Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Touch Of Evil (Restored Version)

The obvious thought that comes to mind at the prospect of a restored version of Orson Welles' Touch Of Evil is, "Why bother?" After all, what was wrong with the original version, the one mostly undisputed classic among Welles' later efforts? As it turns out, a lot of little things in the version of Touch Of Evil known to most people are at odds with Welles' intentions, including some added footage and considerably different uses of sound. This restored version cleans things up in accordance with the dictates of a 58-page memo written by Welles himself prior to the film's 1958 release. The most drastic change is in its famous opening sequence, an elaborately choreographed single take that appears now without the distraction of credits and without Henry Mancini's score. As good as Mancini's work is—and there's plenty of it elsewhere in the film—this actually renders the scene more suspenseful. The film itself looks better than ever, once the comical aspects of Charlton Heston playing a Mexican are overcome. Heston plays an honest criminal investigator who, shortly after marrying American Janet Leigh, investigates the bombing death of a wealthy businessman. His work forces him to cross paths with both a powerful Mexican crime family and a dishonest border-town cop (Welles). Looking uncannily like an infant with stubble and padded out to the proportions he would reach naturally later in life, Welles' character, a corrupt cop unshackled from the clichés of the type, is the most interesting element of the film. That's no small feat considering Touch Of Evil's other virtues as possibly the pinnacle of all the gritty crime dramas that flooded theaters in the wake of World War II. As for the restoration, it tightens things up in ways that usually remain indiscernible, which is pretty much as it should be. Even if differences between this version and its better-known counterpart are less than drastic, it's still good to see Welles' intentions honored (for once) after 40 years, and even better to have a chance to see one of his best films back in theaters.

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