SCENES CUT, CHANGED OR TRANSPOSED IN
By Lawrence French
Following is a listing of the major changes made in the three different versions of TOUCH OF EVIL. The page and shot numbers refer to the TOUCH OF EVIL continuity script, published in 1985 by the Rutgers University Press. For the sake of clarity, the three different versions of TOUCH OF EVIL referred to, are as follows:
Original release version: The 93 minute cut of the film that was released by Universal in 1958. This was the only version of the film available until 1976.
Preview Version: A longer, 108 minute version that was used by Universal for early test screenings. Unfavorable audience reaction led Universal to cut approximately 15 minutes from this version. It was this preview version that was accidentally found in the vaults at Universal in 1975. It was subsequently copied and made available in both 35 & 16mm. This is also the version Universal has most often released on home video.
Re-edit version: The 1998 restoration, that re-edits, eliminates and combines shots from the two earlier versions-all in accordance to the instructions Welles gave to Universal, in a detailed, 58 page memo to the head of the studio, Edward I. Muhl.
1. SHOT 79: Susan tells Mike
about her meeting with Grandi in the Hotel lobby.
This scene was shot by Harry Keller and included in both the release and preview versions. It was eliminated in the re-edited version. (Page 65).
2. SHOT 93: After acid is thrown
at Vargas, he returns to the strip club, and Menzies asks him if anything
This scene was included in the release version, but not in the preview version. It was restored in the re-edit. (Page 66).
3. SHOT 98: Schwartz and Adair
standing outside of Tanya's place, wondering why Quinlan is going inside.
This scene was cut from the release version, but included in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 68).
4. SHOTS 121-153: A long sequence in front of Tanya's, where Menzies tells Quinlan about the acid that was thrown at Vargas. Quinlan then question Vargas about Susan's being picked-up and led to a dive on the American side of the border.
This scene further establishes the hostility between Quinlan and Vargas, and indicates their very different approach to "police procedures."
This long and important sequence (shot entirely by Welles), was cut from the release version. It was restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 70-74).
5. SHOT 182-183: A brief trim of the shot where Susan and Vargas descend the stairs of their hotel.
This trim was made in the release version, but was restored in the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 78).
6. SHOT 193: After arguing in the Hotel lobby, Vargas and Susan are talking in front of the Hotel. Vargas asks her where she wants to go and Susan, changing her mind, says she wants to stay near her husband.
This brief scene was neither written or directed by Welles, but one of several re-takes shot by Harry Keller. It remained in all three versions of the picture. (Page 80).
7. SHOTS 206-219: A long sequence where Vargas drives Susan to the motel on the American side of the border. On the way, they stop on the deserted roadside to kiss, but are interrupted by the arrival of Quinlan's police car. Vargas leaves with Quinlan and Schwartz, while Menzies drives Susan (in Vargas's car) to the American motel. Meanwhile, Grandi has been following Vargas's car at a distance, and continues to do so.
This long sequence includes footage shot entirely by Harry Keller, and accurately follows Welles scripted dialogue, with the exception of one line. However, Universal cut the entire sequence from the release version. It was retained in the preview version, but with editing that Welles objected to, since, as he noted, the shot of the different cars leaving the rendezvous point was highly confusing. The '98 re-edit followed Welles intentions, by making some brief modifications to the editing of the departing cars, and cut the one line of Susan's dialogue not written by Welles: "You don't mind darling, do you, if we just sit here by this terribly historic border of yours, maybe for about a month?" (Page 82-84).
8. SHOTS 227-238: After switching cars, Menzies drives Susan to the Mirador motel, and tells her about Quinlan's reputation, and how in a gunfight, Quinlan stopped a bullet that was meant for him. This explains both Quinlan's "game leg" and his line at the end of the picture, where he says, "Pete, that's the second bullet I've stopped for you." The sequence continues, with Susan falling asleep, and Menzies discovering that Grandi has been tailing them. Menzies stops Grandi and questions him, before proceeding to the motel, where Susan awakes, and sees Grandi before she checks into her room.
This sequence includes footage shot by both Welles and Harry Keller. The process shots in the car were directed by Keller, while most of the location shots at the motel where directed by Welles. This sequence was cut from the release version, but retained in the preview version - where it was placed incorrectly. In the '98 re-edit, the order of the scenes was changed to what Welles intended - so now, after the roadside rendezvous, we stay with Menzies driving Susan to the Mirador Motel, rather than cutting away to Quinlan and Vargas arriving at the construction site. (Page 86-88).
9. SHOTS 246-251: During Susan's first encounter with the motel Night Man, Susan tells Dennis Weaver that Grandi has been arrested.
The ending part of Susan's scene with Dennis Weaver was truncated for the release version. It was restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. In the release version, the beginning of this scene (Susan arriving at the motel), follows immediately after the scene of Grandi getting in his car to tail Vargas and Susan (eliminating two complete sequences - Number 7 & 8, above). (Page 90).
10. SHOT 256: In the long interrogation scene, when Quinlan punches Sanchez off-screen, the release version deletes Quinlan's line, "We gave it to them like this!," as well as the sound of Quinlan punching Sanchez.
This was restored in both the preview and the re-edit versions. (Page 95).
11. SHOT 274: A brief shot of a policeman throwing Vargas his car keys as he prepares to re-enter Sanchez's apartment.
This scene was cut from the release version, and restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 100).
12. SHOT 319: Susan in her motel bedroom, listening through the wall to a girl in the next room.
In the release version of this scene, after Susan hears the girl in the next room say, "You know what a mainliner is?, the girl continues by saying, "It will make you feel good." In the preview version and the '98 re-edit, the line is changed to: "you take it in the vein." (Page 117).
13. SHOTS 321-323: Menzies finds Quinlan drinking in a bar and orders coffee to sober him up. He then tells Quinlan about a meeting that Vargas has called with District Attorney Adair.
The beginning of this scene was cut from the release version, and restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 117).
14. SHOT 335: After Vargas is told to apologize to Quinlan by Adair, Vargas asks Schwartz where he can find the details on Quinlan's old cases.
This brief scene was shot by Harry Keller, and is one of the few added scenes that Welles approved of. It appears in all three versions of the film. (Page 124).
15. SHOT 340: The first scene in the Hall of Records, where Vargas tells Schwartz he can manage to do the research into Quinlan's old cases by himself - thus saving Schwartz from a potential conflict with his boss.
This scene was cut from the release version, and restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 125).
16. SHOTS 348-362: Susan is terrorized in her motel room, with shots showing several gang members entering her room.
Welles objected to the jamming together of all the footage of the gang members entering Susan's room. This was not changed by Universal, but was altered in the '98 re-edit, so we see Susan's reaction not to the actual gang members, but the door to her room opening.
17. SHOT 395: The Night Man at the motel is singing to himself, when Vargas arrives and asks to be shown to Susan's room. The Night Man tells Vargas that no one is staying at the motel. Vargas then asks to see the register.
This scene was cut from the release version, and restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 130).
18. SHOT 533-539: A sequence showing Vargas outside of Tanya's place, trying to find out what Quinlan is doing. Inside, Quinlan, who has been drinking heavily, gets up, after catching a glimpse of Vargas through the window.
This scene was cut from the release version, and restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 147).
19. SHOTS 540-541: Vargas and Menzies discuss how to get Quinlan to come out of Tanya's place, and Menzies reveals his deep conflict over having to entrap his friend by clandestinely taping him.
Only a brief section of this important scene was left in the release version. It was restored in both the preview version and the '98 re-edit. (Page 148).
20. SHOT 561: A brief shot of Tanya sitting at her poker table, doing the books, after Quinlan sees Menzies at the door.
In the release and preview versions, an incorrect cutaway shot of Tanya was used. She does not look up as Quinlan leaves the room. The '98 re-edit corrected this, by adding a second cutaway shot to Tanya, so she now looks up after Quinlan leaves the room. (Page 152).
21. SHOTS 722-725: A quick series of shots: Schwartz snapping the tape recorder shut, then climbing from under the bridge, to join Tanya above him, who is standing at the edge of the bridge.
These shots were cut from the release version, and restored in the preview version. In the '98 re-edit, these shots, as well as two shots of Tanya, were edited in a slightly different fashion. The shots of Tanya were trimmed to eliminate a man who passes by her as she approaches the edge of the bridge. (Page 168).
ORSON WELLES LETTER TO THE NEW STATESMAN - LONDON
REGARDING TOUCH OF EVIL
May 24, 1958
Without being quite so foolish as to set my name to that odious thing, a 'reply to the critic', perhaps I may add a few oddments of information to Mr. Whitebait's brief reference to my picture TOUCH OF EVIL (what a silly title, by the way; it's the first time I've heard it). Most serious film reviewers appear to be quite without knowledge of the hard facts involved in manufacturing and, especially, merchandising a motion picture. Such innocence, I'm sure, is very proper to their position; it is, therefore, not your critic I venture to set straight, but my own record. As author-director I was not and normally would not be-consulted on the matter of the 'release' of my film without a press showing. That this is an 'odd subterfuge', I agree; but there can be no speculation as to the responsibility for such a decision.
As to the reason, one can only assume that the distributor was so terrified of what the critics might write about it that a rash attempt was made to evade them altogether and smuggle TOUCH OF EVIL directly to the public. This is understandable in the light of the wholesale re-editing of the film by the executive producer, a process of re-hashing in which I was forbidden to participate. Confusion was further confounded by several added scenes which I did not write and was not invited to direct. No wonder Mr. Whitebait speaks of muddle. He is kind enough to say that 'Like Graham Greene' I have 'two levels'. To his charge that I have 'let the higher slip' I plead not guilty. When Mr. Greene finishes one of his 'entertainment's' he is immediately free to set his hand to more challenging enterprises. His typewriter is always available; my camera is not. A typewriter needs only paper; a camera uses film, requires subsidiary equipment by the truck-load and several hundreds of technicians. That is always the central fact about the film-maker as opposed to any other artist: he can never afford to own his own tools. The minimum kit is incredibly expensive; and one's opportunities to work with it are rarer less numerous than might be supposed. In my case, I've. been given the use of my tools exactly eight times in 20 years. Just once my own editing of the film has been the version put into release; and (excepting the Shakespearean experiments) I have only twice been given any voice at all as to the 'level' of my, subject matter. In my trunks stuffed with unproduced films scripts, there are no thrillers. When I make this sort of picture -- for which I can pretend to no special interest or aptitude -- it is not 'for the money' (I support myself as an actor), but because of a greedy need to exercise, in some way, the function of my choice: the function of director. Quite baldly, this is my only choice. I have to take whatever comes along from time to time, or accept, the alternative, which is not working.
Mr. Whitebait revives my own distress at the shapeless poverty of Macbeth's castle. The paper mache' stagy effect in my film was dictated by a 'B-Minus' budget with a 'quickie' shooting schedule of 20 days.. Returning to the current picture, since he comments on the richness of the urban scenery of the Mexican border' perhaps Mr. Whitebait will be amused to learn that all shooting was in Hollywood. There was no attempt to approximate reality; the film's entire 'world' being the director's invention. Finally, while the style of TOUCH OF EVIL may be somewhat overly baroque, there are positively no camera tricks. Nowadays the eye is tamed, I think, by the new wide screens. These 'systems' with their rigid technical limitations are in such monopoly that any vigorous use of the old black -and-white, normal aperture camera runs the risk of seeming tricky by comparison. The old camera permits use of a range of visual conventions as removed from 'realism' as grand opera. This is a language not a bag of tricks. If it is now a dead language, as a candid partisan of the old eloquence, I must face the likelihood that I shall not again be able to put it to the service of any theme of my own choosing.