Touch of Evil

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"May we be accursed if we forget for one second that he alone with Griffith, one in silent days, one sound, managed to start up that marvelous little electric train... All of us will always owe him everything." - Godard on Orson Welles

so there!

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 17 June 2004 08:46 (seventeen years ago) link

Interestingly enough, OW hated to be praised for 'great shots' anyway, because he felt that if people were noticing that stuff the film wasn't arresting the viewer's attention as it should (= directorial failure).

The first time I saw ToE, I didn't even notice the length/complexity of that opening tracking shot. By his own criteria (which I think I more or less agree with), that was the desired response.

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Thursday, 17 June 2004 17:30 (seventeen years ago) link

sure godard praised welles, but i contest that godard made films that were far more interesting, ground-breaking, and better *gasp*. and anyways, renoir was better with the long take than welles ;)

todd swiss (eliti), Saturday, 19 June 2004 00:02 (seventeen years ago) link

you can "contest" that all you like but it doesn't make it true! ok "better" and "interesting" are all down to opinion i suppose, but saying godard was more "groundbreaking" is completely meaningless, like saying picasso was more "groundbreaking" than van gogh. it may be true, but innovation alone isn't the full sum of an artist's achievement. godard and welles were both flashy virtuoso geniuses from different eras, but i've never seen godard do anything as restrained and beautiful as the battle scene in "chimes at midnight."

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Saturday, 19 June 2004 01:30 (seventeen years ago) link

I couldn't give a damn about groundbreaking. Kane was probably the most groundbreaking picture he did, but also one of the least interesting (still very interesting, I hasten to add!). My feelings are more driven by an ineffable, hard to articulate 'something' that a creative work either has or hasn't -- I'm probably describing personal taste cack-handedly -- and being groundbreaking is never a guarantee of pushing that particular button.

That battle scene is fabulous. Ineffable's a good word: what does it have that a massive budget and rampant, stunning use of CGI somehow can't generate? It's just two dozen guys running around a field in cheap costumes, but...

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Sunday, 20 June 2004 12:49 (seventeen years ago) link

man, i want to see chimes even more than i did before. damn netflix is without that and arkadin. this means ill have to actually go to a video store.

which do you find more interesting chrissie? other than the two i mentioned i havent seen. hah. i hold kane higher than all the others ive seen except maybe the trial.

i just watched the rules of the game by the way (ive seen grand illusion) and ive defintiely begun connecting dots with his and welles's work. after i watched it over for the 3rd time and specifially looked for where cuts were i was amazed at the seamlessness, simpleness, and beauty of his long takes. what renoir should i see next?

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Sunday, 20 June 2004 14:57 (seventeen years ago) link

Spanish import DVDs of Chimes (R0 PAL) are being sold on ebay almost all the time -- English soundtrack, removable subs. Go do a title search, or search for 'orson welles' worldwide for a full list of possibilities. (There's also an NTSC DVDR laserdisc dub under the title Falstaff doing the rounds. Can't comment on quality.)

Chimes isn't available in America (or the UK) in stores. It's been beset with legal problems. It may appear eventually -- there is scary talk of a 'restoration' a la Othello* -- but the Spanish disc is the best bet at the moment.

(*If anyone can do me a DVD dub of the untampered Othello from the OOP Criterion laserdisc, please drop me a line. I find the restoration... distasteful.)

Which do I find more interesting? Yeah, The Trial! And Chimes, Touch of Evil, Othello, Lady from Shanghai... but not Mr. Arkadin, which suffers too badly from bad editing away from Welles' hands (though Michael Redgrave's 'gay' performance is endlessly amusing).

Have you seen Immortal Story? That might be his least interesting effort, bar The Stranger. Very static and subdued, which is perhaps fitting to the source material (a Karen Blixen short story), but it doesn't seem to amount to much -- might as well just read the story, for all that OW brings to it. Which is odd, as he said he'd never do a Crime and Punishment picture specifically because he'd be unable to 'give' it anything...

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Sunday, 20 June 2004 17:01 (seventeen years ago) link

Hmmm... if anyone's interested, there are two copies of Chimes going right now:

The first one is cheaper, but both are resonable.

(These links are apt to become redundant very quickly, natch...)

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Sunday, 20 June 2004 18:08 (seventeen years ago) link

thanks chrissie! i have some money im dying to get rid of.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 01:58 (seventeen years ago) link

though im located in the us. ill do a search.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 01:59 (seventeen years ago) link

do you know anything about this version?

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 02:02 (seventeen years ago) link

also, i must say taht ive not seen almost anything he did for television besides "around the world." whats worth seeking out?

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 02:14 (seventeen years ago) link

I didn't know there was a Japanese DVD. There is certainly a Japanese laserdisc, so this might be a dub from it... couldn't begin to guess. The packaging isn't very polished, but that doesn't tell us much. Then again, it's quite cheap, and in NTSC format, so maybe it's worth the risk.

I haven't seen any of the television stuff, to be honest. Immortal Story qualifies, I guess -- although it had a theatrical release, it was made ostensibly for television. I'm particularly interested in seeing the early '50s King Lear, though I've read the print quality is atrocious. (It's lucky to have survived at all, though.)

You can order it in the US on a DVD with The Stranger here:

Quite cheap. If you bite, you'll have to let me know if it's worth my effort to get it. :)

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Monday, 21 June 2004 15:28 (seventeen years ago) link

i've seen the '50s king lear (directed by peter brook, not welles). it's not great, but it's interesting enough to see for OW's performance. he also made a short version of the merchant of venice in the late '60s that i'd really like to find.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Monday, 21 June 2004 21:53 (seventeen years ago) link

And he did a test shoot for his own Lear (which no one wanted to finance, shock, horror) shortly before he died. No costume. That'd be interesting to see.

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 11:49 (seventeen years ago) link

three years pass...

previously unpublished Heston interview on making ToE:

Dr Morbius, Monday, 7 April 2008 15:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Ah, the glory days of ILF.

C. Grisso/McCain, Monday, 7 April 2008 16:43 (thirteen years ago) link

This is possibly my favorite movie ever made.

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:08 (thirteen years ago) link

Exaggerating slightly but not by much.

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:10 (thirteen years ago) link

(first time I saw it I was mad ^^^ and had this theory that Welles casting All-American Man Heston as a Mexican was a coded commentary on the social construction of race)

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:11 (thirteen years ago) link

they need to redo the "director's cut" version in the right aspect ratio.

abanana, Thursday, 10 April 2008 20:17 (thirteen years ago) link


latebloomer, Saturday, 12 April 2008 04:13 (thirteen years ago) link

j/k this movie rules

latebloomer, Saturday, 12 April 2008 04:14 (thirteen years ago) link

five months pass...

OK, what are the arguments on the "right" aspect ratio? (and we don't really HAVE a "director's cut" of ToE)

New 50th anniv DVD (1.85:1) just out, w/ commetary by James Naremore & Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 14:25 (thirteen years ago) link

This strain of camp grotesquerie encroaches on myriad aspects of the picture, certainly on Welles's larger-than-life performance as Quinlan and in the glaring presence of Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican fortune-teller. Take a look at the blind woman who sits impassively frame right as Vargas apologetically telephones his new wife. Universal cropped her out of the frame, but she was reinstated after Welles argued his case in the famous 58-page memo of December 1957, when he fought to minimize the damage wrought by the studio's editors (see Chronology, below). "It was meant to be peculiar," he insisted. The effect is deeply self-aware and quintessentially Wellesian in its cockeyed excess. His next picture, after all, turned out to be Kafka's The Trial, which he insisted was a comedy even if no one else was laughing.

Dr Morbius, Friday, 10 October 2008 16:14 (thirteen years ago) link

I dislike the "director's cut" released in 1998; and if it's a piece of camp grotesqueness we're dealing with, then I want Mancini music.

As for Dietrich, she was right: it's her best performance.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Friday, 10 October 2008 16:38 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

just saw this last night; totally righteous. seems rather dark and grotesque for the time period (not necessarily in a basic "oh that guy is creepy" kind of way, this weirdness just permeates the whole film)

tons of incredible shots of course; how the actors are locationally positioned in the scenes really strengthens the dialogue.

david lynch has got to love this movie but maybe that's a shallow assessment

guammls (QE II), Tuesday, 13 October 2009 23:13 (twelve years ago) link

Not shallow at all, I can certainly see that. As for dark and grotesque, I think a lot of people couldn't handle it at the time, and I'm sure there was at least one totally outraged review from the original release.

Soukesian, Sunday, 18 October 2009 14:44 (twelve years ago) link

This is more of a "shallow masterpiece" than Citizen Kane, and this isn't a bad thing.

Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 18 October 2009 15:02 (twelve years ago) link

three years pass...

this film is fairly humdrum for the first hour or so and then utterly fucking spectacular for the last twenty minutes. better that than the inverse

ghosts of lower belvedere high technology sludge incinerator (imago), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 22:56 (eight years ago) link


A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 22:57 (eight years ago) link

Isn't the opening sequence part of the first hour or so?

Roddenberry Beret (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 22:59 (eight years ago) link

by welles' 'lofty standards'. charlton heston's fault mostly. opening sequence is great but then it's all brooding menace and then the epic payoff

ghosts of lower belvedere high technology sludge incinerator (imago), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 23:00 (eight years ago) link

oh damn, brooding menace and an epic payoff, what a terrible disappointment

¬╡▫ ▫╞⌠ (sic), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 23:34 (eight years ago) link

no beef, just a structural observation

ghosts of lower belvedere high technology sludge incinerator (imago), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 23:57 (eight years ago) link

two months pass... is Zsa Zsa Gabor the last living cast member?

Miss Arlington twirls for the Coal Heavers (Dr Morbius), Friday, 16 August 2013 16:32 (eight years ago) link

i remember seeing the restored version in theaters back in 98, and there were a couple of gay dudes in the row behind me laughing really hard at the scene where janet leigh was lying in bed wearing this:

i guess thats when i learned what camp is

i wanna be a gabbneb baby (Hungry4Ass), Friday, 16 August 2013 20:53 (eight years ago) link

four years pass...

Rewatched on DCP in a theater last night. Dennis Weaver's lunatic "night man" is really a marvel, and his interactions with the hoodlums at the motel have a big proto-Lynch vibe.

Always forget that Heston's primary cop ally (Schwartz) is played by Mort Mills, who was the cop with the dark shades in Psycho.

the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 April 2018 15:39 (three years ago) link

Agree about Dennis Weaver, never knew this latter bit of info.

We’ll Take Chanhassen (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 22 April 2018 15:41 (three years ago) link

had this theory that Welles casting All-American Man Heston as a Mexican was a coded commentary on the social construction of race

by now i hope HOOS knows that Welles didn't cast Heston (it's closer to the reverse).

the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 April 2018 15:49 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

Watched this for the first time today and had a ball. Some things:

- Obviously, the opening scene is just spectacular. I found myself thinking 'Renoir!' in quite a few places.
- Welles has something of Renoir about him - particularly Renoir-as-Octave?
- The Janet Leigh character does consistently confusing things but she eats up the screen when she's on it. She should definitely stay away from motels.
- Heston is kinda bad to be honest. Acting like he's being pulled along by his teeth. And the blackface is just, jeez (the entire portrayal of Mexicans is quietly astonishing).
- That final scene in the graveyard of industry absolutely made me think it was a deliberate reference to the wheel in The Third Man.
- Honestly had no idea it was Dietrich! She was the best thing in it?

Loved this: "I could work forever on the editing of a film. For me, the strip of celluloid is put together like a musical score, and this execution is determined by the editing; just like a conductor interprets a piece of music in rubato, another will play it in a very dry and academic manner and a third will be very romantic, and so on. The images themselves are not sufficient: they are very important, but are only images. The essential is the length of each image, what follows each image: it is the very eloquence of the cinema that is constructed in the editing room."

Is there a particular Welles/Welles-adjacent book I could or should go to?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 14 November 2021 17:38 (two months ago) link

I didn't cope too well with the Dennis Weaver character. It was like he'd been dropped in from a different film? He definitely added to the overall sense of fear and nightmarishness I guess. Similarly with 'jittery guy' who must have been told to 'bob up and down', and again 'keep bobbing!'.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 14 November 2021 17:41 (two months ago) link

Is there a particular Welles/Welles-adjacent book I could or should go to?

― Vanishing Point (Chinaski),

For sure his booklength interview with Bogdanovich -- such a literate man, our Orson.

I read Clifton Heylin's critical bio last month. The last two volumes of Simon Callow's bio also terrific for insights.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 14 November 2021 17:44 (two months ago) link

Nice one, cheers. My university library has the Bogdanovich. Got myself a copy of the Renoir autobiography as well - cheap hardback.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 14 November 2021 21:54 (two months ago) link

Renoir's memoir of his old man also worth a read.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 14 November 2021 21:55 (two months ago) link

how is thomson? I picked it up for cheap a while ago but haven’t really opened it yet

mens rea activist (k3vin k.), Monday, 15 November 2021 22:49 (two months ago) link

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