Tag Archives: Touch of Evil

2014 TCM Film Festival: Touch of Evil

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I knew this TCM Film Festival was going to be a brief one for me, as having a one-year-old daughter lessens ones flexibility considerably, even with a very considerate husband. My major goal was to find one thing that he and I could go to together since he was going to spend a lot of the rest of the time alone with our daughter while I galavanted off to watch movies. As soon as I looked at the schedule, it was clear which film that would be. We both name Touch of Evil as likely our favorite Orson Welles film (yes, over Citizen Kane), and have done so long before we even knew each other. The chance to see it at the TCL Chinese (no, I’m still not used to calling it that) in the version cut according to Orson Welles’ notes – it was just meant to be.

Going to a movie at the TCM Film Festival when one of you has a pass and the other is depending on the standby line is something of a stressful situation, but thankfully we got there early and he got in fine. It was the first time I had been in the Chinese theatre since TCL bought and remodeled it, and I’m a bit ambivalent on the new look. The decor is as resplendent as ever, but it’s all stadium seating now, which results in some 230 fewer seats (though 900 seats is still a lot) and generally makes it feel much less communal than it did before. It’s still a great way to see a movie, but it didn’t feel as much like a classic movie palace experience. But I’m being nostalgic for a time I never knew.

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Film on TV (22-26 Oct)

The Screengrab has started doing a feature highlighting films on TV worth setting your DVR for, and I figured, hey. Good idea. They generally pick a few off TCM, some of AMC, and fill it out with IFC and Sundance. I’ll probably lean heavily on TCM; I just went through next week’s listings on my DVR, and there were a LOT of good ones. Watching TCM is like a film education in and of itself. And I don’t get IFC and Sundance, so looking through those listings just depresses me.

Ideally I will do this on, like, Sunday. In the future.

Wednesday, 22 Oct

(And early Thursday morning; you’d have to set your DVR by Wednesday anyway, so it makes more sense to group them this way.)

10pm EST / 9pm CST – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Here’s your chance to see it, see it again, or pride yourself on not having to see it because you already own the DVD.

1:45am / 12:45am (23 Oct) – TCM – Val Lewton festival
All of these four Val Lewton-produced films are worth it. Classic 1940s B-movie horror. People ask me sometimes why these are considered B-movies; they have fairly high production values, but they don’t have top-tier casts. That’s usually the reason. Also, almost ALL horror films during the studio era were B-level productions, because they weren’t considered prestigious. Anyway, Lewton took a more high-minded approach, taking the titles he was given by the studio and creating highly atmospheric, often literary psychological dramas rather than the schlock the titles seem to indicate.
Cat People (1:45am) – An Eastern European woman arrives in the United States and gets married, but fears an ancient curse on her people that would cause her to turn on her husband. Oh, yeah, by turning her into a cat. Sounds silly, and sometimes it is, but the moody photography keeps it haunting.
I Walked With a Zombie (3:00am) – Or, Jane Eyre in the West Indies. Really. This is the cream of the Lewton crop. I’ve seen it probably five times, and I still enjoy it every time.
Isle of the Dead (4:15am) – A lesser Lewton, perhaps, but has a fantastic climax. Several people are quarantined on an island due to a plague outbreak; one of them may be a vorvolaka, a vampire-like creature in Greek legend.
The Body Snatcher (5:30am) – Boris Karloff turns in arguably his best performance as a 19th-century grave robber. More drama than horror, though the last sequence is a little terrifying.

Thursday, 23 Oct

11:30am / 10:30 am – TCM – The Big Sleep
Only one of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl.

8:00pm / 7:00 pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
I’ve recorded and watched this the last couple of times it was on TCM. I need to just buy the DVD already. Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning journey through thousands of years of technological evolution and man-vs-machine conflict is still one of the ultimate science fiction films.

10:45pm / 9:45pm – TCM – Touch of Evil
Well, I wrote last week about the controversy over the new Touch of Evil DVD’s aspect ratio, and here’s the chance to see the film. I’m assuming TCM is showing the widescreen version. In any case, where else are you going to get to see Charlton Heston playing a Mexican policeman? Seriously, though, this is the last of the great films noir, more so for Orson Welles’ direction and performance as a corrupt cop than for Heston’s questionable ethnicity.

12:45am / 11:45pm – TCM – The Red Shoes
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger put out a string of fantastic films in the 1940s, and The Red Shoes is one of the best. Real ballerina Moira Shearer plays a wanna-be ballerina who finds her Svengali and rises to the heights of the art in a ballet based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the ballerina who could never stop dancing once she put on the red shoes. The love triangle that develops between Shearer, her Svengali manager, and her composer is second fiddle to the ballet itself – one of the greatest instances of dance ever put on film.

Saturday, 25 Oct

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with his classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its greatness.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – Peeping Tom
One of Michael Powell’s few films where he didn’t work with Emeric Pressburger is this disturbing psychotic thriller about a man who kills women while taking pictures of their terror. Makes you wonder how much Pressburger was reining him in on their collaborations… I tend to get this confused in my head with Hitchcock’s Frenzy, so I’ll see if a rewatch helps differentiate them a bit.

Sunday, 26 Oct

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – The Gay Divorcee
Most film buffs will put Top Hat and/or Swing Time at the top of the list of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, but I somehow have a huge love for The Gay Divorcee. Ginger hires a gigolo to try to force her husband to divorce her, but then thinks Fred (who wants to court her) is the gigolo. Mistaken identities for the win, and the stellar supporting cast doesn’t hurt at all, either. Plus, a young Betty Grable in a musical number with Edward Everett Horton. How can you go wrong?

2:00pm / 1:00pm – TCM – The Birds
Say whatever you want, The Birds scares the crap out of me. In a good way. Honestly, I cannot breathe for like the last ten minutes of the film. In a good way. Every time I want to point out perfect pacing and timing in film, I always point to The Birds (and sometimes Jaws). Hitchcock (and Spielberg) knows just how long he can wait before springing the gotcha shot on you. The birds-on-the-jungle-gym scene? That’s what I’m talking about.

3:30pm / 2:30pm – AMC – An American Werewolf in London
This is one of the better werewolf movies out there. It’s sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris? Less so.

2:30am / 1:30am (27th) TCM – Vampyr
I haven’t actually seen this Carl Theodor Dreyer version of Dracula myself yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Especially since Netflix just told me that they don’t have it available anymore. So this may be the only easy way to see it for a while, just a heads up.

Okay, that gets us through Sunday, when I’ll hopefully get one for the next week ready. I’m sure you all know how well I stick to schedules. *eyeroll*

Touch of Evil Aspect Ratio Outcry


I don’t really have anything to add to this discussion, but I have to love the fact that cinephiles are up in arms over the the new Universal edition of Touch of Evil, which has three different cuts of the film (the 1958 studio-cut theatrical version, a pre-studio-interference preview version, and the 1998 restored version), but fails to display any of them in the originally shot 1.37:1 aspect ratio, instead using the 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. Dave Kehr has a post with video clips showing the difference and his post has garnered some 350 comments arguing for one aspect ratio or another (I didn’t read them all, I admit). There’s also a ton of discussion, with screencaps, going on at Criterion Forum. Glenn Kenny joins in with a bit more info on the history of the multiple ratios.

I’m so used to arguing for widescreen over pan-and-scan when going from 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 theatrical formats to 1.33:1 televisions that it seems strange to hear arguments for fullscreen over widescreen. But sure enough, looking at the clips Kehr posted, there’s definitely a more claustrophobic feel to the widescreen one. On the other hand, several of the shots did look better framed to me in widescreen. According to Kenny, it seems likely that Welles intended to shoot 1.37:1, not taking into account that the film would be matted to 1.85:1 for release. Frankly, it’s a fantastic film in any form, but now I’m curious to see the whole thing in both ratios.

So apparently after two DVD releases of Touch of Evil, there’s still room for one more. :) I’ll be on the lookout for the 4-version edition.

Touch of Evil Opening Shot

Anne Thompson highlights the justly famous opening tracking shot of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. And it’s worth reposting. When Touch of Evil was made in 1958, this was the longest tracking shot ever created, a record which stood for a long time; I believe Robert Altman’s The Player broke it, but Touch of Evil‘s is better for my money. And can I just say, in this current era when most movies have an average shot length of about two and a half seconds, how refreshing it is to watch a shot that lasts for three minutes and fifteen seconds?