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Touch of Evil: Director's Cut

Touch of Evil: Director's Cut

Touch of Evil: Director's Cut

1958/1998 / 111min / 35mm

DIRECTOR: ORSON WELLES

CAST: CHARLTON HESTON, JANET LEIGH, ORSON WELLES

In 1958 when I was 16, I was enough of a Welles fan by then, when Touch of Evil opened on 42nd St., to go to the first or second day’s showing. The whole story was very impressive, but by far the most effective scene was the one in which Mercedes McCambridge and the outlaws circle Janet Leigh’s bed, gazing down at her. I would imagine anybody coming to this series is familiar with the story of Welles’s 58-page memo to the studio with instructions for cutting that were not seen publicly until 9 years after his death. That most striking scene is now removed, and when I saw it, I, of course, missed it. The fact is, however, the whole sequence works much, much better without it, and it makes far better emotional sense rather than just inserting a spectacular image that turns the film at that point into a dream. Apparently, Welles’s daughter, Beatrice, approved. The Director’s Cut has a copy of the Welles memo that, according to Peter Bogdanovich, Welles put together after seeing the film one time.

Notes by Samuel R. Delany

Screening in the series Delanymania.