By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 13, 2008)
Touch of Evil (50th Anniversary Edition) – Universal DVD (2-discs)
Yes, this is Orson Welles’ classic 1958 sleaze-noir with “that” opening tracking shot, Charlton Heston as a Mexican police detective, and Janet Leigh in various stages of undress. Welles casts himself as a morally bankrupt police captain who lords over a corrupt border town (one of the most offbeat and grotesque heavies in film noir).
This film also showcases one of the last great roles for Marlene Dietrich (who famously deadpans “You should lay off those candy bars.”). The scene where Leigh is terrorized by creepy, leather-jacketed Mercedes McCambridge and her thugs smacks of David Lynch; there are numerous such flourishes that are light-years ahead of anything else in American cinema at the time.
Welles famously despised the studio’s original 96-minute theatrical cut; there have been nearly half a dozen re-edited versions released since 1975.
Fans of the film have had to make do with an improperly matted and cropped DVD transfer-until now. Not only have those screen ratio issues been corrected, but we are also given a choice of viewing 3 different cuts in this new edition: the restored and re-edited 1998 version (re-cut to the specifications that Welles had requested in a 58-page memo to the studio that ultimately fell on deaf ears), the original theatrical version, and the preview version (which has a commentary track with Heston and Leigh). With extras galore.