The State Theatre Cinema Club's monthly offering for March is Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. This classic from 1958 is one of the last examples of the film noir genre, and stars Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, and Welles himself, who also wrote the screenplay.
Heston plays a Mexican drug enforcement official who discovers that, after a car bombing on U.S. soil in which a young Mexican man is implicated, an American police captain (Welles) has been planting evidence for years to win convictions. As Heston's Vargas tries to prove his accusations against Welles' Quinlan, his wife (Leigh) is kidnapped, framed for murder, and jailed by Quinlan in order to destroy Vargas.
Touch of Evil was controversial, and not just because of its seedy subject matter. After Welles delivered a rough cut to Universal on time and on budget, the studio chose to re-edit and re-shoot some scenes. Over, and despite, the objections of Welles (through a now-famous 58 page memo to the studio detailing how his film had been butchered and what needed to be done to make it work again), Touch of Evil was released as a B-picture and as such was largely ignored.
In 1998, working from his memo, Universal attempted to restore the film to the director's original vision. A tough job, since the original cut Welles handed the studio no longer exists. Still, the studio replaced some of the editing, sound and scoring choices that he'd made; sadly, however, the result is at best only a combination of Welles' original vision and Universal's unfortunate decisions, so many years ago.
The State's Cinema Club, which holds screenings of classic and artistically important films on the second Tuesday of each month, will screen Touch of Evil on March 9th at 7pm. Admission is $7 for non-club members. After the film, there is a discussion led by industry professionals and film professors, and attendees are encouraged to stay and participate.
The State Theatre is located at 1307 J Street, in downtown Modesto. For more information, call the box office at (209) 527-4697 from noon to three, Monday through Friday.