Great thread. Might I add a few random thoughts?
I found the opening to be improved by the omission of the titles simply because the titles diffused the suspense of the scene. I knew Welles was going for suspense here, instilling fear in the audience whenever the ticking bomb drove close to Mike and Susan; but I never really FELT that suspense until I saw it without titles (or felt it as much as I could after several score viewings).
The sacrifice of the Mancini theme (which I love) I feel helped as well, as there's nothing in the music which reinforces the fear that our lead actors are about to get blown up. My only complaint is that the source music was a collage of cues cribbed from the film's score, no doubt Murch's only real option. However, having watched the film obsessively over the last 40 years I kept flashing forward to the different scenes from which these cues were lifted, a personal reaction which would not bother a first-time viewer.
As to the Susan/Grandi intercutting, I BELIEVE Welles wanted to cut back to them on "...just a little while ago, this was a quiet, peaceful town here...". I think this'd be an improvement. As it stands in the Murch edit, we leave the confrontation with Susan informing Grandi that she might be scared, but her husband won't be...a simple declaration without benefit of Grandi's reaction. Letting that scene play a bit further, the tension is heightened when Susan insults Grandi, and then threatens him that she's about to start yelling. He meanacingly advises against such action, gives his psychotic little half-laugh, and turns away. A better place to cut away, as something's got to give and the audience is left worrying over how the situation's going to resolve. We cut back, then, to Grandi on the move toward the mirror, in mid-rant. Each side of the cut is on Grandi's movement and technically a good place to cut. Emotionally, I feel it's superior.
Perhaps Murch found that this left us with a tense situation which diffuses too suddenly upon our return to the action; arguable, of course, but the sense of danger is sufficiently heightened at the Welles-suggested cut-away that it seems to invalidate that argument.
I'll weigh in on the Tanya/Quinlan scene while I'm at it: I wish they'd let the pianola play under the whole scene. Its cheap nostalgic quality does evoke strong emotions of loss (didn't Welles, in the script, request a piano roll of "Avalon"? If so, Mancini went one better) and, as Quinlan indicates he'll be back after the case is over, it is certainly reflective of his emotional arc through the scene. Quinlan's hope to return to some semblance of the past is a false one, fuelled by his nostalgia, which the music emotionally represents: the pianola leads him on and, rather sadly, mocks him. Wish they'd left it in.
The 1:85 matting? Well, lots of movies were theatrically shown in 1:85 back in 1958. I didn't see it then, probably because I was sitting through repeated screenings of 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD until I had permanent retinal afterimages, so I can't speak to its original presentation. Didn't see TOE until 1969 in Bob Epstein's UCLA film history class, and it totally changed how I looked at movies. This was a year or two before Epstein stumbled upon the "long edit"...you can imagine what an exciting screening THAT was and, yeah, I was there.
I think Bob showed it in academy aperture and, while I prefer it that way, it was probably widely exhibited in 1:85 on its original release.
For whatever that's worth.
Anyhow, kudos to Murch for righting numerous wrongs in TOE, they more than make up for the things he didn't get quite right.
Oh, btw, the transfer of TOE is soft as hell. I have a Denon 3910 dvd player that has horizontal and vertical offsets which helps the problem, but here's hoping a good High Definition transfer isn't TOO many years away.