New DVDs: 'Touch of Evil,' 'Double Indemnity,' and more

Orson Welles (left) and Charlton Heston star in "Touch of Evil," a 1958 film noir directed by Welles and co-starring Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich.
Orson Welles (left) and Charlton Heston star in "Touch of Evil," a 1958 film noir directed by Welles and co-starring Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich.
Posted: April 19, 2014

It took 56 years, but Orson Welles' Touch of Evil is finally available in high-definition.

One of most stylized, intense, and frantic films noir to come out of the 1950s, Touch of Evil features Welles - at his most corpulent, sweat-glazed worst - as a corrupt police captain put in charge of investigating a car bomb that kills a couple at the Mexican border.

Charlton Heston plays the voice of reason and all things moral as Mexican drug enforcement agent Miguel "Mike" Vargas (yes, it's a white actor playing a Latino in brownface). Mike and his American ice-queen wife, Susan (Janet Leigh), are on their honeymoon when they get sucked into the morass of nastiness and evil spun by local crooks, teen gangs, and bent cops alike.

The sexual violence - in one scene, a gang of youths circle like sharks around Leigh's motel room - still shocks today.

Welles fills Touch of Evil with some of his most impressive cinematic flourishes since Citizen Kane of 1941. The opening sequence - a single tracking shot across the border, lasting three minutes, 20 seconds - alone is worth the price of admission.

This limited-edition box set from Universal Studios includes all three versions of the film: The original 1958 cut imposed by the studio over Welles' objections; an expanded edition released in 1976; and the 1998 version, which was reconstructed from a detailed letter Welles wrote his producers. ( www.universalstudiosentertainment.com; $29.98; not rated)

More classics on Blu-ray

Double Indemnity - 70th Anniversary Limited Edition. Universal also has released a deluxe Blu-ray edition of this amazing 1944 noir thriller starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. Cowritten by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder and directed by Wilder, it's one of the best in the genre. ( www.universalstudiosentertainment.com; $29.98; not rated)

Sorcerer. William Friedkin's raw, high-voltage existential thriller is the second adaptation of French author Georges Arnaud's 1950 novel, Le Salaire de la peur, or Wages of Fear. Roy Scheider stars as one of four losers, broke and stuck in South America, who are given a real dream job. They must drive trucks loaded with a seriously dangerous cargo, nitroglycerin. ( www.wbshop.com; $27.98; rated R)

King of Comedy: 30th Anniversary Edition. Robert De Niro stars as a loser living in his mother's basement who fancies himself a world-class comic. He's not. Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard costar in Martin Scorsese's weird black comedy from 1982. ( www.foxconnect.com; $24.99; rated PG)

Fargo: Remastered Edition. Just in time for FX's TV adaptation, here's a lovely, clean, watchable, remastered edition of the Coen brothers' wacky murder mystery starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi. ( www.mgm.com; $19.99; rated R)

Rita, Sue and Bob Too. British cult director Alan Clarke ( Scum, Made in Britain) skewers Margaret Thatcher's Britain in this dark, dark, dark comedy about two teenage girls who have a sex romp with a married man. He thinks he's using them. Little does he know. Never before released domestically, it's available directly from Screen Archive's website. ( www.screenarchives.com; $24.95; not rated)

Other titles of interest

Big Bad Wolves. What would you do if confronted by the man you're certain killed your young daughter? The deranged father in this Israeli horror comedy opts for an elaborate long night of torture. ( www.magpictures.com; $26.98 DVD; $29.98 Blu-ray; rated R)

Flashpoint: The Final Season. Say adieu to this wonderful cop show from Canada about an elite unit of ultra-patient, trained negotiators who also are trained in SWAT tactics. ( www.paramount.com/movies/home-media; $39.98; not rated)

Mayberry RFD: The Complete First Season. Didn't get enough Andy Griffith Show moments? Ken Berry and Buddy Foster star in this gentle spinoff that aired from 1968 to 1971. ( www.wbshop.com;    $29.98; not rated)


tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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