Touch of Evilon September 14, 2005 at 4:51 pm
This is off the subject of animation, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I was recently reading about Orson Welles’ 1958 film Touch of Evil, a movie I’ve seen at least three times. Universal was sick and tired of Orson Welles and decided, in his absense, that this movie was too difficult and needed extensive revision. They then brought in a new director, shot four extended scenes and changed the movie substantially. They then allowed Welles to “screen” the movie once. Only once, and it was clear (to the studio immediately and Welles later) that no changes would be accepted.
Nonetheless, a furious and heartbroken Welles sat in the screening room and scribbled notes. From them he wrote a 58-page memo that he sent to Universal, who ignored it entirely. Touch of Evil thus joined the extensive cadre of Welles works (The Magnificent Ambersons premier of them) that film students watch with the knowledge that it was a shadow of what Welles intended.
In the late 90’s, a part of the memo resurfaced, published in Film Notes. A project to restore the film to its original intended state (or as much of that as could be accomplished) was greenlighted, and the great Walter Murch was brought in to re-edit. He used Welles’ memo and as much other supplementary material as he could find to do as fine a job as possible.
Now, here’s the interesting thing: Murch said that, of the seventy-odd suggestions in Welles’ memo, all of them made the film better. Not some, but all. That is just amazing, because the usual is maybe 70%. I’ve added the movie to my Netflix queue and look forward to seeing it again… for the first time.