Simanaitis Says

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HAVING RECENTLY VIEWED Touch of Evil, we celebrated the innovative cinema of Orson Welles and colleagues in Part 1 yesterday. However, the final “Action!” and “Cut!” were far from the end of this noir flick. Thus, Part 2 here.

Ensuing Hassles. Touch of Evil was shot in timely fashion, February 18 to April 2, 1957, in Venice, California. (Wikipedia notes, “The location had been suggested by Aldous Huxley to Welles, who informed him the town had decayed significantly.”)

Just a decaying border town. (Actually late-50s Venice, California). This and other film stills from

Post-production was seriously complicated by creative differences, Welles being locked out of the editing room, the studio’s revision of the film, and his subsequent composing a 58-page assessment of the revision. Supposedly changes were made, but Welles was apparently still not happy.

Mixed Reviews. This 1958 version got mixed reviews: Variety wrote that “Touch of Evil proves it takes more than good scenes to make a good picture.” Yet, Wikipedia notes, “Although Universal Pictures did its best to prevent Touch of Evil from being selected for the 1958 Brussels World Film Festival—part of the Expo 58 world’s fair—the film received its European premiere and Welles was invited to attend. To his astonishment, Welles collected the two top awards. Touch of Evil would also receive the International Critics Prize, and Welles was recognized for his body of work.”

The characters in red read “Black Trap.” Those in black are the stars: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles (his surname: “Ueruzu”), Marlene Dietrich, then paired Akim Tamiroff and Zsa Zsa Gabor. I leave the rest as exercises for the reader. (Hint: One of them is a repeat; another has to do with a film company).

1976 and 1998 Releases. During the early 1970s, a 108-minute print of Touch of Evil was discovered.  Maybe it was a definitive version; maybe, a preview. 

Then in 1998 film editor, director, and writer Walter Murch, working from all available material, re-edited the film based on the Welles memo. Wikipedia notes, “As Welles’s rough cut no longer exists, no true ‘director’s cut” is possible….”

“Originally scheduled to be premiered at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival with Janet Leigh, Walter Murch and Rick Schmidlin attending,” Wikipedia notes, “the screening was canceled at the eleventh hour after threats of litigation from Welles’s daughter, Beatrice Welles.” 

Beatrice Giudittta Welles (also known as Beatrice Mori de Gerfalco Welles), Manhattan-born 1955, American fashion entrepreneur, animal rights activist, estate manager, daughter of Orson Welles and Paola Mori, his third and last wife.

Subsequently Beatrice said, “I saw it later and it was wonderful…I thought they did an amazing job and it was very well done. It was what he wanted and it made much more sense than that chopped up nightmare there was before. It was fine and it was his.”

Critic Thompson’s Conclusions, 1958: “Two questions—the first to Mr. Welles, who obviously savors his dominant, colorful role. Why would a villainous cop, having hoodwinked the taxpayers for some thirty years, suddenly buckle when a tourist calls his bluff? And why, Mr. Heston, pick the toughest little town in North America for a honeymoon with a nice morsel like Miss Leigh?” 

Why indeed? But it’s a great flick. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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