My research into the unprecendented work done on Touch of Evil in 1998 began here, with a lengthy phone interview with Rick Schmidlin in August of 1998, a month before I’d even had a chance to see the new cut. The man who proposed the radical idea of creating a new version of the film by following the instructions that Welles sent Universal executives in the famous 58-page memo (which had been discovered a few years earlier) began in the music business. He developed from a lighting director for live concerts rock shows to a producer of music videos and long-form music projects, as well as expanding into other areas of documentary filmmaking as both producer and director. But his revision of Touch of Evil became the buzz event of 1998 long before its unveiling at Telluride and Toronto. (It was set to debut at Cannes but the screening was cancelled in deference to the protest lodged by Beatrice Welles-Smith, who claimed that her “moral rights” were being violated by the revision of her father’s work – ironic given the dedication of the creative team to honoring Welles’ direct requests – and that controversy only gave the film more attention). Schmidlin was passionate about this project but insistent that it not me mistaken for a director’s cut, as no such cut ever existed in life. In his own words, “It’s an academic example utilizing two of the finest people in their field – one as a scholar of the critical medium, one as an educated scholar of commercial editorial and sound medium – and taking Welles‘ documentation and translating them to the screen.” The bulk of the interview was conducted over the phone on August 4, 1998, with a follow-up conversation on August 24.
Since his work on Touch of Evil, Schmidlin helped produce the restoration of Thomas Edison’s first sound film experiment (again working with Walter Murch) and a reconstruction of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, utilizing stills and explanatory cards to fill in for the hours is excised and missing footage.
When did the Touch of Evil project begin? With the discovery of the memo?
Basically what I originally wanted to do was a laserdisc and just document on the laserdisc for Universal the project so I could get the most amount of living beings involved and be able to get the most documents put together so there was a good documentation of this film and explore what elements may exist within the vaults. But over the years the laserdisc kept on getting passed and I talked to a friend of mine, Louis Feola, who was then the president of Universal Home Video, and Louis eventually approached Chris McGurk, who at that point was vice president and COO, and he brought it over to Jim Waters and they sparked an interest in it. So they let me investigate it with Bob O‘Neil and basically what we did was I was able to investigate what film elements existed in the can relating to the film. At that same time I did more research within the libraries and eventually Jim Waters asked Lou Wasserman, though research I had found through Jonathan Rosenbaum, which I will get into in a second, and basically Jim Waters asked Wasserman if a memo existed and Wasserman produced it through his contact, the 58-page memo. The reason I knew about the memo was that Allen Daviau had alerted me while I was involved in the laserdisc project that there was an excerpted memo that appeared in Film Quarterly in 1992 from Orson Welles from the book This Is Orson Welles that was not published. And basically he told me that there was a memo that Welles had written. Detailed editorial notes. That‘s how I became aware of the memo itself. It was basically based on all this that we wound up with a green light to recut the film theatrically the way Welles had requested that the final cut be done.
So this project actually began long before you found the memo.
In thought. It was developed as wanted to do a laserdisc and basically it was a film that needed to be more seriously addressed than previously had been done with it.
So the discovery of the memo was enough for you to convince Universal to go ahead with the project?
Yes. Upon my reviewing the memo and detailing in a more simpler made the changes that needed to made, and also Universal knowing that finding they had a textless opening without the credits over the opening shots as Welles had intended, they enthusiastically approved the project.
And then you started putting your team together?
It was at that point that I decided to put a team together. What I did do was I asked to retain as my official consultant Jonathan Rosenbaum, who had written This Is Orson Welles and who had basically published the condensed first memo, because I knew academically he was a student of Welles and would be a very good consultant, plus he was very well respected within the international community and I knew he would consult with basically everybody before making any kind of decision. So basically since the studio had basically given me free reign, and all they said was to do it right, which is what their words were: “Do it right,” just obey the letter of the law as per Orson Welles, I felt that there needed to be somebody that was my conscience and I elected Jonathan Rosenbaum for that position. So the next thing that I needed to do was find an editor, and I had earlier that year been to a lecture on the sound of Apocalypse Now that was being presented at the LA County Museum and the lecture was with Walter Murch. Preceding that film presentation, or actually that lecture, they showed The Conversation. And between listening to Walter discuss sound and editorial design, watching his examples on the screen and then seeing The Conversation, I felt at that point, and this is even before the project got green-lighted, I had somebody that I would always love to work with that had the right intellect to handle Touch Of Evil if it ever came to be. When it did come to be, Walter was my first choice, basically because he understood both sound and visual editing, which was what Welles was discussing, and he was, I felt, a companion to Welles‘ creative process as well as Gregg Toland was to Citizen Kane. He was that kind of eccentric, I would say would be a good way of saying it. You know, he had done many, many A-list pictures but recognized the artistic, intellectual intensity of Orson Welles. I felt that, as I say, where Welles had worked with Toland and they had formed a creative bond, that spiritually the same bond could be received.
Did Walter Murch work on the sound editing as well at the visual editing?
Yes he did. He worked along with Bill Barney, but basically Walter did all the work, made all the decisions, and made all the sound edits within the film because Welles asked for very specific sound edits. We had found nine pages of Welles‘ original sound design where he certain points where he would want music to stop, start, replayed or brought in at a different level. Every time we honored one of these changes we found out they were exactly what made the film stronger. That was the amazing thing, is when watching this movie we did not know if at the end we were going to see a better movie, a more widely surreal movie that might have been harder to follow, or just a film that showed maybe Universal was right. We didn‘t know what the answer was going to be, and what we found was just a much more coherent, commercially acceptable film. That was the biggest surprise of the whole thing. He just made the film more coherent. We weren‘t trying to make the film more coherent for Orson, Orson was making it more coherent for Universal.
Did Universal original use any of his suggestions when they made their release version?
What they did was, they looked at what was closest to the preview version, which was version that Bob Epstein discovered. Their cut was closer to the preview version from what we could see, closer to the print that Bob Epstein found in 1975, which is known now as the “long version,” basically in a hybrid intact on home video, and that‘s the home video release identified as “Orson Welles cut,” but it isn‘t. And they did about 25-30% of his changes, changes that they felt were easy, changes that made sense to them at the time. The more dramatic changes they did not make. The ones that really, really were the most significant they didn‘t make. So they did make certain changes at that point.
It seems like a good time to talk about the history of Touch Of Evil because I always had understood there were two versions. Now it seems there are three versions that exist or at one time existed.
Well, no. Actually what happened was this: there was a preview that was released February of 1958, and it played, from what I understand, once in Los Angeles to disastrous results. The people who went to see it probably did not know they were going to see an Orson Welles film. They played it in a very commercial house and they just didn‘t know what they were seeing and it was just a bad night out. Because the studio had been involved, by that point, one year, had their money invested in the film, they immediately withdrew that film and hacked the hell out of it to make it a suitable double bill to be released in the late winter/spring of 1958. But even if you hack the hell out of an Orson Welles film as had been previously been seen in Mr. Arkadin / Confidential Report, it‘s still an Orson Welles film and you can‘t hide the genius. And that was the version that everybody knew, the one all the film students in the 1960s watched, this is the film that the young Walter Murches and Carroll Ballards and Phillip Kaufmans and Francis Ford Coppolas and George Lucases and the Steven Spielbergs had seen. And that was the version that won the award for Best Film at the Belgium Film Festival, that was the version that basically everyone said was Touch Of Evil and that was the one that Truffaut and Godard adored and inspired them even further into the French New Wave. Part of it was probably because it was a little easier to follow with subtitles, I don‘t know, maybe it was the visual imagery was still fantastic and had an Eisensteinian use of montage and cross-cutting. On a big screen definitely looked different from everything that was being viewed in 1958 in America or Europe. It was the time of great filmmaking and this was another brilliant effort. But it wasn‘t until 1975 that Bob Epstein from UCLA, in requesting Touch Of Evil for a class, wound up with the longer 108 minute preview version, and when he was watching it he realized that there were scenes in it that were not in the release version he had been using previously at the lectures, and he thought he had found Orson Welles‘ cut and it was reported in Variety at that time that Orson Welles‘ cut had been discovered. I have been told by Gary Graver, Orson‘s cinematographer on F For Fake and The Other Side Of The Wind, that Orson was please to see that the new footage had been included because the footage really glued a lot of the story together, especially the transition from the hotel to the motel, but still a lot of the footage that had been included in this version was not necessarily Orson‘s footage, it was Harry Keller‘s footage, and it was still very far from what Orson wanted as a final release, it was still closer to what he had seen when he was actually literally protesting the film. Home video then decided that longer was better and added a few frames here and there, not a lot but some, in 1978 for the home video release. This is the home video that is out today [circa 1998] and even now there is a new home video out that says â€˜Newly restored Orson Welles Footage‘ or something similar on it that just was repackaged and basically it‘s the hybrid of this preview version.
How different is that video than the 108 minute?
Not much. Just a few dialogue overlappings and things like that. It‘s kind of like looking at the restoration of M. Even the most academic person would have a rough time unless they had a comparison tape to see what was done differently, but there are things that are different, and that was the problem with the home video version. It was different and it was not the version you were ever going to see projected. Whenever you see a projected version of the film, it’s the long version, that‘s a different version. So it‘s just little things here and there but I‘ve noticed that even in this reedit that by taking a shot of Dietrich and changing the order of it for a reaction you wind up with a different emotion. The home video version definitely alters the presentation and the historical accuracy of the film.
That 93-minute version literally disappeared in the 1980s when the long version completely supplanted it on 16mm and 35mm.
Yes, I‘ve told Universal this. I talked to Universal and said that I thought it be a great idea if they made a three pack for Christmas of 1999. You would get all three versions, all three correct versions. And they did not promise anything, but they were interested. I thought “No one has seen theatrically the short version since 1975.” It might have been shown chopped up with commercials on television, but it came before the cable movie stations which show an uninterrupted film, and it was pulled theatrically, so it has never been seen in the right form since 1975. I have to say that yes, maybe some people have 16mm prints of it someplace, but I mean publicly.
Gary Graver said that he does have a copy of that short version but that it is in quite poor condition.
Right, exactly, because it‘s been run since the early 1970s. That‘s the problem with that film. What‘s interesting is in that film it has the least amount of Harry Keller shots in it.
That‘s what‘s always intrigued me about it.
But the problem is even the Harry Keller shots, and I have all the production reports of what Harry shot, the Harry Keller shots were mostly scripted by Welles with one line of dialogue, and even the process shot in the car that was shot by Keller was also a process shot shot by Welles, and where they say Welles never would have shot a process shot like that, he did. I got the production reports showing what stage he did it on and what day he did it. So I‘m not defending the choice of Keller but the Keller shots that were used were mostly retakes of Welles shots that were not, for some reason, able to be used. There was one piece of dialogue after Vargas interrogates Quinlan upstairs in the hotel room and he goes to Schwartz and makes the comment to him by the stairwell about does he still have any credit with him, and he says ‘Yeah, a little,’ and they have this bit dialogue. They go downstairs into the hall of records, that was shot by Keller, and Welles applauds Keller‘s direction in the memo, which says it was written correctly and shot right and was needed. So there are little things like that also that Keller shot that Welles did not object to. When Welles wrote the memo he was not objecting to Harry Keller‘s work because he was well used to the studio process where people did come in. He was upset that he wasn‘t allowed to shoot the material, but I think he also realized that he had been missing in action since August and had made himself basically unavailable, and when they decided in October to add a couple of scenes Welles was not heard of until November 4, a week before shooting, so he had not responded or communicated with them for four months. So when they did this it wasn‘t like Welles was actually involved in the production. He had abandoned the production basically for about four months and had come back aggressively in November and in the early part of December after seeing the cut with the Keller footage to try to get the film correctly released. I think that he was basicallyâ€¦ He had seen a screening in August and basically thought that the same thing that happened to The Magnificent Ambersons had happened to Touch Of Evil and he was greatly distressed and basically just threw up his hands and thought that was it. And then came back in December and gave one quick attempt on how to make the film more coherent.
How much of the Harry Keller footage survives in this new cut?
Most of it. I would say all but about two instances. There was one shot in the beginning where Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh first get together after the bomb and the Grandi incident and they go in to the interior of a motel and they have a little conversation. That‘s removed entirely because he did not want that scene. He felt it was convoluted and confused the boy-girl story and basically you knew that information, you didn‘t need the extra added information that they had put into the scene. There‘s a shot on the highway where she falls asleep in his arms in the Keller material. He wanted the police car to interrupt them more in a lovemaking/snuggle/kissing situation, not a sleeping situation. So little trims like that were also done. Also, that whole thing from the hotel to the motel was structured differently than the way Welles had intended it and we restructured it the way he wanted it. There was a shot in the Grandi sequence, I‘m shooting back to the Grandi/Susan sequence, where you see a shot of Pancho leaning against a wall. That was an insert to glue the two scenes together where Welles wanted to play the explosion and that into two acts. We were able to find in the production reports that was a glued scene and he spent a half a page in the memo discussing how that was an uncommercial shot. It was an excuse. So that shot was removed. So little things like that were removed. But there were other things that Keller had shot that Welles had not objected to because he knew that if he did that it would change the entire story so dramatically that the film would be incomprehensible, which is what audiences eventually thought it had become. He wanted a very commercial film, he wanted a box office success. And this film was not made to appeal to the cinefile sophisticate, it was made to appeal to Peoria, and that it did not was quite distressing to him. That‘s what he was worried about. He was, as we know, he was a popular radio broadcaster who did very commercial programming, and what he had done is he took his sensibility of the New Wave and what he had seen going on in Japan and Sweden and France at the time and put it into a commercial American film, and when he found out that they did not understand it, did not get it, he basically went back into film exile back in Europe.
I believe The Trial was his next film.
Well he did a little production for Desilu, The Fountain Of Youth, and that basically was his next American production. After Touch Of Evil he tried to make a television show which was showing really wanted to be mainstream America, the same way he had in the 1940s with radio.
What kind of physical problems did you have in reediting the film to Welles‘ notes.
We were very lucky because we found the original negative for the short version, which had the separated sound elements, and that, along with a very good print of the long version, was able to give us as clean a print as we could hope for, a cleaner print than what you see with most B&W preservations. Also we were able to do some digital repairing of rips and tears and we did that. So basically the elements for this film are really excellent and probably I would say it‘s as clean as anything B&W from that era that exists today and definitely it stands up as clean if not cleaner than any of the other Orson Welles projects just because the elements were preserved.
How long did this whole process take from when you actually started working physically with the elements to when you got a finished film out of it?
Walter Murch and I started up in Northern California at the end of January. I had spent November, December and January prepping the film prior to that for him, prepping all the research information, and even as we speak today we are still doing some minor digital repairs and some little tweaks.
Is it going to receive its audience premiere at the New York Film Festival?
No, it‘s going to premiere at Telluride and Toronto and will be opening up on September 11 at the Film Forum in New York on both screens and at the Nuart in Los Angeles. There have been 50 prints ordered so it will be circulated all through America via October films. Universal will not be distributing it, October films will be distributing it. And I was very delighted when I heard that Bingham Ray would be overseeing the project for October because he used to program the Bleeker Street Theater in New York and he was the guy who had done films like Secrets And Lies and Breaking The Waves and at that time The Apostle and I knew that he would have the right sensibility to of the film. Plus here I had a president of a company that Universal gone into partnership with and had acquired a percentage of that actually understood what Touch Of Evil was and who the audience was for this film. We couldn‘t be in better shape with having him handle it. I think it means this will have the strongest distribution of any of Welles‘ films to date in this country probably since, I would say, The Stranger.
It‘s ironic that you have to wait until he‘s dead before it happens.
What‘s ironic is that Ernest Nims, who was head of post production and had done the majority of the recutting on Touch Of Evil, was the editor on The Stranger.
You had the sound elements so sound editing wasn‘t much of a problem?
No, we didn‘t go in and try to add little birds or cocktail glasses or anything. We had everything to work with.
So you‘re not running into the problems that led to controversy over the sound on Vertigo.
That‘s what I was referring to, the birds and the cocktail glasses. No, we had the elements to work with and everything was doable. And we‘re also mono. We didn‘t have to go and refoley our film. Actually I‘ve been told by the Universal sound department that on Touch Of Evil the foley was much more paid attention to via what Welles was doing versus what Hitchcock was doing at the time. Welles really understood the foley process but also Welles understood the radio process of telling stories so he understood sound effects. So he was much more prepared and had them laid out much more meticulously.
I read that in addition to removing the credits from the opening that you removed Mancini‘s opening title score to create Welles‘ originally intended sound design. Did you actually have start from scratch on that or did you have original elements to work from?
What we found, luckily, is that Walter was able to use score that was basically scored throughout the film. Mancini had seen that the Touch Of Evil score was an important piece so he went to a record company and had them release a record, which later on was preserved on CD, and the masters were also preserved. So that even when you hear a piece on the film that may only last 30 seconds, Mancini had actually scored maybe a minute and half to two minutes of that particular piece. So what we were able to do were lift pieces from the original score of the film and put it into the way Welles wanted it, so when he wanted you to hear some Latin music you‘d hear some Latin music, when you wanted you to hear some jazz, there‘s jazz, if bongos, then bongos, but they were actually from the original score that was composed for the film. So we did not have to have someone go and redo this, we just took from the original tracks and exactly what Welles asked for we had from the original 1957 score.
That‘s good to hear. I‘ve been excited about this project since I first about it, but I‘ve been wary because of my disappointment with Vertigo.
Vertigo was a good textbook example to go in the other direction. First we were dealing with B&W, second we‘re dealing with a reedit which Vertigo wasn‘t, thirdly with sound, Vertigo did not have sound separation, we had sound separation. Vertigo, basically, did not have the same elements that we had to work with. We were blessed with the sound separations, and also I was blessed with having Walter Murch.
What exactly happened when this cut was announced to play Cannes and it was pulled at the last minute?
What happened was it was announced to play Cannes and basically Beatrice Welles and the Welles Estate had opposed the screening. As far as anything like that goes, I always bow to the quotes from the Universal lawyers because they can be much more accurate on that. M thing is basically what we did within the reedit of the film, and when it gets into that area it‘s much better for them to make the official statements. That to me doesn‘t have anything to do with what we see on the screen.
Was the original editor for Touch Of Evil still alive?
No, the head of post-production for Touch Of Evil is still alive, who was the original editor on The Stranger.
So he didn‘t edit the film but he oversaw the editing.
Yes, he oversaw it.
And Walter Murch was able to talk to him during his research?
I understand the main source of information for this cut was the 58-page memo, but there were some supplementary memos that you had access to as well, is that right?
We found an earlier 12-page memo and we also found Welles‘ editorial notes. Basically all these elements were to clarify things in the 58-page memo to make it even more coherent. So in the 58-page memo, when he‘s referring to something, if you have the 12-page memo and 9 pages of sound notes and additional documentation, then you‘re able to then have a much more educated understanding. When he talks about trimming a shot by so many frames you realize what the whole process was from July or June through December.
Did you go back to some of the original Universal studio memos as well?
Where did you find this material?
It‘s spread out between different institutions. The majority of the notes came from private collections and Universal. The memo and supplementary notes came from Universal so actually, I would say, support material came from all over the place, different authors who had worked on books and gotten different things from different institutions.
What was Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s participation in all this?
He was basically my consultant on the project. He and Walter had never met each other, in fact they‘d never met each other prior to Cannes. It was just basically a strong intellectual balance of the analytical critic and scholar and the editor, and to realize that both parties were honoring what Orson Welles wanted and not interpret themselves. And by having two people to consult each other on that level, I would say, gave the project coherency. I mean, one mind can‘t interpret Orson Welles. If you can imagine me putting up in a cocktail glass a little bit of Murch and a little bit of Rosenbaum and shake it, you wind up with a pretty good team.
Did you wind up using that original Mancini opening score anywhere in the film?
No. It wasn‘t called for. You have to realize that when Welles watched the film in December, that they had still not (completed the score). I found Mancini‘s music cue notes and when he was watching it in December that score had not been placed on the film yet and it even asks in the memo “It‘s still unclear if my original sound patterns still apply,” because the music had not been put in yet. I don‘t think they had decided until Welles was well out of the country to put the Mancini music over the beginning of that film, and that was in probably January that that score was finally completed. The first part of January.
Did Welles choose Mancini to score the film?
No, Mancini was assigned to it. They had a couple of very brief meetings but Welles did give very detailed notes to Joseph Gershenson, who was the head of music at the time and who Mancini worked for. In fact on the earliest documents he‘s referred to as “Hank” Mancini. Because this was one of Mancini‘s first major works. If you listen to elements of the score you can see where we can lift for the opening credits.
That‘s true, there‘s a whole richness of material there.
And it‘s all pure Touch Of Evil and it‘s all original. He didn‘t go back and rerecord. Those are all the original tracks.
I read that you were able to accomplish about 95% of the changes that Welles has requested.
What were the kinds of things that you weren‘t able to do due to the limitations of the material you had?
What we weren‘t able to do were things that we did not know. Basically it came to things like trimming, you know, like where he would talk about how “I want this to be 6 frames shorter,” or “2 frames shorter,” little things that, things that were not clear on what he had seen back in the first week of December of 1957. There were certain things that weren‘t exactly clear, but they were minor elements. We‘re talking micro-seconds. There were still things that were not clear exactly what he was referring to, because he was referring to trims that would have existed as film elements back then, but nothing that was major. I think he would have liked Marlene Dietrich to go a little further (in the final shot of the film) and it ends, that was cut and the rest of it lost. Things like that.
So this is going to be the closest we are ever going to get to what Orson Welles wanted us to see.
And this is not a director‘s version or a director‘s preserved copy. What we have now is a preview version and a release version that exist, whether you get to see them that‘s another thing, but they exist. And we have an academic example of what Welles intended, so that for the researcher, for the scholar, if they want to have an idea of what Welles was thinking of, this is what this is. It‘s not a director‘s version, it‘s not the director‘s cut. Definitely not. It’s an academic example utilizing two of the finest people in their field – one as a scholar of the critical medium, one as an educated scholar of commercial editorial and sound medium – and taking Welles‘ documentation and translating them to the screen.
Orson Welles showed a rough cut of his cut to the studio heads. Was there ever a cutting continuity drawn up from that showing?
So it was an informal showing?
What he did was he showed a copy to Ernest Nims and then Nims showed it to Edward Muhl [then the Vice-President in charge of production at Universal] and it was the original reels. At that point a lot of the sound dubbing still had to be done, there was no music on it, so there was no music and no sound dubbing on that version at that point. So there probably weren‘t that much effects or foley either. So basically it was just a rough cut from the moviola.
That was the last cut that Orson Welles was heavily involved in?
So Welles never, at any point, completed his own cut of the film. All he had was a rough cut.
All it was was a rough cut.
There are scenes in the 93-minute version that are not in the 108-minute version. Were any of those scenes used in this revision?
Yes, because it appealed to the script and we had to second guess what the version was basically that he saw in December of 1957. And what he would have complained about and what he would have liked. So it was the most complete version that he wanted of things he directed except when changes were asked to be specifically made. Because, as I say, the version that he saw in December did not have the music, still had dubbing that needed to done, and still was not sure of where the placement of the credits were going to be.
I guess I‘ve been going on the assumption that memo was based on the preview version, the 108-minute version.
No, it was based on a rough cut of the preview version.
So there really was some real scholarship-based guesses that needed to be made to figure out the differences between what he saw and what we see in the preview version.
Right, and that‘s why I used Jonathan Rosenbaum academically, because we could only assume it was very close to the preview version, because you could see in the preview version the things that he asked to have different, like for instance the placement of the breakup of the Grandi scenes with Susan and the scenes with Quinlan and Vargas. You also can see where he discussed the hotel to the motel scene and the construction of that scene specifically and other little pieces throughout that were in the preview version. Now you have to realize that if he was discussing the hotel to the motel, that was in the preview but the whole section was deleted in the release version, which is kind of proof that he had seen something close to the preview version, and since that‘s what they were intending to release that was what it was.
Harry Keller shot a scene where Joseph Calleia tells Janet Leigh how Quinlan had stopped a bullet for him before.
It was shot by Harry Keller but it was also written into the dialogue pretty closely by Orson Welles. They redid the rearscreen shots just to conform that day where they had the rearscreen shots with Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston and then with Calleia and Janet, but basically it was just to glue in that scene with the cane in the middle. So they reshot it but, if you refer to Orson Welles‘ screenplay, the dialogue basically stays 100% intact. It was just adding a line about the bullet for clarity which Welles did not object to. So he had seen those scenes and did not object to it, he just objected to the unclarity of not having radio broadcasts back and forth, that he had written and prepared, in the car, and also what he objected to was that is was not clear why Grandi was tailing them, because that was very important.
So those scenes were reshoots of scenes that Welles had originally shot but they needed more information added?
One line clarity. And Welles did not object to the that clarity, he objected to the way they were editorially structured.
Is there anywhere that actually lists the shots that Harry Keller actually shot? I‘ve read that it was anywhere from half a day to two days of shooting.
It was one day. I have the production report and you can see exactly what he shot, and I was able to go from the Universal records and find all the original dialogue to pull from. There was one day where they had shot a couple of the mattes for the rear screen, that was the first day, there was no actor playing that day, and the second day they shot basically a day of little pick-up shots. There were scenes like, for instance, when the flashlight hits Janet Leigh in the hotel room, that‘s Keller. Another Keller is at the top of the stairwell with Charlton Heston and Mort Mills right after the interrogation with Quinlan. You know the scene where Quinlan turns in his badge? That was Keller and Welles actually complimented that as a great pick-up shot.
So it‘s only a few minutes that Keller shot.
It‘s a few minutes of time and you see the one thing about Keller that Welles really knew at that time is he would have liked to have done the material but he knew he had kind of deserted the production. But you have realize that most films at that time had directors that would do pick-up shots and things like that. There‘s so many movies that we don‘t know these details, it‘s just that it happened to Welles and he was most vocal because of the way the editorial structure was. The Keller directorial thing was more on the academics later on, saying Welles was not allowed to shoot. But you don‘t really find in his records, until later on when he decided that it was time to say “I wasn‘t allowed on the lot.” Which wasn‘t true because he was in fact allowed on the lot to see the film and they were doing a third of his requests and he was going in and doing dubs after the memo, so he basically at that time knew that that‘s the way the studios went and he wasn‘t complaining about them. What he was complaining about was how they were used.
So how did you end up in the center of this project, bringing all these elements together?
Basically, with Touch Of Evil, I had the connection within Universal to push the button and get it going. And I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with, I hope, the right idea of what should have been done. That‘s basically what happened and that‘s why I brought, as I say, Jonathan onto it. I wanted to keep it strictly in the Wellesian camp of academia and out of the commercial exploitation re-release of other projects that have come out as recently as the last six months. One thing I made very clear to the studio, and one thing I made very clear to Walter when we began working on it, is that this is not anything you can just get by anybody, it has to be done right because it‘s going to be the most critically dissected. So let‘s give them something to really work with.