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.


The quality of sound can tell a story


Touch of Evil: Ten pages of script in one shot
Walter Murch Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Anyway, there are these master shots, and there's a shot in the middle of the film. 12 minutes, 10 minutes long, I think the whole... Certainly eight minutes long of a scene in a house that moved from one room to the other, and there were walls in the apartment that had to be removed by the scene crew. When the camera was here, they would remove the wall, and they would put the wall back. Very complicated, and yet not flashy in any way. It's... You don't notice that there has not been an edit in eight minutes. It doesn't call attention to itself the way the other films with long shots might. It was a way, again, of... This was one of the first shots that they did in the film, and it was a way of Orson Welles getting the studio off his back: 'I'm going to cover ten pages of script in a single shot. Watch this.' So it's visually not flashy, but it's flashy in terms of: 'Look how much I can do, how quickly I can do it. I still have my chops as a director.' But later in the film, in the final chase, it's really a masterpiece of classic editing. Parallel cutting beautifully organised so that your eye is exactly where it needs to be at the moment of the cut, so that on the incoming shot there is a focus of attention at that same place that carries you to somewhere else in the frame. And then there's a cut, and you... There's a moment, a place of attention. Then the next shot that takes you further. So it's a beautifully fluid and rhythmic construction of Quinlan and Menzies walking and talking. We know that Menzies has a bug on him and he's recording Orson Welles's Quinlan. He's working for Charlton Heston at this point. Heston is tracking them with a recorder, so it's actually very modern technology, about circa 1957, radio transmission of a hidden microphone.

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: Touch of Evil, Orson Welles

Duration: 2 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017