Touch of Evil (Blu-ray)

April 17, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) is Mexico’s lead narcotics investigator and he soon has to testify against a powerful drug lord, Grandi (Akim Tamiroff). Vargas is a good, honest man and right now, he is trying to have a nice honeymoon with his wife, Susan (Janet Leigh) in a small bordertown. But since the underground leader he plans to testify again doesn’t want that to happen, he sends his sons and other thugs to push him around. He hopes that if Mike and his wife’s lives are threatened, he will back off, but that isn’t the case at all. Soon more problems arise when an American is killed in a bombing, which Mike decides to spend a lot of time looking into. When he discovers Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) planting evidence in the case, he challenges the well known policeman and in the process, get himself deeper into danger. Quinlan decides to team up with the drug dealing thugs, in an effort to work together to discredit Vargas as a witness. Can Mike tell the truth and make sure justice is done, or will he simply be scoffed at by the system?

So who is this Orson Welles, right? His name should ring a bell, as he created some of the most studied and acclaimed films of all time, but I suppose some of you might not know him. If you don’t, you are making a serious mistake, as his works are fantastic and though perhaps a little slow by today’s standards, few ever display a dull moment. In Touch of Evil, Welles and his director of photography work to create a visually stunning atmosphere, one draped in darkness & shadows and that enhances the film’s tone a lot. This film has to rank among the elite in terms of visual tact, with no wasted shots and each seeming to be perfectly planned & executed. I highly recommend other Welles helmed films also, such as The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady From Shanghai, The Deep, Journey Into Fear (co-directed), and of course, Citizen Kane. Welles also gives a nice turn in front of the camera, but then again in this film, it seems as though all the cast members do. Aside from Welles, the cast also includes Charlton Heston (The Omega Man, Soylent Green), Akim Tamiroff (The Black Sleep), Joseph Calleia (Gilda), Janet Leigh (Hitchock’s Psycho), Marlene Dietrich (Blonde Venus, The Love Goddess), and Zsa Zsa Gabor (Drop Dead Darling).

Video: How does it look?

Presented in a 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer, this is a very dark film, but this is an excellent example of how beautiful a black and white film can really look. I saw little marks or debris on the source print, while compression flaws were not even a factor in this case. The contrast is very good here, with deep blacks and a very high level of detail to seen, which adds a lot of information over some overly dark editions I’ve seen. With this being the first foray into the HD realm, Universal has done this one right.

Audio: How does it sound?

Don’t think that just because a movie is in mono, it can’t still be effective. This Blu-ray features a very unique (read: different) track that on one of the versions and the other two sound distinctly different.  Granted, this is still a mono mix, but certain elements of the “Reconstructed” version do have a more natural sound to them.  Having said that, the mix sounds crisp, clear and really suffers no loss. The film is nearly 60 years old, but I’m pretty impressed with the job that Universal has done here.  Anyone wanting the definitive version need look no further.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The film has been released a few times on DVD, one a bare bones version and the other a 50th Anniversary edition with the same supplements as are included on this Blu-ray release.

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Reconstruction Producer Rick Schmidlin, this is one the reconstructed version. The stars are a bit all over the place, but it’s still a good, engaging track with Schmidlin leading the way.
  • Audio Commentary – Rick Schmidlin takes this track solo on the reconstructed version and is much more informative with some interesting little tidbits here and there.  I’d recommend this one over the previous version.
  • Audio Commentary – This Theatrical version features Writer F.X. Feeney who points out a few things here and there, but still manages to deliver a very informative, incisive track.
  • Audio Commentary – Lastly, the Preview version has Welles Historians Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore as they don’t really delve into other issues, but rather focus on the man himself: Orson Welles.
  • Bringing Evil to Life – A 20 minute documentary with some interviews with the film’s stars and some noted folks in the movie industry (Robert Wise and Peter Bogdonavich to name a few).
  • Evil Lost and Found – Essentially an overview of the reconstructed version and some of the key players that made it happen.
  • Orson Welles’ Memo to Universal – The lone supplement on the original DVD, this is available in two forms: a printed booklet and on the DVD.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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