Touch of Evil
dir-scr Orson Welles
Shady cop Hank Quinlan (Welles) reignites his seedy past with a Mexican madam (Deitrich).
with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Calleia,
Marlene Deitrich, Akim Tamiroff, Dennis Weaver, Zsa Zsa Gabor,
Ray Collins, Joanna Moore, Mercedes McCambridge, Joseph Cotton,
Valentin DeVargas, Lalo Rios, Mort Mills, Keenan Wynn
Review by Rich Cline
In 1957, the studio chopped Welles' final cut of Touch of Evil to ribbons, prompting him to write a carefully worded 58-page memo outlining a compromise that would satisfy the execs and give the film back its dark edge. They basically ignored him and released the film with little promotion. It was a box office flop but remains a critical fave for its landmark twist on the film noir style ... not to mention Welles' typical ahead-of-his-time filmmaking--both technically (camera and sound work) and artistically (casting against type and challenging taboos). Well, that memo was finally tracked down, and a group of editors and producers have now re-edited the film to Welles' specifications. The result brings the film's stylishness in line with its narrative to create an even more stunning masterwork of suspense and intrigue.
The plot centres on Mexico City justice official Miguel Vargas (surprisingly well played by Heston) and his American bride Susan (Leigh, in an eerie foreshadowing of her work in Psycho) on honeymoon in a Texas border town. In the dizzying opening shot (a single three-minute take), we meet them, see a bomb planted in a car in Mexico and follow them all across the border to the USA where the car explodes in a ball of flame. Leading the investigation is shady American cop Hank Quinlan (Welles, in one of his most unforgettable roles). And the suspense builds with the involvement of a creepy Mexican gang lord (Tamiroff), a has-been madam (the fabulous Deitrich), a skittish hotel clerk (Weaver) and a gang of drug-addicted thugs who menace Susan.
As Vargas begins to challenge Quinlan's corruption, the film starts twisting and turning horrifically ... and the result is utterly mesmerising. There's not a dull moment in the film--it crackles with energy from start to finish. Welles' outlandish visual talent is on full display as he puts noir movie conventions through the wringer and creates one of the most terrifyingly seedy yet utterly compelling films ever made.
[adult themes, suspense] 7.Mar.99
The re-edit: US release 11.Sep.98; UK release 18.Jun.99
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"I was astonished all over again at Welles' monstrous character of brooding corruption and bigotry. Really a scary movie. Rent it again if you forget it." --Dave S, Massachusetts.
© 1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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