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Arts & Culture

Touch of Evil

Orson Welles in Touch of Evil screening at MCASD La Jolla (Universal)

I was watching the new film In Bruges when I noticed that the movie being viewed by an Irish hitman stuck in Belgium was none other that Orson Welles' Touch of Evil . The scene playing was the famous extended, single take, opening tracking shot that plays out to Henry Mancini's music. The reason I mention this is that you have the rare opportunity to see the entire Touch of Evil on the big screen Thursday January 31 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location. But the version MCASD is showing will not have Mancini's music in the opening credits. That version of the film was the one Welles did not approve of. After he was removed from the production during the editing, the film no longer adhered to his vision. He ended up writing a 58 page memo outlining all the things that did not meet with his approval. That memo provided the basis for the re-issue of the film decades later. In his version, there's no music over that opening sequence. Instead, you hear the ambient sounds of the places you pass by as the camera moves from one side of teh border to the other.

Orson Welles' 1958 film noir classic festering with police corruption, and jolted by violent outbursts. Welles was initially hired just to play seedy detective Hank Quinlan. But because of a misunderstanding, star Charleton Heston had thought that Welles would be directing the film as well. To appease its star, the studio brought Welles on as director (but would end up removing him from the film in post-production). The resulting film serves up a mouth-watering feast of cameoes, noir elements and visual bravado. Among the memorable cameos are Meecedes McCambridge in a black leather jacket and ominously demanding "I wanna watch" when Janet Leigh is being terrroized; Joseph Cotton as a detective who utters the blunt appraisal "Now you can strain him through a sieve;" and of course the great Marlene Dietrich who gets to sum up Welles' Quinlan at the end of teh films with "He was some kind of man." Touch of Evil is some kind of film. I wish I had more time to do this film justice here but I at least wanted to make sure to highlight this screening. See Touch of Evil on the big screen and revel in Welles' genius. Plus, how often do you have the opportunity to see Charleton Heston play a Mexican!


Companion viewing: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Lady From Shanghai