‘Touch’ of Welles

(Pictured above: Orson Welles as Falstaff in ‘Chimes at Midnight’)

Orson Welles, whose birthday was May 6, gained renewed currency when last year Netflix said it would help fund completion of the acclaimed director’s unfinished – and final – project, The Other Side of the Wind.

As fans eagerly await the release of that film scheduled for later this year, here’s a chance to discover — or become reacquainted with — some of Welles’ best known and intriguing contributions as director, actor, raconteur, Madison Avenue pitchman, magician and TV gadabout. Today, in the second of a three-part series, we present two more Welles’ films, A Touch of Evil and Chimes at Midnight, along with streaming options. (You can also read part one about the Netflix project and Citizen Kane.)

Touch of Evil (1958)

Summary: Charlton Heston plays Mexican narcotics officer Ramon Miguel ‘Mike’ Vargas who interrupts his honeymoon with wife Susan (Janet Leigh) to investigate a corrupt police captain, Hank Quinlan (Welles). The cast also includes Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joanna Moore, Ray Collins and Dennis Weaver, as well as cameos by Joseph Cotton and Zsa Zsa Gabor!

Backstory: Now considered a film noir classic, Evil was originally released as the lower half of a double feature. As with another Welles feature, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), the film was re-edited and certain scenes reshot by another director, so doesn’t represent Welles’ complete, unvarnished vision. Several partially restored versions of different lengths have subsequently been released.

Evil is famous for this 3-minute, 20-second tracking shot that opens the movie:

You can stream the 95-minute version of Touch of Evil starting at $2.99 (SD) and $3.99 (HD) at Microsoft, Vudu and other sites.

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Summary: Orson Welles embodies the Shakespeare character Falstaff in this story about his parental-buddy relationship with the young Prince Hal. The cast also includes Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford and John Gielgud. Ralph Richardson narrates.

Orson Welles reflects on the character of Falstaff:

Backstory: Although it premiered to critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival, Chimes at Midnight received limited US distribution when it was first released, due in part to negative advance reviews. It was made on a budget of $800,000. Janus Films released a restored version in 2016:

You can stream Chimes at Midnight starting at $2.99 (SD) on Vudu or $3.99 (HD) at Amazon. You can also watch with a FilmStruck subscription; monthly plans cost $6.99 and $10.99.

Stay tuned for part three in our Welles’ series.

(Note: The above is a revised version of a previously published article.)

About Larry Greenberg

A former local beat reporter and film critic, co-founder Lawrence Greenberg has more than 25 years’ experience as a writer and public relations executive.

View All Articles

Leave a Comment