (Janet Leigh, two years before Hitchcock's Psycho) is kidnapped by a gang out to exact vengeance for the prosecution of the brother of their leader (Akim Tamiroff). Meanwhile, Vargas' enquiries become progressively more obfuscated by the American cop Hank Quinlan (played by Welles himself, in one of the most imposing and unforgettable screen performances of his career), a besotted incarnation of corruption who alternately conspires with Susie's captors and seeks solace in the brothel of the Gypsy madame (Marlene Dietrich) who comforted him in bygone times.
Welles' final studio-system picture has at last become secure in its status as one of the greatest films ever made. It remains a testament to the genius of Welles – a film of Shakespearean richness, inexhaustible.
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What a great gem this film is. The last Orson Welles Hollywood movie he made and what a cracker it is. Starring not only Orson himself but also Charlton Heston both cops on different sides of the border and add to that another great talent, Marlene Dietrich, and your bound to have a film that will stand out. This package contains five variations of the movie and is packed with great extras. Very highly recommended for noir fans or simply any fan of Orson Welles' movies. The cinematography is fantastic and the opening scene is a first of its kind and no doubt inspired many movies after it. The "Masters of Cinema" release is certainly fitting for this movie.
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Fans of Orson Welles' long neglected noir masterpiece 'TOUCH OF EVIL' will be delighted with this comprehensive Blu Ray release. This excellent two disc package contains no less than five versions of the film each in different formats. As with so much of his work, Welles was unable to properly edit and finish the film to his own satisfaction. The studio took it away from him and re-edited it behind his back. It wasn't until 1998 that the film was reconstructed using a 58 page memo Welles wrote to the studio as a guide providing the closest we will ever get to a Director's Cut. This Blu Ray release contains the 1958 preview version, the original theatrical release and the restored cut of the film. The Blu Ray HD transfer is good although there are numerous glitches on the negative - perhaps not surprising for a film with such a chequered history - but best of all is the excellent HD - 5.1 soundtrack overseen by Walter Murch. It is as clear as a bell with some wonderful background effects that add immacuately to the overall impact of the film. The Special Features are comprehensive including commentaries featuring stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh and two documentaries detailing the making of and restoration of the film. There is also a 56 page booklet featuring articles by Welles, Francois Truffaut and others. For those who have been waiting for years for a definitive release for this wonderful film then wait no longer and acquire this excellent blu ray package.
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