thirty movies hath november – Touch of Evil (1958)

one of my favorites:  a movie written and directed by Orson Welles, who also played the main character…(no, is not this movie, smartypants. you didn't even read the title.  be quiet)

but unlike that other movie, which all of y'all who taken Film 101 will remember 'was written/directed/acted produced by Orson Welles' it also was the only one in Welles's brilliant, contentious, and much-studied career where he was able to maintain control, i.e. deciding what was to be 'the final cut'.   in no other movie he directed did Welles have that control.

yaddayaddayadda.  why all this?  because Touch of Evil, the movie I'm talking about, was originally released after being edited and cut by the studio.  Welles's hated it.  years after his death, with much fanfare, Touch of Evil was released in 1998 touted as being 'Welles's Original Vision". 
this release was possible because all the footage Welles's had shot still existed, alongside his extensive notes. here be teh wiki for much more detail and linkage if interested

this 1998 release is the only one I've seen. on DVD. not on the theater, though I hold out hope to do so someday.
I cannot bloviate on 1958 vs 1998, studio vs. Welles etc.  but I suspect the studio must have been embarrassed about overriding Welles's vision, because I can't find a clip from the 1958 release.  not even the trailer.

ok, time for the clip show.  trailer for the 1998 release:

the opening scene, famous for cinematic reasons.  guess why if you like

my favorite exchange between Welles's character, Quinlan, and Marlena Dietrich's, Tanya. can't find a clip, so read on:

Tanya: We're closed.
Quinlan: You've been cookin' at this hour?
Tanya: Just cleanin' up.
Quinlan: Have you forgotten your old friend, hmm?
Tanya: I told you we were closed.
Quinlan: I'm Hank Quinlan.
Tanya: I didn't recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars.
Quinlan: It's either the candy or the hooch. I must say, I wish it was your chili I was gettin' fat on. Anyway, you're sure lookin' good.
Tanya: You're a mess, honey.

you the reader have to imagine the voice tones, looks, camera back-and-forths, etc. that make the above exchange bitter/eerie/wistful and able to give you Quinlan' and Tanya's story in those few lines. is one of those scenes used in classrooms to demonstrate why film is an art form, not just moving pictures.

a later scene with the same characters:

Touch of Evil is a film noir
a film noir, that schooled any other movie calling itself a film noir before and after it. 
being a film noir is impossible to discuss the plot without giving it away.
you didn't hear it from me, but rumor has that 'round teh YT someone has uploaded the whole damn movie in parts. can't think of a better way to spend a rainy fall afternoon


Read and post comments | Send to a friend


12 thoughts on “thirty movies hath november – Touch of Evil (1958)

  1. Touch of Evil should be in the top 20 of greatest American films ever. The opening shot alone is enough to drive you crazy as you wait for the convertible to blow up while the other couple walks down the street right alongside of it.

  2. Touch of Evil should be in the top 20 of greatest American films ever.Totally. I've only seen the original.

  3. "Touch of Evil"is a great great movie. I haven't watched it in a while, but right after this comment, I'm adding it to our Netflix list.

  4. I have not seen this film, but I think I shall add it to my Netflix!
    I'm likin' Mariser's Movie Month, yo.
    PS dammit, Straw Dogs is not available yet on N'flix, it's in my saved list though…. bugger.

  5. jp, I'd love to see the 1958 and 1998 releases side-by-side or back-to-back or sumethin' similar. back in the day, things like 'final cut' really meant something. unlike currently, when 96% of the time the 'director's cut' is basically the same as the released movie with scenes added that were left on the editing floor to begin with. and for good reason, most of the time.

  6. On double checking, we don't have it on DVD! Waaah. I've seen it on TV a couple of times and now I'm wondering which one I saw. Here are notes from different copies the library has:2000. "Complete and uncut with restored footage."–Packaging. VHS2000. "Restored to Orson Welles' vision. Complete and uncut with restored footage."–Container. VHS1987. [Uncut version] Originally issued as motion picture in 1958. VHS

  7. I find those notes very confusing. Does "Complete and uncut" mean how OW originally did it or how it was reconstructed…? Very vague. And it may not be out in DVD at all. All we have is VHS and most everything we get currently is DVD. Let me know if you find a DVD version. I'll order it for da liberry.

  8. Hah! As soon as I saw the title to your post, I ran over to IMDB to get that very exchange between Tanya and Quinlan.

  9. I recall seeing this, buit don't recall as to which version. I think it was on the Turner Network… I'll have to think on that a bit… Hmmm…

Comments are closed.