TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)

a touch of evil

A film by Orson Welles

Cast: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh

This is my all time favorite film ever. I taped it on TCM there were a trailer for it when it was on a Friday if I recall late night. It is in my collection big time. Once I taped it from my hard drive to a DVD I watched it as it was recorded on my DVD. I was not disappointed what so ever. The opening scene of this film just blew me away. It is one of the most famous shot ever, following a car with a bomb in its trunk for a little more three minutes or so. And it has other maestro camera movements, including an continuous interrogation in a small room, and one that begins in the street and follows the characters through a lobby and into an elevator. You see Welles completed the principal photography and edited the first cut but the studio felt that it could be improved more so they recut it. It is later when Orson Welles died that they found a bunch of note to how to cut this part of the film, so the studio did just that and released it on DVD somewhere around late in the 90’s.

touch-of-evil

The story takes place in Los Robles, a  Mexican-American border town. It’s a place of bars, strip clubs and brothels, where music streams onto the street from every club. at the beginning , we see a bomb placed in the trunk of a car, and then the camera cranes up and follows the car down a strip of sleazy storefronts, before gliding down to eye level to pick up a leisurely walking  couple. They are newlyweds, Mike and Susan Vargas (Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh); he’s a Mexican drug enforcement official. At a border checkpoint, they’re eventually joined by the car full of explosive, which has been delayed by traffic and a herd of goats. Mike and Susan are completing the check when there’s an  explosion and the scene was cut there, and the burning car lifting in the air. Everyone waits for the arrival of Sheriff Hank Quinlan (Welles), a large, sweaty, man who looms over the camera. By the way Orson was not that big when he made the picture he wear padding and use angles with the camera to his advantage. He finds out that it is cause by dynamite. Vargas, a bystander, finds himself drawn into the investigation, and the competition begins between the 2 men. Of course to make it interesting Quinlan is a corrupt sherif. There is a great selection of supporting role like Quinlan’s  sidekick Menzies (Joseph Calleia), the  local crime boss Grandi (Akim Tamiroff), the madam (Dietrich), a butch gang leader (Mercedes McCambridge), a district attorney (Ray Collins) and a sexually obsessed motel night clerk (Dennis Weaver). You got to hand it to Janet leigh who had some nice role some light film and musical then she went on the dark side with this one after all it was directed by Orson Welles and you din’t say not to Welles. She has some violent scenes in this film. and later like 2 years later she filmed psycho and the scene in the shower terrified her. A terrific performance by all the actors in this one especially Janet. The cinematography is superbly beautiful is this film, Orson knew how to play with the light so you could see shadows here and there. It is is best work by far and as he said in an interview the most fun he’s had making a movie. This one is a must see and you should have it to your collection.

Touch-of-evil2

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