The allusion to angry buzzing insects seems meant to include me as well, even though I was explicitly assured that smilies weren't necessary. I agree with the others and think you should nix the vow of silence post like you did the other one, but I'll make my points regardless. I know the letterboxing discussion is an old one; but since I wasn't present for the first go-round and since it seems to still be a matter of debate, I hope anyone who's bored with the topic will indulge me.
The letter boxing unceremoniously slashes off the top, and bottom of every scene. What did welles put at the top of his framing? The little stripper silhouette [on top of rancho grande]
There's no question but that watching the film with the matte removed will reveal an intentional alternate version of the movie (inasmuch as Metty and Welles were conscious of what they were including and excluding
in both). Had the restorers had a say this alternative probably would have been included as a viewing option in the EVIL package, along with a second disc featuring the original release edit. But however intentional the alternative, one can conclude for all of the reasons previously cited that the 1.85:1 compositions were not "unceremoniously" imposed upon the picture, as in your MR. ARKADIN hypothetical, nor has the 1.37 picture been "raped" as a result of using the stipulated matte. This kind of rhetoric is largely my area of contention on this point. You've done some fine detective work and found interesting visual elements that are exclusive to the open-gait images. However, there is something of the blind man describing the elephant when, fixing on items like the rooftop stripper, you declare the authoritative version of the film to be the one Welles (and a distinguished studio cameraman and crew) knew would be obscured when the film was shown theatrically.
My friendly (:)) suggestion would be that instead of investigating this solely on the basis of isolated aesthetic judgements between the two versions, you might compare the compositions in EVIL with those of other Welles films. Additionally, in analyzing these, concentrate on the human elements rather than looking at possibly extraneous instances of decor or geography. I'll give two examples.
One visual motif in Welles films is the staggered frame. If he's shooting a crowd of people, or even a two-shot, he'll frequently place people at conspicuously varying depths, typically with one figure or face at the left or right projected forward so that it dominates that side of the frame vertically. There are excellent examples of this in the opening minutes of AMBERSONS. In the first, we see Eugene walking up to a house with a bouquet of flowers before cutting to a group of townspeople watching from across the street. A woman says: "There it is. Amberson Mansion," which is followed by a "My my," and then a "Well well," from the others. Look at the arrangement of figures here: the man at the left of frame is shot from hat to pockets and the dark vertical shape he creates establishes a secondary composition of the other townsfolk, who are all basically centered within the balance of the frame, grouped beside him at a greater distance from the lens. Later in the opening sequence, there's the sewing circle of ladies trying on a dress and drinking tea. As the stationary shot progresses, the characters shift into a more Toland-esque staggered arrangement, with the surprise element of the tea-drinker sitting forward in her chair and projecting herself into the left foreground.
Compare these, particularly the first, with a shot in TOUCH OF EVIL that comes about 13 minutes into the picture. Suzie finds her husband after her meeting with Grandi. They stand talking in the lobby of the hotel momentarily. Collected in the street watching them is the constabulary of the town. After Suzie and Vargas leave, we see the reverse shot again as Quinlan advances from the background to join the onlookers, completing the staggered arrangement of figures. This keeps with the motif, yes, but look at the image. That is a Vistavision, 16x9, 1.85:1, call it whatever you like, composition. The same holds in the street scene minutes later after Quinlan's first visit to Tanya's. He comes out on onto the back alley where the players assume various formations underneath the oil drill towers. In one, four faces (Welles, Mort Mills, Ray Collins, and Heston) stand out in a horseshoe shape against the darkness, the curve of tones draping the 1.85 screen from the upper corner of frame-left to the upper corner of frame-right, a rather pointless composition viewed at 1.37. In a closer shot in the sequence, Welles' face crowds the left foreground with Collins and Heston forming a secondary two-shot in the balance of the image. This composition works either way, but in 1.85 it assumes more interesting proportions: by using the combined close-up/two-shot, the Collins-Heston side of the frame echoes the dimensions of a traditional 1.37 image, a relatively comfortable shape to the eye, and a tactic relatively common to wide-screen shooting; looked at with the gait open the composition loses that emphasis. Clearly, the figures in these shots are affecting essentially the same patterns as those in the AMBERSONS examples, only this time with a much more oblong result.
What is the logical counter to this? Well, you would reverse my argument and say that, though conscious of each dimension, Welles favored the traditional frame even as he was composing for both. Moreover, using faces and human elements as references would not be definitive evidence as Welles would have had to keep that information in frame in order for both versions to make visual sense. What I would say to that is, again, consult other Welles films. Watch THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI or OTHELLO, look at how frequently Welles fills his frames from top to bottom -- not with flagpoles or ship masts, but with human figures and faces. Like his staggered compositions, the use of diagonal emphasis is another Welles motif: either by taking an elevated angle, thus shifting background figures upward in space, or by taking a low angle, diminishing background figures, or by simply positioning his actors on different levels on the set, diagonal lines appear in his images that often run to opposite corners of the frame (i.e. top to bottom). My rhetorical question, then, would be: knowing his propensity for filling his compositions to the edges, how could he possibly favor the frame dimension that would deny him that privilege? If you grant that the human information bound him to the 1.85 mask to a large degree, which the movie proves (you can see Metty correcting for the 1.85 edges), what could be gained in a compositional strategy that employed so much "air" around his figures? That runs contrary to so much that is potent and forceful about Welles' sense of composition, and I just can't accept it looking at the film.
Orson Welles is not Stanley Kubrick. By that I mean you might get a greater sense of symmetrical, centered compositions in looking at the images in TOUCH OF EVIL at full frame, with the figures "aired out" (as it were), but I would argue that Welles generally preferred a crowded and busy frame, with balance achieved through more unorthodox arrangements. And while I don't dispute that the photography is effective both ways -- that is undoubtedly true -- I would dispute that a brilliant man, certainly a master filmmaker by the time of EVIL, did not know that a dancing girl on top of a building he was shooting would be masked when projected in the manner in which he understood the film would be shown. It is not a minor quibble really. He would not ruefully say to Bogdanovich that the whole story is in that opening shot, and what a shame they put credits over it, and NOT ADD: because the very centerpiece of the audience's geographical understanding of the town was contained in that shot, you know. (Oh really?) Yes, Peter. I went to some trouble to see to it that a little dancing girl on top of the strip club appeared in every angle... Come on.
Look at the movies. (That's the secret to the art of watching films, incidentally.)