Finally I can embed a clip (poor quality, but at least it's there) of the original version of the opening shot of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. The only version of Touch of Evil currently available on home video is the version that was created after the death of everyone who made the picture, to conform to the vision that Welles outlined in a memo to Universal. The most obvious change, besides the removal of scenes that weren't shot by Welles, is that the opening credits are removed from the famous opening tracking shot; Welles didn't want any credits over the shot, and he didn't want any music in the film other than "source" music (Henry Mancini's score is mostly heard from distant radios). The released version runs the credits over the shot, and has loud opening-credits type music. So it's not at all what Welles wanted.
The thing is, I can't bring myself to care that much what Welles wanted here. I find that the revised version, without the credits and the blaring theme music, is kind of dull. Yes, it's an amazing shot, but that doesn't justify holding on a shot of people walking down the street for such a long time, particularly when the audience hasn't been clued into what's going on. I know that the theory is that we're all supposed to be in suspense about when the bomb is going to go off, but I think that it's hard for the scene to build suspense when we have no reason to care if these people get blown up or not; the movie's only just started. So I think the studio had it right: the movie doesn't truly begin until the characters start talking and we get a sense of who they are, and that's indicated by putting the credits over the first part of the shot.
I also don't agree with the idea that Welles's intentions are the final word on a movie like Touch of Evil. Yes, Welles wrote, directed and starred in it, and it's unquestionably his movie. On the other hand he didn't produce it, and the producer, Albert Zugsmith, wasn't just there to raise the money; the project was his idea (he brought in Welles to rewrite and direct it, at Charlton Heston's suggestion), and he had his own style as a producer; Touch of Evil is very much a Zugsmith movie as well as a Welles movie, even if Zugsmith's career was less distinguished overall.
The credits sequence of Touch of Evil is similar to that of Zugsmith's production Written On the Wind, where we get the credits over an opening sequence where we're not completely sure what's going on (it's explained much later in the movie). Zugsmith did the same thing in Touch of Evil: run the credits over the first minute or two where the audience doesn't know what's going on, so they won't start scratching their heads in confusion; the "official" beginning of the movie comes when the credits end and we get into the part that's easier to follow. If this is the producer's movie as well as the director's -- and it is -- then I don't see why the producer's decisions are less legitimate. Particularly since Zugsmith was probably more in charge of the post-production than Welles was.
I feel the same way about the additional non-Welles scenes, some of which I think are effective and useful. This isn't something like The Magnificent Ambersons, where Welles was the producer as well and the decision to re-cut was entirely made by people who had no creative involvement with the film. This was a movie with a strong director and a strong producer, and where the producer won out, I think his decisions are worthy of respect.
In fairness to the people who put together this version, I don't think they intended it to replace the other versions of the film (the original 96-minute cut and the 108-minute reissue, both of which contain scenes that Welles didn't direct). It's not their fault that Universal hasn't bothered to release a DVD of the other versions.
Anyway, here's the version currently available:
And here's the version that was actually released, with the opening credits running over the shot:
Update: It occurs to me that I'm assuming, in this post, that most of the changes/reshoots were the idea of the producer. It's possible, of course, that some of them were suggested by the studio. But it's hard to say because the things I've read about Touch of Evil don't seem to make any distinction between "the producer" and "the studio."