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Dante's Pick: Director Joe Dante Selects His 13 Favourite Films
Ian Schultz , September 16th, 2016 08:40

To coincide with the release of his cult classic Matinee on Blu-Ray, the director of Gremlins, The Burbs and Explorers, Joe Dante, picks a Baker's Dozen of his favourite films for The Quietus


Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

Many people feelTouch of Evil was Orson Welles slumming, but in fact it was actually Orson Welles getting a job at a studio, and having access to the kind of studio production that he had been doing without for a number of years in Europe. And even though the version that was released was compromised, it was still an amazing film—and not taken seriously in its day and was pretty much played off as a second feature. But now, of course, they’ve gone back to his notes and tried to reconstruct what they think he wanted, which is always difficult to do. It’s becoming almost impossible to do with his last film,The Other Side of the Wind, which even if anybody could find all the pieces, nobody knows how it goes together. And he used to change his mind all the time. No, I don't think we’ll ever see the original version of that. But now we have three versions of Touch of Evil —the studio release version; the preview version, which I prefer, which is a longer version of the studio version; and then there’s the re-edited version that was put together ostensibly from Welles’s notes. It’s an approximation of what they think he might have wanted, the soundtrack is different and they took out all the extra pieces that weren’t shot by Welles. And they’re all fascinating. But for me the one that’s most satisfying is the preview version, because it’s closest to the one that I first saw when it was released, and it impressed me greatly and still impresses me.

There is also a debate about the aspect ratio—the version I have has it in 4:3 or Widescreen.

Well, all the movies that Universal made were shot at 4:3 because they were eventually going to go to television. But they were composed so they could be masked off for the cinema and shown at 1:85, and that’s true of almost all the pictures that they made in the 1950s. It looks OK at 4:3, and it also looks great at 1:85. I don’t agree with the people who say if it was shot for a square screen you can’t mask off anything, you have to be able to see the lights up at the top of the frame and the microphones that shouldn't be there and all that stuff. There was a reason why pictures were composed for a widescreen, and that’s because that’s how the theatres were showing them.