Starring: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh
Director: Orson Welles
A late era Film Noir from the master director Orson Welles. A Mexican Narcotics officer Vargas (Heston) finds his honeymoon interrupted when a bomb goes off in a car on the Mexican border, and he suspects that there might be more to the case. He uncovers racism and corruption in the police force and it all starts to point to US Police Captain Quinlan (Welles). But he soon discovers how far the bad guys will go when they manage to kidnap his beautiful wife (Leigh).
Why Is It A Must See: From the opening sequence, which is a 3 minute continuous shot that plays across the cars at the border, the goings on and atmosphere, as well as introducing the players, it’s a masterful film, inspiring many film makers that would follow. Welles was a Hollywood outcast at the time, and it’s due to Heston that he was brought in to direct and perform in the film. He managed to overhaul the whole project and take it from a trashy crime to an art form, and a film noir flick to end all film noirs.
The film is suspenseful and eery, managing to convey the fears of the husband and wife, and the sociopathic machinations of the bloated Welles, who relishes his chance to shine. He’s truly terrifying. I like the way that the racial tensions and fears about drug use in the era on the cusp of the 60’s are portrayed in such a mature way whilst being quite scary too. It’s edge of your seat stuff, and the camera work is simply beautiful.
See It If: This one is a classic, definitely see it if you’ve never seen Welles or a film noir before, it’s really very good.
3 thoughts on “105 Must See Films: Touch Of Evil (1958)”
I picked up Touch of Evil cheaply on Blu-ray last year, and it’s fast become one of my favourites. It is a shame we’ll never get to see Welles original vision, but the new cut is as near as damn it.
Excellent article.. I was wondering though, what did you make of Dennis Weaver’s “night man” ?
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Ha ha! The twitchy guy at the motel? There are so many little moments & things to look out for in Welles films. I think this is one of his better, and don’t believe all his tripe about the edit & cuts. He tended to exaggerate when his films weren’t top box office. Lady From Shanghai was one where the studios really cut in on him. (And of course, you know that old story about it being the connection between him & the Black Dahlia…)