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Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Overnight Star Is Manufactured

The larger percentage of Golden Age movies seem to have been designed for people whose leisure time was given over to theatre-going. These were the patrons who'd be there several times a week no matter what was playing. When Van Johnson died in 2008, I wondered if staff at the nursing home where he finished up had any idea what a big star they'd been housing. By then Van was an old man of course (92), and much of his fan base had preceded him out. Overnight fame is common enough today with reality shows and such, but recognition borne of these is shorter-lived than even teen idols of a previous generation. Anyone can be a celebrity now, but only momentarily it seems. Sudden fame like Van's was more remarkable in the forties where media was slower to get out word and image for idols-to-be. All the more impressive then, that Van Fever so rapidly swept a moviegoer nation in Spring of 1945. His ascension blurred customary lines between A and B product out of employer Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The anticipated B was Between Two Women, another Blair Hospital chapter remade from a same named feature of eight years before. Dr. Kildare had gone off his shift as result of Lew Ayres' WWII induction troubles and beginner Van donned scrubs to play continuing Dr. Randall "Red" Adams. The Kildare, then Blairs, supplied useful training for beginners like Johnson, what with lower budgets, supporting program placement, and little at risk. What no one figured was Between Two Women crashing through to place among most profitable films MGM had in 1945.

It would have been neat being around for Van Johnson's build-up, what with fan clubs organized in theatre lobbies (as here) and "fan fotos" handed out by thousands to ticket-buyers. The mechanics of star construction is something we're the poorer for losing. Between Two Women plays today as pleasant disposal of 83 minutes. You can watch it on TCM and imagine teen girls stampeding boxoffices sixty-five years ago for the same privilege. Van Johnson caught fire like Frank Sinatra, and around the same time, but his was talent less rarified than Frank's, so he's locked forever in that era that discovered him. Patrons didn't like to feel manipulated into star worship, so Metro reassured its public that they and no one else were responsible for Van Johnson's ascent. He has a fan following with a fervor found only in fans who have the feeling that they discovered a favorite themselves and that he is their own protégé for stellar honors, said Metro scribes to exhibitor subscribers of The Lion's Roar. With a war having sapped established leading men, 1945's accent would be upon youth ... And they're getting material that's attuned to the dreams and imagination of youth, added the Roar. Reward for fulfilling those dreams was considerable. Between Two Women spent about even with previous entries in the series ($436,483 negative cost), but this time, thanks to recently released Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and Van Johnson's bounce to exaltation, there were domestic rentals ($1.896 million) three times what MGM's last visit to Blair Hospital realized. This was phenomenal money for a B picture, Metro's or anyone else's.

Between Two Women was the fourth and last time Van Johnson played his Kildare variant. Not again would this personality be spent at humble fare. Van enters Between Two Women with a flying tackle to bring down a gun-wielding intruder in Blair's lobby, that opener typical of never-never hospital life envisioned by Metro. Authenticity as to medical settings would have to wait for television, it seemed. There's no sight of blood during Blair procedures and discussion of ailments stay at elementary level with cures quickly arrived at. Lionel Barrymore as Gillespie was crusty thread that ran through the series and pivot around which youngsters spun, his character a font of wisdom overlaid with irascible shtick long since an expectation with Barrymore's audience. Doctor rituals are lovingly observed. Washing of hands and placement of operating gowns and headgear play like coronations, all spotless white linens with crisp pleating. I wonder how many viewers pursued careers in medicine as result of movie stays at Blair. The series surely boosted nursing applications at the least, what with plethora of eligible males on Blair's treating staff, routinely hosting after-duty parties at night clubs where song-and-dance Metro contractees perform specialty numbers to relieve stress of the OR. Between Two Women breaks throughout for musical inserts with Gloria DeHaven and chorines, Keenan Wynn pattering, and war bond appeals following each number. The film is silly and dated and probably a waste of 2010 time, but it's a valuable sampling of something for everyone entertainment circa 1945, as accurate a mirror of patron appetites as we are likely to come across.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Robert Siodmak Gets Promoted --- Part One

John Ford used to throw off interviewers by telling them that directing was just a job of work. Comfortable enough with his undisputed status as an artist and giant among helmsmen, Ford could afford such humble gestures, but what of men like Robert Siodmak who really were jobbers, despite ambitions to get beyond it. He's a director for whom there is respect, if not quite a cult. I've read appraisals going every which way. One writer will build up Siodmak, another tears him down. He's appreciated better in France, it seems. Over there are special edition DVD's for Phantom Lady, The Dark Mirror, and even Cobra Woman. One had an hour interview with Siodmak in German with no subtitles, which left me out as I don't sprechen Deutsch. The features looked good though, and none are available in the US. Phantom Lady was kind of a sleeper that elevated Siodmak to better commissary tables at Universal. He'd been big before Hitler seized power back home, fled Germany at that point, then was uprooted again when France got taken. Siodmak was among unfortunates obliged to start over and again at bottoms after repeated displacements from the top. He was good and Hollywood knew it, but he had to prove himself all the same once he got here. Funny part of that is reason to believe Siodmak was born in Tennessee ... well, either there or Dresden. I'm not sure if anyone has settled that question. Publicity out of Universal preferred the US origin, it being wartime and all that. Bob was surely raised in Germany, and had the accent to prove it. Nothing I write will secure immortality for him, but Siodmak was an always interesting director, and most of his pictures play well, at least when we're able to see them.

Russell Taylor was a young interviewer with foresight to track down and talk to Robert Siodmak in 1959 for Sight and Sound magazine. Taylor's may have been the first worthwhile sit anyone had with the director. Until then, what press Siodmak got was superficial and mostly useless now. It's interesting how Hollywood folk behind the camera were evaluated as much for physical characteristics as those appearing in front of it. Siodmak was typed early on by The New York Times as a short, stoutish man with a bald head and horn rimmed eyeglasses. Employer scribes at Universal called him roly-poly and owlish. Siodmak had been misused at Paramount and deemed (barely?) good enough to draw $150 per week by 1943 when Uni put him to directing Son Of Dracula for their monster unit. This was work but not the kind that made reputations. According to the Taylor interview, Siodmak was sufficiently appalled by the script to tell his wife he'd have to beg off the whole thing. She advised him to go forward with a reminder that Universal had been doing horrors successfully for twenty years, so if you're just that little bit better than their other directors ... then they'll see right away and it'll lead to better things. To watch Son Of Dracula today confirms Bob followed the wife's advise, for it does deliver that little jot more than Universal chillers generally did. Execs surely followed rushes closely, as Siodmak would remember a seven year contract offered after a mere three days of the Dracula shoot.

Siodmak was noted for starting off with a dynamic middle scene to get cast and crew energized on projects. I'd like to think he began Son Of Dracula with its halfway in mood-setter where Chaney/Alucard rises out of the swamp and glides across to waiting Louise Allbritton. Moments that good were unaccustomed in Universal horrors once 40's mass production made kid shows of them. We did a lot of rewriting and the result wasn't bad: it wasn't good, but some scenes had a certain quality. Here was Siodmak's evaluation sixteen years after the fact, summing up perhaps what Universal bosses discovered in 1943 (imagine their surprise at what he'd wrought), and incidentally how general audiences (beyond Shock Theatre loyalists) might view Son Of Dracula today, provided anyone outside monster covens still watch it. So there was fast promotion off horror work and up to shows Universal figured more people would see. Among these was Cobra Woman, a sort of attraction fully filled first-run houses laughed at, but stood on line for and booked into prime playing time, distinctly unlike Dracula's progeny and a meaningful step up for any director with ambition. There's little in Cobra Woman of distinctive Siodmak touches to come (even of those exhibited in Son Of Dracula), but tweaking the hot plate of Montez/Hall occurred to no one with survival skill at Universal, so RS, like the rest, followed blueprints and saw his name attached to a black ink finisher. The one that would make Siodmak's name and establish him among Euro/UK thriller-meisters of a Hitchcock/Lang sensibility, the kind patrons associated with suspense tales told in offbeat continental ways, was Phantom Lady (subject of Part Two). It would punch Siodmak's membership ticket into that fraternity.
More On Robert Siodmak's films at Greenbriar Archives: The Spiral Staircase and The Killers.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Africa Screams On The Big Screen

Among myriad pleasures of last week's Slapsticon (am I going back next year? --- absolutely) was a 35mm screening of Africa Screams, Bud and Lou's independently produced oddity that has always floated somewhere 'neath the radar of their slicker Universal comedies. For years it's been mired in a PD tar pit and most of what we've seen on video and outlying TV broadcasts has been pretty dire. The eternal question nags: Who's around to care except we who grew up watching A&C on home screens and dwindling numbers that saw them theatrically? Author Bob Furmanek was responsible for rescuing Africa Screams and putting out a high-quality laser disc before those became handier as Frisbees. I spent enjoyable time with him at Slapsticon and learned much about AS and its starring team. Bob (and co-author Ron Palumbo) wrote a book I've recommended before, Abbott and Costello In Hollywood, which is just superb for gathering every detail on their films, and you may rest assured that everything I know about Africa Screams was gleaned from Furmanek's mightily impressive work.

Atop the scarce print shown at Slapsticon was an hour plus of extreme A&C rarities unspooled by historian/DVD producer Paul Gierucki. This is where I got serious insight into the real World Of Abbott and Costello, being footage unearthed from goodness knows where, but riveting for offscreen secrets it reveals, especially about oft-sad clown Lou. Turns out Costello made home movies to a brown turn, using pro editing equipment, 16mm with sound and color ... the works. I love privileged glimpses into Golden Age Hollywood home and family life. Lou's was a beehive of parties, vacationing, and seeming energy he directed toward private pursuits to surpass that spent on movies getting more and more formularized. There was a trip to Europe reel with Costello and extended retinue (relations plus friends of same) frolicking shipboard and at points of touring interest. Lou ad-libs narration here and gags it up as though he were on U-I's lot, but there's much revealed too of priorities in the comedian's life, to-wit a visit to an Italian village where his father studied for the priesthood, in Lou's words. The place looked like home base of young Vito Corleone before Don Ciccio issued orders for his liquidation. I half-expected to see a hay cart pass slowly by as the Costellos made their rounds. Lou's family was clearly strong on the Catholic faith. There's an extended birthday party he filmed for one of the teenage daughters wherein a priest delivers invocation, family and guests bowing heads before the meal is served. Costello's camera sweeps lovingly over buffet tables stacked with goodies and observes dancing that followed the feed. Just priceless stuff. Doting father Lou notes Tennessee-Tall Claude Jarman who's escorting the birthday girl, while star guest Loretta Young manages two entrances.

Feature attraction Africa Screams was an A&C I'd never seen all the way through. It piqued my interest more for not being a Universal pic. Another of those scrounged-up independent projects, this one was done in sixteen days for less than half a million. I'd think A&C were gold in the bank for entrepreneurs looking to break into movies. Feeding off momentum of previous year's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, something of a comeback hit for the team, Africa Screams brought back a healthy $1.5 million in domestic rentals, to which was added $129,000 from a 1953 combo reissue with the Marx Bros. Love Happy. That profitable run (for someone anyway) led to inevitable falling-out (and resulting lawsuits) between the comedians and producing partners the Nassour Brothers, Hollywood having long since bred a culture of mutual pocket-picking. It was no more something new in 1949 than it is past policy now. Whoever's hand was first in the till was bound to grab more than his share. Africa Screams was among first of Abbott and Costello features sold to television, though placement in a terminally obscure package from M&A Alexander (among 18 titles which included little else of note, and nothing more of A&C) translated to few stations buying and even less viewers having access to Africa Screams.

Still there was fun to be had for those few who caught it. Bud and Lou's supporting ensemble might be the best they ever had, background comics bringing their own latter-day cult interest to the party. Shemp Howard has a current following that grows with each thing of his that's revived. Costello was said to have been on guard during scenes he shared with the eventual Stooge. Speaking to which, Joe Besser is one of those you either don't know or would call the funniest man in pictures. Just seeing him once would put most with the latter camp. Besser was a far-back buddy of Lou's to whom the team threw work (largely in their vid series). I'm increasingly struck by how relationships tracked years among comedians who'd met during climbs up and helped each other out upon arrival (for chosen few) at the Big Time. That fraternity had roots in every vaude or Burly-Q house that switched on lights, and I'm sure members understood well how fleeting was success in their will-of-the-wisp profession. Bios are replete with accounts of fortune shared once a comic struck a payload. Bud and Lou evidently never said no to a touch. Would they have gone broke so quickly had there not been an army of less successful funsters dragged along in their meteoric wake?

Precious to me are those jungle movies shot indoors. There's nothing so lush as African foliage spread across a sound stage, fakery raised to levels of art. Bride Of The Gorilla achieved it ... so would Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. I'd rather explore set-bound mock-ups with The Bowery Boys than go on location with Stewart Granger. For devotees of everything but the real thing, Africa Screams brings it all home in terms of phony trees, hauled in dirt, and water by thousands of gallons poured into a river plowed below floor boards. Nauseating to contemplate is necessity of condensed milk being added to get desired photographic effect, which must have raised hellacious stench in an already suffocating barn. Is it a wonder Abbott and Costello sought whatever distractions were handy to keep juices flowing through long days of this? I've read Lou stocked pies and seltzer bottles for impromptu jesting, said custard fights, blown takes, and whoopee cushioning being cause of much delay and added expense. Few productions generated so many blooper outtakes as Abbott and Costello's. Much of this revolved around stooge (are there such unfortunates yet on studio payrolls?) Bobby Barber, hired brunt of what used to be called "practical joking." I've frankly got some issues with the A&C/Bobby Barber relationship. He was variously referred to as a court jester, buffoon, and/or little monkey, having been a burlesque pal of Costello's subsisting on filmland margins. Bobby's function other than occasional chauffeuring was to be ritually victimized by the team, a buffer against tedium of waiting between camera set-ups. Lou in particular took sadistic delight over "gags" he practiced on Barber, even though he was said to love the guy. Hapless Bobby strikes me as a person essentially paid to show up every day and be mistreated. Universal and other employers picked up tabs for said stooging because it was part of the engine necessary to maintain A&C spirits. Once they even turned tables and posed Lou with a dominantly-billed-for-a-day Barber (above). If it's true that the funniest comedy is the cruelest, then Bobby's daily ordeal was surely the biggest howl in town.

Monday, July 19, 2010

There Is Only One Ray Harryhausen

Is there any filmmaker so well regarded ... no, let's say beloved ... than Ray Harryhausen? He pioneered effects back when they were special, before monsters and spaceships became so commonplace as to dull senses. Jason and The Argonauts recently came out on Blu-Ray. Is there anything so impressive as its creatures moved one painstaking frame at a time? Much was lost when movies merged with computers. Better I think to experience the individual magician's sleight of hand. Remember when we could recognize FX artists by dinosaurs they animated? Harryhausen put boldest signature to all of his. There was no star/director team so identifiable as Ray and his marvels. The impact he had on my generation was immense ... wait, let's try a new word ... Dynamational. Did anyone ever nod off during a Harryhausen set-piece? I met him twice at shows. We all want celebrities to fit gracious expectations --- this man more than did. My first luck was an encounter not at autograph tables or a panel group, but waiting outside for cab service, which thankfully was delayed for us both. That ten or so minute chat made the whole trip for me. A second occasion gratified doubly for Harryhausen's saying he remembered me from the first. Wish I could recall what we talked about. It wasn't technical stuff because I've yet to figure out hows and wherefores of his brilliant work. That may be as well for my being able yet to gawk at his creations like I was ten (wonder how many RH fans ended up making their own stop-motion movies at home ... must be hundreds ... a lot of them ended up pros at it).

Better revise to eleven ... for that was inexcusably late age of seeing my first Harryhausen at a theatre. Fully aware of deprivation I've suffered for missing Jason and the Argonauts in 1963 (the CBS primtime run a few years later was no substitute), there's little chance my enjoyment of the Blu-Ray, considerable though it is, can equal that of age comparable fans perceptive enough to have made ways to JATA on first-run. Never mind Mysterious Island and The Three Worlds Of Gulliver. I'm still wondering how I missed those but did manage to see paltry likes of Bon Voyage and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. By the time First Men IN The Moon showed up at the Liberty, I was primed. It was Spring in fifth grade and everywhere you looked were comics and mags and paperbacks beating drums for Columbia's sci-fi blowout. There were even 8mm highlight reels in color offered through the company's home movie catalogue. Colonel Forehand gave me First Men's pressbook ahead of his playdate and inside was a herald called The Luna News (below). Headline worthy there and elsewhere was fact of a major studio booking first-class space travel during a decade when release of such had slowed to a crawl. Already I knew that Columbia's advertised Lunacolor wouldn't necessarily be good color, but in the wake of fare like The Earth Dies Screaming in B/W from the UK or The Time Travelers off AIP's economy line (Pathécolor), it was a decided step up. First Men producers made their low budget look like big money in any case, and revenues reflected a public's willingness to try on fantasy in a year not otherwise abundant in it. First Men IN The Moon realized a good-for-the-genre $887,000 in domestic rentals, with an even better foreign showing of $910,000. Certainly Columbia got behind First Men with lots more promotional enthusiasm than was put forth on behalf of Hammer films they distributed.

What troubled me about Harryhausen's films (still does) was juvenilia sprinkled there and here to relieve kids of too much stress Ray's monsters might create. The Sinbads pulled punches that way. Clash Of The Titans had, as I recall, a comical little owl (?) presumably meant to evoke memory of pace-deadening robots in the Star Wars pics. It seemed FX movies had to play by whatever set of narrative rules prevailed at the time. Jason and The Argonauts was enhanced for not bringing a kid along on its voyage. First Men IN The Moon kept integrity via a framing device so arresting that it's surprising someone hasn't used it again since. I remember hoping throughout for continued restraint upon Lionel Jeffries, his character threatening to spiral off into bufoonery but thankfully kept in reasonable check. Sad days for many came upon realization they'd outgrown Harryhausen fantasies. It was a temporary condition, however. Adulthood and appetite for nostalgia restored magic to most. I went to see The Valley Of Gwangi barely three years after First Men and thought it infantile outside RH's contribution. Even One Million Years BC, coming between them, went seemingly nowhere but for dinosaurs performing their bits. First Men IN The Moon might have been the last Harryhausen entered into with serious intent. Its writer, Nigel Kneale, had done wonderful things with sci-fi prior to this, including The Abominable Snowman and various Quatermasses. Those that label First Men best of the Harryhausens may be on to something. It's surely the most literate and thought-provoking of the lot.

Few of us seem to have lost love for Harryhausen's creations, whatever our reservations about films hosting them. Jason and The Argonauts' Blu-Ray release brought outpouring of praise for not only that one but others by RH it reminded online reviewers of. A few years ago when Ray Harryhausen received a special Academy Award, presenter Tom Hanks said flat out that Jason was The Greatest Picture Ever Made, and he wasn't being ironic. Once captivated, few turn backs on Harryhausen handiwork. There was a 1972 kiddie showing of The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad at a downtown Hickory, NC theatre during my freshman year there. I was set to go that Saturday morning and resigned to company of little kids, but lo and behold when I mentioned the show to boys on my hall, there gradually came a tide of interest in Sinbad that swelled attending numbers to pretty near everyone not doped up, hung over, or otherwise indisposed. Carolina Theatre management must have been surprised to find such a large contingent of eighteen and nineteen year olds sallying forth to watch a movie deemed more suitable for elementary ages. What I remember best about that day was how entranced we all were with dragons, Cyclops, and time-honored sword-wielding skeletons, hard-won maturity surrendered in the face of Harryhausen's magic. Now the latter's being practiced on homescreens, with RH sharing secrets among DVD extras. A surprising lot of his are available on Blu-Ray. Indeed, Harryhausen may be the best represented vintage name so far via that advanced media. Sony is at present taking votes for the next High-Def delivery. I shouldn't think it will be long before all of the Harryhausens, at least those released through Columbia, are available on Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Touch Of Evil Re-Visit --- Part Two

Scuzzy as were aspects of selling, you certainly couldn't fault Touch Of Evil's ad and poster campaign. These were among most striking of one, three, and six sheets displayed during the fifties. U-I was peerless in its art. They used brilliant Reynold Brown on many promotions, and on this occasion, the estimable Bob Tollen, one of few artists permitted to sign his poster work. Having previously got stellar results with All That Heaven Allows (its three-sheet should hang in the Louvre), Tollen rendered gorgeous imagery of Heston and Leigh in what's become an iconic pose of them on a hotel bed. Interestingly (and significantly, I think), the artist drew a cleaner (shaven, that is) and better turned-out Welles for selling purposes (note OW's neatly wound red tie). To be avoided in selling was a slovenly and frankly repulsive Hank Quinlan that hovered over Touch Of Evil. Was Tollen acting on instruction from a Universal alarmed with Welles' appearance in the film? Would Orson's standing around Hollywood suffer for the way he'd presented himself in Touch Of Evil? I'm wondering how many people figured this was OW offscreen as well as on, at least in terms of the weight, which never mind padding he applied, created impressions that couldn't do him good image-wise. Did Touch Of Evil give birth to Fat Orson and cruel japery that would follow Welles to the end?

Charlton Heston felt the only thing that would separate Touch Of Evil from commonplace police dramas was Orson Welles' creative direction. To those for whom it was mere merchandise, this amounted to no separation at all. Wherein lay the difference between this and low-budget cop-and-crime pics a company like Columbia distributed? ... other than Heston in the lead instead of Brian Keith or Aldo Ray? If Welles was going to settle into exploitation subjects, there were plenty of those at Universal to occupy him. Front office satisfaction over Touch Of Evil shooting progress was said to have inspired discussion of a five film contract with director Welles. I'd call that his moment of greatest opportunity with a studio system he still wanted to break into. U-I in the fifties seems an ideal roost for a chastened Welles willing to work within their structure. Friendly associates were already ensconced there. If OW could cozy up to material like Touch Of Evil, why not the full course of genres Universal addressed with ongoing efficiency? I'm not kidding when I propose Welles flourishing with Mercury vet William Alland, by then a capable producing hand at westerns and weirdies (as long as I'm dreaming, how about a Welles/Alland go at Creature #4, the reboot --- am I alone in suspecting OW could have directed one pip of a monster movie?). Albert Zugsmith was congenial and there on the lot. Is it too much a flight of fancy to imagine he and Welles teamed on The Incredible Shrinking Man, instead of Orson merely narrating the trailer for that sci-fi classic? My what-if engine sees OW transforming routine mellers with George Nader and Julia Adams into strands of pearls. Bigger stars would have sought out his now thriving unit as a result and thereby ended talk of Orson Welles, Hollywood exile.

So back to reality and Touch Of Evil. A noted critic (several in fact) claim the film to have played on the bottom of double-bills. This lines up nicely with scenarios of a Welles devalued, but I'm still looking for (so far) elusive first-run ads with TOE occupying lower berths. Yes, it ran with a co-feature in many situations ... there was no more disgrace in that than there had been for The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942 ... but no Charlton Heston/Janet Leigh starring feature was going to bring up rears in decent sized 1958 markets, especially in the face of product shortage we know plagued the industry around this time. The more plausible outcome would have been to pass on it altogether (as my town did --- neither the Liberty or the Allen used Touch Of Evil). I'd be happily proven wrong on this should anyone furnish 1958 ad art with TOE buried 'neath cowboys, spacemen, or even Mexican Spitfire. The other assumption about Touch Of Evil is that its boxoffice rotted on a vine Universal refused to tend. A comparative look at figures for TOE and U-I hopefuls that season reveal outcome better than I'd been led to expect. Touch Of Evil earned domestic rentals of $1.497 million. Lacking foreign numbers, I can only assume they were good for anecdotal evidence that the film enjoyed success and extended runs in European territories. The budget was said to have been $895,000. Maybe there were overruns beyond that. I don't have the final negative cost. What strikes me is the fact that Touch Of Evil stood its ground nicely with those features Universal clearly expected to do better (and promoted more heavily). The Tarnished Angels beat TOE, but not by much, finishing with $1.5 million in domestic rentals. The Lady Takes a Flyer closed books with a modest $1.0 million, surely a more disappointing outcome, but one we've heard less about because who cares about The Lady Takes a Flyer?

The 1998 Touch Of Evil reconstruction turned out to be a smart commercial move, as it did surprisingly well for an oldie offered up theatrically in the video/satellite era. There was no new footage, but enough reshaping had been done to make the viewing experience seem new. A found Orson Welles memo wherein he pleaded for editorial changes got plenty of attention and a public beyond fans was enchanted by fact of Universal finally acceding to the Great Man's wishes. It helped too that results were so transforming as managed here (by producer Rick Schmidlin and editor Walter Murch). For once it seemed a ravaged Welles project had been put back right, posthumous victory snatched from jaws of neglect and indifference after forty years. The gross from this September 1998 reissue was $2.247,465 million. Rentals derived from that would be fairly close to those generated from Touch Of Evil's initial release in 1958 (the opening '98 weekend at three locations did a whopping $70,725). At one point, there were 45 US theatres running TOE, pretty remarkable for a show played to ribbons on TV and sold non-stop on VHS since the eighties. A DVD box would boast three separate versions of the film, plus documentary extras and commentaries. It's safe to say Touch Of Evil's reputation has gotten a major boost in the wake of all this. The story of its reconstruction is well told in Jonathan Rosenbaum's book, Discovering Orson Welles, a fine collection of essays from this author who was also a consultant on the Touch Of Evil project.
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