In 1998, after 40 years, the world finally got to see Orson Welles TOUCH OF EVIL as the director intended it. And unlike some other Welles films that have been restored, rediscovered or re-edited, (i.e. DON QUIXOTE, OTHELLO and IT'S ALL TRUE), the changes in TOUCH OF EVIL were carried out with a scrupulous attention to detail, that is truly in the spirit of Orson Welles. Of course, no one can say for certain, just how Welles would have edited his movie, but as can be seen in reading Welles' long memo of detailed editing instructions, producer Rick Schmidlin and editor Walter Murch have come up with the closest approximation that we're ever likely to get.
Why TOUCH OF EVIL needed to be re-edited in the first place is a rather complex tale, that requires some background. In 1957, Universal took the film out of Welles hands, after he had spent about three months in the cutting room. As Welles was the first to admit, he worked very slowly while editing. "I could work forever on the editing of a film," Welles told Cahiers du Cinema in 1958. "I don't know why it takes me so much time, but that has the effect of arousing the ire of the producers, who then take the film out of my hands."