As if trapped in a relentlessly recurring nightmare, Orson Welles spent his entire 50-year film career warring with the studio system. His battles began with 1941's Citizen Kane and continued as corporate hacks nixed, abandoned, or butchered one project after another.
By 1958, Welles was a fat 40-year-old with no more credit in Hollywood. So when Universal Pictures hired him to adapt a crime novel, the studio expected a simple B-movie mystery that could be easily marketed to the masses. Instead, Welles made the first postmodern noir, Touch of Evil, an art film that twisted all the genre's stylistic and plot conventions into a high-aesthetic meta-statement. Universal's response: Fire Welles, shoot a few additional scenes, and chop the thing into an easy-to-digest 95-minute mess.
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It took 40 years and the death of the director, but Touch of Evil was eventually restored to Welles's specifications. This Thursday at 8:30 p.m., the Miami Beach Cinematheque will screen that 112-minute re-edit as part of its monthlong One and Only Orson Welles program.
Thu., April 22, 8:30 p.m., 2010