a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Touch of Evil: Two file boxes from Ernie Nims


What Orson Welles really implicated in his memo
Walter Murch Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Again, we didn't have any of this so-called B negative, which you could kind of finesse things. I just had the print to work with. And I went on and did other things later in the film. But then, when we screened the whole film, I suddenly saw the reason, I thought, why he had wanted me to do this. Which was that it was the moment at which in the screenplay this Menzies character virtually admits to the Charlton Heston character that his boss is wrong. And then, he realises he had made an admission. Then he kind of stands up again, against it. But the damage has been done, in a sense. And now, the Charlton Heston character knows that he's got this guy. And I think Welles realised that that admission so early in the film did not serve the scenes later. And that it would be better to delay that moment until closer to the end of the film. So by cutting this close-up out that problem was averted. So that in this scene, which happens in the hall of records at the police station, the character of Menzies stands up for his boss all the way through. He doesn't... He quivers a little bit. But he doesn't break down.

And the question is, 'Why didn't Orson just say that in the memo?' Well, the reason is that he was writing this memo to people who were his enemies. And if he... First of all, would they understand all of that? And secondly, if they did understand that, they would say something uncomplimentary to Welles, maybe. So he simply said, 'I made a mistake. I used the wrong lens. Please cut it out.' So he simplified it for their purposes, which is a way of dealing with people who have power over you, like, the heads of the studio. And so it gave me an insight into the film, obviously, that this worked. Even though I didn't understand why I was doing it at the time. When I saw the final result, I think I understood why.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Orson Welles

Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017