It's a great month for Orson Welles fans, with the re-release of the still dazzling Citizen Kane and a restored, re-edited print of Touch Of Evil. This new version, overseen by editor Walter Murch and producer Rick Schmidlin, was inspired by a 58-page memo that Welles wrote, suggesting his preferred changes to the original studio cut.
Loosely based on a pulp detective novel, Touch Of Evil unfolds in the nightmarish Mexican/US border town of Los Robles, where the honeymoon of straight-arrow Mexican narcotics investigator Mike Vargas (Heston) and his beautiful blonde bride Susan (Leigh) is disrupted by a car bombing incident just as the couple wander across the border into the US. Local police chief Hank Quinlan (a grotesquely bloated Welles) plans to frame a Mexican suspect, much to Vargas' dismay. Meanwhile Susan is kidnapped by neighbourhood gangsters and taken to a secluded hotel.
Justly celebrated for its opening crane-tracking shot, Touch Of Evil is proof of Welles' prodigious film-making talents. Lustrously shot and daringly edited, this exposé of police corruption and virulent racial prejudice features a string of memorable cameos from the likes of Marlene
Dietrich, Dennis Weaver and Mercedes McCambridge, plus, of course, Welles' own screen-stealing performance. Dietrich's words to Welles - "You haven't got a future, it's all used up" - proved eerily prophetic: he never did direct another film in Hollywood.