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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - April, 2014

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"Touch of Evil" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

Along the US-Mexican border, a bomb placed inside the trunk of his car murders a US businessman. Due to the location of the crime, the investigation includes both the Mexican authorities, led by Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston), and the American ones, led by Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). At the same time, Vargas’s new wife Susan is kidnapped and held hostage in an attempt to prevent him from testifying against a crime syndicate the following week.

As the investigation ramps up, Vargas becomes aware of that boundaries and limits that Quinlan will push in order to blame someone for the crime. With a staff that is eager to follow along and more concerned with results than justice, it puts the two men at odds as they attempt to solve the case.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1958, B&W, Rated PG-13, 1 Hour 51 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
  • 1080P
  • 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Orson Welles
  • Directed by: Orson Welles
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Touch of Evil is perhaps best known for the infamous 58-page memo that Orson Welles wrote after seeing the initial cut. Having left the country to focus on other projects, he allowed Universal to edit it themselves and found they did not understand how the film was meant to go together. Universal didn’t care to spend the extra time and money to do it correctly, and so the original release of Touch of Evil was a convoluted flop.

In the 1990’s there was finally an effort to reassemble a cut based on the memo that Orson Welles sent to change the original. While not his final cut, as he didn’t edit it, it is closer to what he had in mind than what was originally released.

The restored version is still a complex film to follow, but one that is well worth doing. From a long opening tracking shot to the final resolution, the film holds your interest. It certainly isn’t one to passively watch, or have on while you’re checking your email, as you’ll quickly find yourself lost and confused, but one that rewards you for the time you spend with it.

Technical

Most of Touch of Evil looks and sounds fantastic. There are occasional shots that are not as sharp as the rest, but they are usually quick and fleeting. The dual-mono soundtrack is clear and easy to understand though at times is dynamically limited. For a film from 1957, with elements that languished in a vault for over 40 years, it looks and sounds almost like it is new.

Extras

The most important feature is three different versions of the film: The original 1958 release, the extended preview version, and the edited memo version. All three are on the same disc and take advantage of seamless branching. The original 58-page memo from Orson Welles is also included in the packaging, so you can read all the changes he suggested be made. Multiple commentaries, the original trailers, and some featurettes are also included.