Touch of Evil (1958) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: Mexican Narcotics officer Ramon Miguel 'Mike' Vargas has to interrupt his honeymoon on the Mexican-US border when an American building contractor is killed after someone places a bomb in his car. He's killed on the US side of the border but it's clear that the bomb was planted on the Mexican side. As a result, Vargas delays his return to Mexico City where he has been mounting a case against the Grandi family crime and narcotics syndicate. Police Captain Hank Quinlan is in charge on the US side and he soon has a suspect, a Mexican named Manolo Sanchez. Vargas is soon onto Quinlan and his Sergeant, Pete Menzies, when he catches them planting evidence to convict Sanchez. With his new American wife, Susie, safely tucked away in a hotel on the US side of the border - or so he thinks - he starts to review Quinlan's earlier cases. While concentrating on the corrupt policeman however, the Grandis have their own plans for Vargas and they start with his wife Susie. Runtime: 95 mins Release Date: 07 Jun 1958
There are only two ways to write a review that would truly do this film justice. Either one would have to write an exceedingly long review, or a short, concise one. I choose to do the latter.When I first saw "Touch of Evil," I was glued to the chair. When I found out it was not Welles' definitive vision, I wondered how on earth it could have been made better. And when I saw the re-released version, I wondered why the studio altered it. The stunning black-and-white images, the intricate plot, and the powerful, engaging performances took a hold of my imagination. At times, I <more>
imagined myself on the street with the characters, because the atmosphere was so thick I felt surrounded in it.The actors all did an outstanding job, especially Leigh and Heston who, although not thoroughly convincing as a Mexican, soared above his usual powerful, furious presence . This is Welles' picture, however, and whenever the camera catches his obese figure, you are fully aware of the man as a director and an actor. His powerful vision drives the film, from the single-cut opening sequence to the cat-and-mouse finale.I suggest watching the 1998 restored version over the original theatrical release, but regardless of which version, "Touch of Evil" will have you stuck in your seat, questioning your views of morality until long after the last credit has rolled up the screen.
A beautiful, haunting and complex film noir (by BrandtSponseller)
Rather than films like Citizen Kane 1941 and The Lady from Shanghai 1947 , neither of which am I a big fan of, Touch of Evil evidences director/writer/star Orson Welles' capacity for cinematic genius. The story is engaging, suspenseful, tight and well paced; the cinematography is consistently beautiful, inventive and symbolic; the setting and overall tone of the film, including the performances, are captivating, yet slightly surreal and otherworldly; and there are many interesting subtexts. This all combines to create a complex artwork that will reward however far a viewer wishes to <more>
dig into the film.Based on a novel by Whit Masterson, Badge of Evil, Touch of Evil is a battle between two policemen--Hank Quinlan Orson Welles and Ramon Miguel Vargas Charlton Heston . Parallel to this is a kind of border battle between the United States, represented by Quinlan, and Mexico, represented by Vargas; the film is set in two border towns, frequently crossing over.As Touch of Evil opens, we see a bomb being placed in the trunk of a car in Mexico. A construction company owner, Mr. Linnekar, gets in with his girlfriend. Vargas and his new wife, Susan Janet Leigh , manage to walk along next to the car--they're all crossing the border into the United States. Shortly after crossing, the bomb goes off. This brings the gruff Quinlan into the picture. His investigation of the bombing brings him into Mexico for suspects. Meanwhile, Vargas and his wife are being threatened by Joe Grandi Akim Tamiroff , a Mexican mob boss, and his underlings. Both Quinlan and Vargas are well respected in their countries, and both are used to getting what they want. But the bombing investigation ends up putting them at loggerheads, and Quinlan gradually turns out to have more than a "touch of evil".As with many of his films, Orson Welles ended up having to battle the studio to realize his artistic vision. Usually, as here, the battle was unsuccessful for him. Despite his 58-page memo detailing various problems with Universal's non-director supervised reshoots by Harry Keller and re-edits, because they felt that Welles' final cut "could use some improvement", the film was released in a form that was not satisfactory to Welles. The fiasco has resulted in various versions of Touch of Evil appearing throughout the years. The 58-page memo was thought to have been lost, but a copy was discovered relatively recently in Charlton Heston's possession. The film was recut in 1998 based on Welles' memo. So make sure that you watch the 111-minute version first released by Universal on DVD in 2000.The opening scene of Touch of Evil is famous, and rightfully so. Beginning with the timer being set on the bomb, then the bomb being placed in Linnekar's trunk before he gets into the car, we follow both the car and the relative ebb and flow of Vargases as they roughly walk alongside the car, all in one very long tracking shot that covers a lot of ground and features a lot of unusual angles. Welles stages the scene so that there are all kinds of complex background and foreground elements interacting with the car and our protagonist pedestrians. The suspense built up in this scene is incredible--you just know that bomb is going to go off, but you don't know just when, or who it is going to hurt. Compositionally, the scene is simply beautiful. The film is worth watching for this opening alone, but the whole of Touch of Evil features similar, meticulously planned artistry, filled with suspense.Welles as an actor tends to have a very peculiar way of speaking that is full of affectations. Sometimes this can be a detriment to the film, as it was in The Lady from Shanghai. Here, though, the oddity works, and this despite the fact that, like Woody Allen, he seems to direct his whole cast to deliver their dialogue as if they were him. As a result, Touch of Evil has very peculiar, contrapuntal scenes where people frequently talk on top of one another, with odd phrasing. It works because of the particular kinds of personality conflicts that Welles set up in the script. These are people who frequently _would_ talk on top of each other and occasionally not pay attention to each other.But that's not the only odd thing about the film. Welles managed to find locations that, shot in this highly stylized and cinematographically complex film-noir manner, seem almost otherworldly. Except for a couple expansive desert shots, Touch of Evil feels eerily claustrophobic, even though most locations aren't exactly enclosed. The various modes and settings are all perfect for their dramatic material, which is mostly dark and moody. One change that Universal made was the excision of a lot of comic relief material featuring the Grandi family. Universal was right to cut it, and wisely, Welles agreed.The music in the film is also extremely effective but unusual. Most of it is incidental. Latin and rock 'n' roll emanates from radios, for example, and the climax intermittently has a repeating, contextually haunting theme from a pianola.But of course the story is just as important. Although Welles stated hyperbolically at various points that he was trying to "infuriate" the audience with a somewhat inscrutable plot, and it's true that the plot isn't exactly given in a straightforward manner, once you figure out the gist, it's relatively simple but extremely captivating. At the same time, it is full of symbolism and subtexts, including commentary on justice systems and perhaps some irony about the popular conceptions of the U.S. versus Mexico made more complex by the fact that Quinlan spends just as much time south of the border and Vargas seems to spend a lot of time north . But as for being annoyed, you're more likely to become infuriated with Quinlan, who becomes more and more deliciously despicable as the film unfolds.
Here is a film that wouldn't be made today because nobody makes 'B' movies anymore; and this is the greatest 'B' movie in the history of cinema. Here is the perfect example of why Orson Welles should be considered a genius. He has made this film look so effortlessly easy that it could almost be considered film making by numbers. From the famous opening sequence to the closing titles, this is the film students' reference book. Welles portrayal of the bloated cop Hank Quinlan is only bettered by his Harry Lime in 'The Third Man'. He gets right inside the seedy, <more>
corrupt Quinlan; but still leaves room for just the lightest touch sympathy because we know that, after all, he's a fallible human like all of us. We almost feel sad at his fate especially when Marlene Dietrich gives her sad soliliquay about him.This is another film that can only exist in black and white, and begs the question, why can't directors work effectively in this medium today? Some have tried but none have have really suceeded. David Lynch's Eraserhead is probably the best modern example of a black and white only film. Woody Allen's Manhattan tries hard but ends up looking too much like a documentary. I don't think that directors today use this medium enough, too many rely on colour and the efffects that can only work in colour to get them out of trouble. So put A Touch Of Evil on your 'must see' list and enjoy a work of film making artistry.
A masterpiece of Gothic expressionism! (by Nazi_Fighter_David)
Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" is a complex, ironic examination of the relationship between the law and justice... The film must stand beside the very best in detectives genre...Its enormous confused tracking shots, its low angles, its tormented lighting, its obscure intelligent photography, its great use of the wide-angle lens, its hard complexity and complete fictional night-city word, all represent a brilliant essay of pure cinema establishing Welles as an alarming genius, one of the greatest filmmakers with movies years ahead of their time..."Touch of Evil" is an <more>
outstanding achievement of a great cinematic mind, displaying a powerful range of Gothic expressionism... Welles' first appearance as a corrupt used-up Texas police captain Hank Quinlan is no less surprising...A police car comes to a stop to the scene of a murder and unexpectedly there is Welles, sitting in the back seat: gross, unshaven, sweaty, and with a cigar clenched between his teeth... He seems a repellent person, with "intuition," manifesting that sensation of evil, as no crime movie has managed to do since, a suggestion of corruption that is the key to the fascinating and doubtful character he plays... Welles character will cheat, lie and murder in order to prevent the truth from emerging... One hates his toughness, yet one still understands him and feels pity for him than for his victims...Joseph Calleia, his slightly more presentable assistant, is like Dana Andrews in Otto Preminger's "Where the Sidewalks Ends," a villain with unchanged methods: he waits, watches, leaves the police work to others, remains loyal to his profession and to his bossÂ—but could not exist without him, or in another environment...From that moment, we are caught between admiration of his brilliant directorial effects and fascination with his characterization of Quilan, a chief able to make a quick arrest by the simple expedient of framing the most likely suspects... He appears to have been using the techniques for years, but before this he has usually fitted the frame round the guilty party... It is a performance which frequently gives great energy to the screen...Stanley Kubrick once said that the first shot of a movie should be the most captivating... Definitely, Welles' legendary opening shot satisfies one of the key requirements of the movie mystery... Of course, Russ Metty deserves a lot of credit...The long traveling shot starts with a close-up of a time-bomb being placed in the trunk of a car by a shadowy figure, then, the richest man in town Rudy Lanniker and his mistress appearing from the background, getting into the car and driving away across the border from Mexico to the United States and through the border town... By this time the roving cameraÂ—that seems never to come to a standstill, has offered to us long view of the surroundings crumbling arches, peeling walls, poor hotels and night clubs and a lot of trash which will enclose the plot...While the convertible stops at a crossroad, the camera descends swiftly to introduce a Mexican gentleman, an idealistic justice department lawyer Ramon Vargas Charlton Heston and his bride, the blonde American Susan Janet Leigh walking toward the frontier...The superlative camera tracks the couple for some time, catching again the car as both Vargas and the automobile meet at the U.S. Customs post... We see and hear a conversation between Vargas, his wife and the border guard as the vehicle moves out of the frame... We proceed with the couple about to cross the border until the bomb goes off and the car explodes... The killing is the start of the conflict between policemen from both sides of the border..."Touch of Evil" is great and memorable for the distinguished description of its scenes, its images, its acting and its sound track... Its importance lies entirely in how the event is told 'not' in the message or material...In addition to its wonderful opening, the film contains other outstanding sequences: The deplorable ambiance of a closed nightclub where Marlene Dietrich wisely advises Welles to "lay off the candy bars." "Honey, you're a mess", she says when she finally recognizes Quinlan, and at the end of the picture when he asks "Come on, read my future for me," she replies: "You haven't got any. Your future is all used up. Why you don't go home."The single shot in the murder suspect's apartment where Welles handles his cast with great skill... There is much overlapping conversation as everyone talks at once, and half a dozen characters are brilliantly delineated...When the camera meets a group of three characters crossing the street across a hotel lobby and into a restricted elevator, and rides with them slowly up to the second floor until Vargas, who has left them in the lobby, reappears at the very moment the elevator door reopens...The horrifying siege of Leigh at the isolated Mirador Motel by a gang of young punks... Perhaps the finest things about "Touch of Evil" is the cold, strange and unsympathetic atmosphere of its night city narcotics, gang-rape, racism, prostitution an almost universal corruption...It's unlikely that there will ever be a more unpleasant or offensive or disgusting detective than Welles or a more fascinating one...Watch for Mercedes McCambridge in it... but look quickly, or it will be too late.
A Great Detective, A Lousy Cop, And Some Kind Of Man (by bkoganbing)
That's a great epitaph Marlene Dietrich and Mort Mills put together for Orson Welles's character police captain Hank Quinlan. In a sense, since Welles directed himself in Touch of Evil he both created the character and the circumstances that bring him down.Two stories intersect in Touch of Evil. The first involves a particularly grisly murder in a Texas/Mexican border town of a man named Rudy Linnaker. The weapon was a car bomb, that went off just as Linnkaer and some chippie he was seeing crossed the border. Driving in the car just behind the late Mr. Linnaker was Charlton Heston as <more>
Mexican police detective Mike Vargas and his wife Janet Leigh. Heston is returning to Mexico City where in a few days he's taking the witness stand in the trial of a local drug kingpin. The kingpin's brother is Akim Tamiroff who's the local crime lord in that border town. Heston's case against Tamiroff's brother and Welles's investigation into the car bombing are completely unrelated, but do to some cleverly worked out plot machinations they get intertwined together.Charlton Heston has been quoted many times in saying that Orson Welles was the greatest director he ever worked for. He also rather modestly has stated that he did not give Welles his best screen performance. My own thought on it is that he really is not a terribly convincing latino. Maybe someone with Robert Mitchum's gift for dialect or a latino actor like Gilbert Roland might have been better. Still it's an earnest effort and Heston has nothing to be ashamed of.In fact Heston says and I agree that the story is really about Welles and his destruction. Welles has great instinct as a detective, but he's not really all that scrupulous about due process. That's what has Heston's back up and it forces Welles into an unthinkable alliance with Tamiroff. Janet Leigh gives us a sneak preview of what was in store for moviegoers in Psycho when she's trapped in that motel room with those punks that Tamiroff has sicced on her. One of the punks in fact was Mercedes McCambridge doing a little gender bending generations before Boys Don't Cry. At the motel Dennis Weaver has a marvelous bit part as the useless and feckless 'night man.'Welles put a lot of his favorites in small roles here. Ray Collins took time away from Perry Mason on television to play the District Attorney. Joseph Cotten has a small bit as a medical examiner, Harry Shannon was the state's attorney, it was a regular Citizen Kane reunion.Marlene Dietrich who was Welles's foil and partner in his magic act plays the owner of a border town dive and his mistress who loves him though she recognizes all his faults. This was a banner year for Dietrich because she also did her highly acclaimed role in Witness for the Prosecution. One part though that should have been up for an Academy Award was Joseph Calleia who was Welles's devoted subordinate who in the end ironically helps to bring him down. It's a great piece of acting and Charlton Heston said that Joseph Calleia never did anything better in his entire cinema career. I wouldn't argue the point.Now that the 'director's cut' is available we can now see Touch of Evil and realize what Welles's vision was for this film. Indifferently received when first out, it's grown to become a classic and probably one of the three or four films Welles the director gets the most acclaim for.And now it's probably better than when first seen by the public.
Unparalleled visual beauties. Heavy flaws in the plot. (by pzanardo)
I have thought it convenient to see again "Touch of Evil", before daring to comment this main work in the history of cinema. I don't pretend to be original saying that this movie attains the highest levels of visual beauty, and not just in cinema, but in the whole art of the 20th century. The lights and shadows, the photography, the camera motions, the backgrounds... it's all too stunning to be described: pure work of genius. There is enough matter for a thousand Ph. D's in cinematographic techniques. The part of the story concerned with Quinlan and his evil deeds is <more>
quite good. Quinlan is a very interesting character, superbly interpreted by Orson Welles. It should be noted that he is by far the nicest character in the movie, and it's almost impossible not to root for him: perhaps this is a precise artistic choice by the author Orson Welles.Now forgive me for criticizing the heavy improbabilities and flaws we find in the story of "Touch of Evil". The whole sub-plot about Vargas' wife Susan Janet Leigh is just nonsense from the very beginning. The celebrated Mexican policeman Vargas Charlton Heston neglects his spouse, in their very wedding day ! , to investigate a crime which by no means concerns him, and furthermore committed in the USA territory I guess this is an unacceptable impropriety ... And then Susan is openly threatened and pursued by his mortal enemies, the Grandi's, and the cunning Vargas finds nothing better than leaving her alone at a deserted motel owned by the Grandi's! ... By the way, also Susan looks incredibly stupid... When, finally, Vargas remembers that he's a married man, runs to the motel in anxiety for his wife and searches her room, he neither looks in the bathroom to check if, say, Susan's corpse is not in the bath-tub, cut to pieces or something... Really a great job by a first-rate policeman! And the audience even in 1958 could wonder why the Grandi's don't ACTUALLY rape and drug Susan, instead of just faking it. I realize that such stuff would have been too hot for the censorship of the 1950s: but then it would have been much better to delete the sub-plot with Susan. In the finale we find further absurdities, still regarding Vargas and spouse.I regret to say that these flaws of the plot seriously damage "Touch of Evil", a great masterpiece from any other point of view.
An Intriguing, If Somewhat Uneven, Combination of Welles & Noir (by Snow Leopard)
It would certainly be worth watching "Touch of Evil" just to see how the combination of Orson Welles and film-noir works out. Adding in Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston, and a border town setting makes an even more unusual mix. The result is very intriguing, though somewhat uneven. It's quite a tense and entertaining movie, but it's hard not to notice some of the flaws.The most impressive part probably comes right at the beginning, with the lengthy single take that sets up the story. It's clearly a technical triumph, but it is more than that. It not only gets the story <more>
rolling, but establishes both the atmosphere and the setting very efficiently. It is also followed up well, setting up the entrance of Welles's character nicely.Welles himself does a fine job as the jaded but perceptive policeman. His character is believable and complex, too menacing to like but too pitiable to hate. Heston is oddly cast as Vargas, and through little fault of his own, the character is not fully convincing. Dietrich's role seems to have been tailored just for her, but it fits in reasonably well. Janet Leigh always seems right at home in even the weirdest of stories. Joseph Calleia also gets some good moments.The story is always interesting, and often peculiar, sometimes to the point of distraction, yet there's no denying that it holds your attention all the way through. It's hard to call it a great movie due to the rough edges, but it's an intriguing combination that's well worth seeing.
This review may never be read, as I am sure that there are tons of reviews. Plus, as my review isn't really negative nor is it glowing, the fact that you now are reading it is really cool. Really,...you are obvious a very special person.I have seen this movie twice, as the first time I couldn't see exactly what everyone was so excited about when it came to this film. And, after the second time, I found I liked it a little more but still can't understand how it made it to the top 250 here on IMDb. Yes, it's a very good film,...but certainly not great.The plot has a lotta nice <more>
twists and the camera work is lovely and very Noir-ish, but the film also has a few flaws that can't be overlooked and should keep this in the "good but not marvelous" category. First, whose stupid idea was it to paint Charlton Heston's hair and have him play a Mexican?! While it's not as silly as John Wayne playing Genghis Khan, it is approaching that--especially since Heston has not a trace of an accent. Second, while some praised Orson Welles' performance, I did also find him menacing, but he looked so bloated and winded all the time, he looked like he was nearly ready to keel over at any minute. Both should have been replaced--great actors in the WRONG movie--then the film might have merited a 9 or 10.
Dark Noir film masterfully played and directed by Welles dealing with killing and corruption in the Mexican/US border (by ma-cortes)
This suspense movie contains intrigue , thrills , plot twists and layered dialog prevail . A stark , perverse tale of murder , treason , kidnapping , and police corruption in a sleazy Mexican border town . As starring 'Mike' Vargas Charlton Heston who cited not doing a Hispanic accent for his Mexican role as one of the biggest mistakes he ever made as an actor has to interrupt his honeymoon along with his wife Janet Leigh who initially rejected her participation in this film due to the low salary offered without even consulting the actress when an American building contractor is <more>
murdered . Idolized alcoholic Police Captain Hank Quinlan Orson Welles and his Sergeant, Pete Menzies Joseph Calleia , are in charge on the US side and Hank soon has a suspect . But things go wrong when Vargas discovers Quinlan puts fake evidences against the prime suspect . Quinlan joins forces with Grandi Akim Tamiroff , who seeks revenge against Mike , to impugn Vargas's proofs . This overwhelming masterpiece of the strangest vengeance ever planned is plenty of suspense and twisted intrigue from start to finish . Awesome opening , justifiable known , shot in stylistic way begins this over-the-top picture . Â¨Touch of evilÂ¨ failed in the U.S. but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair , here director/player proved that he was still a filmmaking genius . Excellent acting by the great maestro Orson Welles playing the life of yet another ruthless character , he stars a corrupt inspector with a shady past and obscure present , planting evidences to detain suspects . Orson Welles was originally hired only to act in the film , but due to a misunderstanding, Charlton Heston thought that Welles was to be the director , to keep Heston happy, producer Albert Zugsmith allowed Welles to direct . Support cast is frankly magnificent , such as : Akim Tamiroff , Joseph Calliea , Dennis Weaver , Ray Collins , Joanna Moore , Marlene Dietrich , Zsa Zsa Gabor , among others . Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge only appears in the film because she was having lunch with Orson Welles during filming and Welles convinced her to film a scene . Attractive and dazzlingly photographed in black and white by Russell Metty . The entire film was shot on real locations, apart from the infamous ten-minute take in the Mexican shoe store clerk's apartment, which is actually a set , Welles and Metty insisted on filming in a real city , settling for Venice, California, when he couldn't get his initial choice of Tijuana . Rousing jazzy musical score by the maestro composer Henry Mancini , including Latin rock sounds . Although much of the music used throughout the movie was from sound sources that pertained to the film: radio transmissions, jukeboxes, player piano . And being ulteriorly reconstructed according to Welles'notes in 1988 . The motion picture was stunningly directed by Orson Welles who shot predominantly at night in order to fend off meddlesome studio suits . Welles was a genius who had a large and problematic career . In 1938 he produced "The Mercury Theatre on the Air", famous for its broadcast version of "The War of the Worlds" . His first film to be seen by the public was Ciudadano Kane 1941 , a commercial failure , but regarded by many as the best film ever made , along with his following movie , The magnificent Ambersons . He subsequently directed Shakespeare adaptation such as Macbeth , Othelo and Chimes at Midnight or Falstaff . Many of his next films were commercial flops and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948 . In 1956 he directed this great masterpiece Touch of evil 1958 but Orson was fired as director during post-production, and the film was recut contrary to his wishes ; before his death, he left instructions on how he wanted the film to be edited, and in 1998 a version was made the way he intended . In 1975, in spite of all his box-office flops , he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award . His reputation as a film maker has climbed steadily ever since.