After seeing a 96 minute version of his latest film in 1958, an understandably outraged Orson Welles rushed home and cranked out a 58-page memo to Universal Studios outlining all of the changes that would improve the film. Predictably, the studio ignored him and the memo was lost. A few years ago, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum uncovered this memo and together with editor Walter Murch, producer Rick Schmidlin, and one of the film’s stars, Janet Leigh, they re-assembled the film as Welles originally intended it to be seen. Aside from the credit-less opening (also minus Henry Mancini’s be-bop score), this current version isn’t really anything new if you’ve bought it on video in the last ten years. Still, nothing beats watching Welles’ atmospheric ode to police corruption on the big screen in all of its newly remastered and restored glory. Sure, the story is still pure pulp fiction hokum, but Welles and his cast seem to be having so much fun chewing up the scenery that it translates into real down and dirty fun.
It also doesn’t hurt that this new print is crisp and clear so that Russell Metty’s stunning Expressionistic black and white cinematography looks as striking as it must have upon its original debut. Touch of Evil is a cinematic masterpiece and arguably the last great film noir.