Reel Classics

Touch of Evil - Kino Lorber 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review (1958)

Touch of Evil

Orson Welles had a perception of everything in the film, including the music. He knew. He truly understood film scoring. …Touch of Evil was one of the best things I’ve ever done.” - Henry Mancini

And it shows, too.  From Mancini’s score to the acting talents to the tight direction from Welles himself, Touch of Evil absolutely haunts your consciousness even while you are watching it.  Film noir gets no better than right here in 1958.

"If you’ve never seen it, this is the release to own"


“I close this memo with a very earnest plea that you consent to this brief visual pattern to which I gave so many long hard days of work.” That is the closing line in writer/director Orson Welles’ 58-page memo to Universal after finally seeing the studio’s version of his movie. Touch of Evil is a certified REEL CLASSIC but it isn’t how Welles wanted it to be due to studio involvement. Welles, always an incredible visual director, was once again sidelined by a nervous studio. He wouldn’t be silenced, though.

After a less than well-received screening, Universal recut the film and changed large portions to suit their needs. They thought they were salvaging the film. Welles thought they were slaughtering it. And now, thanks to some well-preserved letters, Welles version exists only in memo form but – to their credit – Universal, recognizing their error many years later, retooled the film to include the footage Welles requested, even if he wasn't welcome on their lot anymore.

Today, we have three different versions of the film – the Preview Version, the Theatrical Version, and the Reconstruction Version (based upon his memo) – to watch and appreciate. Collected together on three separate discs, Kino Lorber’s 4K release of Touch of Evil is a monumental expression of sorrow. Therefore, you should proceed accordingly and only watch the Reconstructed Version.

The black-and-white film opens with a famous a three-minute, twenty-second tracking shot as a bomb is planted in a car and followed to its detonation. It is perhaps THE greatest moment in film history; one of many for Welles as a director. The border and border towns always brings out the worst in people, the characters in the film express and Welles – with camera in tow (manned by Russell Metty) – is there to expressively capture the plurality as a dark night of the soul is plundered in Touch of Evil, one of the last examples of the Film Noir movement. 

And it all comes alive thanks to Mancini's excellent latin sounds.Touch of Evil

Newlyweds Miguel "Mike" Vargas (Charlton Heston) and Susie (Janet Leigh) get caught up in something very sinister when Police Chief Pete Gould (Harry Shannon) and District Attorney Adair (Ray Collins) arrive on the scene and begin their highly illegal investigation into and around Mexico. Adapted by Welles from the novel by Whit Masterson called "Badge of Evil", Touch of Evil is a mercurial thriller that never gives up on the throttle as it plows through the cast (which includes Dennis Weaver, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Ray Collins, and Marlene Dietrich), the overlapping speeches, and Welles’ own bag of magician’s tricks.

Largely ignored in the United States, Touch of Evil is now recognized as anything but what it was once accused of being: trashy and of a low morale character. This is harrowing stuff that Welles tackles mercilessly and maybe it was truly ahead of its time. Regardless, not everyone was immune to its power as it was awarded Best Picture at the Brussels Film Festival while Americans gave the same award to the musical Gigi.

Touch of Evil was Orson Welles' fifth Hollywood film - and it was his last American film. If you’ve never seen it, this is the release to own.  When it comes to REEL CLASSICS, you can get no better than here with Touch of Evil, now available in 4K thanks to Kino Lorber.

5/5 stars

 

Touch of Evil

4k details divider

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- March 15, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; blu-ray disc; three-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A; blu-ray region-free playback

Directed by Hollywood legend Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Stranger, The Lady from Shanghai), Touch of Evil is a film noir masterpiece whose Hollywood backstory is as unforgettable as the movie itself. Starring Charlton Heston (The Big Country, Ben-Hur), Janet Leigh (The Manchurian Candidate, Psycho) and Welles himself, this dark portrait of corruption and morally compromised obsessions tells the story of a crooked police chief who frames a Mexican youth as part of an intricate criminal plot. With its iconic ticking-bomb opening shot, shadowy cinematography by Russell Metty (Spartacus), evocative score by Henry Mancini (Arabesque) and memorable supporting turns by Akim Tamiroff (The General Died at Dawn) and Marlene Dietrich (Desire), Touch of Evil is a stylistic triumph that stands the test of time. This 3-disc special edition features 4K restorations of three versions of the film: the Theatrical version, the Preview version and the Reconstructed version based on Orson Welles’ original vision.

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white transfer, Touch of Evil  lands on a solid 4K transfer thanks to the crackling efforts of Kino Lorber.  Shadows are beyond detailed and, as this is a noir thriller, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Grays are rippled with solid detail, too.  Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it thanks to its 1080p handling and its black-and-white cinematography absolutely sizzles. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout

Audio:

Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film noir flick.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • See Special Features.

Special Features:

First up, ported over from a previous Universal release from some years ago is the 21 minute making-of documentary “Bringing Evil to Life”, featuring contributions from fans such as filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and the film’s two stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. This deals with the production itself, but a second featurette, “Evil Lost and Found”, runs for a further 18 minutes and focuses on Welles’ battle to get the film’s editing changed, and the project to belatedly fulfill the director’s wishes that was later instigated by producer Rick Schmidlin with the help of Walter Murch – the editing genius behind Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation”. Also included is a copy of the 58-page memo that Welles wrote to Universal on December 5, 1957, which served as a guide to the 1998 reconstruction, and is included as a printed booklet.

4K UHD Extras Include:

DISC 1:

  • Brand New Dolby Vision HDR Master of the Theatrical Cut
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Filmmaker F.X. Feeney
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:10)
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Triple-Layer UHD100 Disc

DISC 2:

  • Brand New Dolby Vision HDR Master of the Reconstructed Cut
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith
  • Audio Commentary by Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Reconstruction Producer Rick Schmidlin
  • EVIL LOST AND FOUND: Featurette (17:06)
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Triple-Layer UHD100 Disc

DISC 3:

  • Brand New Dolby Vision HDR Master of the Preview Cut
  • Audio Commentary with Orson Welles Historians Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore
  • BRINGING EVIL TO LIFE: Featurette (20:59)
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Triple-Layer UHD100 Disc

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

Touch of Evil

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and drug content.
Runtime:
95 mins
Director
: Orson Welles
Writer:
Mark Orson Welles
Cast:
Charlton Heston; Orson Welles; Janet Leigh
Genre
: Drama | Crime | Noir
Tagline:
The Overwhelming Drama of a Strange Vengeance.
Memorable Movie Quote: "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 21, 1958
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 15, 2022.
Synopsis: When a car bomb explodes on the American side of the U.S./Mexico border, Mexican drug enforcement agent Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) begins his investigation, along with American police captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). When Vargas begins to suspect that Quinlan and his shady partner, Menzies (Joseph Calleia), are planting evidence to frame an innocent man, his investigations into their possible corruption quickly put himself and his new bride, Susie (Janet Leigh), in jeopardy.

Art

Touch of Evil

 

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