Touch of Evil

Touch of Evil (1958)  Director: Orson Welles

Welles wrote, starred, and directed this famous film noir. It included other famous cast members, such as Charlton Heston and Marlene Dietrich.

It takes place along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a famous single shot opening scene, considered one of the greatest in cinematic history, someone plants an explosive in the back of a car that blows up a short distance away across the U.S. border.  Mike Vargas, a Mexican police officer (Heston), investigates, though he is newly married to his wife. Additionally, American policy officers arrive on the scene, led by overweight and gimp-legged Hank Quinlan. They go interrogate a young Mexican at his home, and Hank accuses the young man, after finding two sticks of dynamite in his bathroom, though Mike had just been in the bathroom and didn’t see any explosives in the same box minutes earlier. He begins to suspect that Hank has been planting evidence to win cases. Hank threatens to resign in disgust at the accusations.

Meanwhile, Susie leaves and goes to stay at a remote motel across the U.S. border. Members of a gang find her, capture her, and take her back across the border to another hotel. They drug her. Hank drunkenly shows up and strangles the boss, Grandi and leaves him in the room to frame Susie. Hank carelessly leaves his cane. In the end, Mike Vargas teams up with one of Hank’s closest admirers and confidants, as he wears a wire to capture Hank’s confession. They both wind up killing each other, and Hank’s recording is captured.

Per usual, Universal significantly cut and revised Welles’s original rough cut, which no longer exist.

Review

★★★★☆

Touch of Evil is an excellent, top-notch Welles film that deserves to be on every list of great films.

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