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Touch of Evil (1958)



Average Rating: 8.7/10
Reviews Counted: 61
Fresh: 58 | Rotten: 3

Artistically innovative and emotionally gripping, Orson Welles' classic noir is a visual treat, as well as a dark, sinister thriller.


Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 2

Artistically innovative and emotionally gripping, Orson Welles' classic noir is a visual treat, as well as a dark, sinister thriller.



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Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 29,767

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Movie Info

This baroque nightmare of a south-of-the-border mystery is considered to be one of the great movies of Orson Welles, who both directed and starred in it. On honeymoon with his new bride, Susan (Janet Leigh), Mexican-born policeman Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) agrees to investigate a bomb explosion. In so doing, he incurs the wrath of local police chief Hank Quinlan (Welles), a corrupt, bullying behemoth with a perfect arrest record. Vargas suspects that Quinlan has planted evidence to win his

Oct 31, 2000

October Films

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All Critics (61) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (58) | Rotten (3) | DVD (21)

Expressionistic in the extreme, filled with shadows, angles and cinematic flourishes, the film raises the usual brooding nightmare ambiance of film noir to a level few other pictures have attempted.

March 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Having the Touch of Evil envisioned by our most creative filmmaker, is a wondrous gift no movie lover should miss.

March 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Welles'] scenes with brothel-keeper Marlene Dietrich have nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the rotting heart of this amazing fable: the apotheosis of pulp.

March 12, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Indeed, just to see and hear the extraordinary 3 minute and 20 second opening sequence -- a fluid tour de force tracking shot -- without impediment of opening credits and street-sound-masking movie score is accomplishment enough.

September 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I first saw it when I was 14 and thought it was one of the worst pictures ever -- garish, oppressive, and appallingly overacted. Grown up, I'd go with those same adjectives, except now I think it's one of the best.

April 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A sweaty thriller conundrum on character and corruption, justice and the law, worship and betrayal, it plays havoc with moral ambiguities.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A baroque masterpiece -- dark, complex, perverse, riveting.

March 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Justly celebrated for its opening crane-tracking shot, Touch Of Evil is proof of Welles' prodigious film-making talents.

March 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Orson Welles' masterwork of greed, treachery and revenge.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Only the elegiac Magnificent Ambersons has such a powerful, all-pervading atmosphere as Touch of Evil...

February 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

Welles once fought in a bullring in Spain during his youth. In "Touch of Evil," Welles kills the metaphorical bull.

June 27, 2010 Full Review Source:

Even 50 years after studio heads lost patience and dumped it onto the bottom half of double bills, the final Hollywood film from Orson Welles is the opposite of ordinary.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source:

Delightfully entertaining to watch, it is filled with interesting characters and it is playfully irreverent.

April 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

When druggies stash Leigh in a hotel room and throw a party, the movie threatens to turn into Reefer Madness, albeit with the visual panache of Citizen Kane.

April 17, 2008 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm

It is a testament to Welles' genius that he was able to turn a piece of pulp literature into such a disturbing, sophisticated and, above all, entertaining study of depravity.

April 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

One of Welles masterpieces (his first American film in years), this noir thriller of drugs and corruption served as reminder to Hollywood what a brilliant artist he was, using film as vibrant form in its own right, not as extension of drama or literature

May 6, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

...Welles' baroque border-town murder mystery is a wild masterpiece, a sleazy, grimy, jittery, and ultimately dazzling work of cinematic magic.

April 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Weekly
Seattle Weekly

A cinematic masterpiece and arguably the last great film noir.

April 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Dark, sinister and not altogether comprehensible, this is nonetheless an intriguing study of the art of filmmaking.

May 14, 2003
Palo Alto Weekly

Audience Reviews for Touch of Evil

An iconic, misanthropic, film noir, "Touch of Evil" is one of Orson Welles' last Hollywood ventures and one of his best and critically received films of all time. Welles has his memorable directing style, choice of mis-en-scene, and elaborate choices in acting covering this film from top to bottom. From the bleak atmosphere, to the dark and seedy undercurrent of violence in the police department, to the cultural differences between Mexico and America on a border town, every choice in this film is magnificent. Welles also made the interesting choice to make all the music used within the film diegetic, so it plays from radios and passing cars, and not from a score. Even the plot of the film seems strangely unordinary, as it starts as an explosive (literally) investigation into a car bombing. It quickly becomes clear that the rather robust Hank Quinlan (Welles) is a culprit in the framing of a Mexican youth, and Mexican narcotics' agent Vargas (Heston) has to play a decadent game of cat and mouse in order to save his new wife Susan (Leigh) and entrap Quinlan. Every role in this film feels like a piece of a puzzle that fits together with glue like accuracy. Welles wore padding and prosthetics to play the bull-figure that he would ultimately become, and the transformation makes his gluttonous behavior seem less than coincidental with his end game. Heston, though out of his depth as a Mexican and miscast by a mile, does a convincing job of being the hero without reigning down moralistic virtues as he does in former films. Leigh is a little too agog at the world of crime for her performance to be anything but bothersome, yet she does stand up for her husband at every turn. There are many side performances that would make anyone squeal with glee, including Dennis Weaver ("Gunsmoke") as a hotel manager, Zsa Zsa Gabor as a strip club owner, and Marlene Dietrich as a gypsy madame who falls into sympathy for Quinlan, though strangely she isn't the only one who does so. Welles, as a visionary director, does some interesting things with a pulpy noir that make it resemble an art house thriller more than anything, and does so with little background noise to complicate things, something very few directors have been able to replicate.
July 23, 2013

Super Reviewer

Artistic and dark, this, in my opinion, is Welles at his best.
October 27, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

It's a shame the script doesn't match the quality of the direction, and the performances. Between Leigh's super naive wife, a retarded hotel clerk, and Heston unaware of the brother of a guy he's going to put in jail the story is just barely there. Not a bad exercise for the genre, but not one of the high marks
August 2, 2011
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

    1. Ramon Miguel Vargas: A policeman's job is only easy in a police state...
    – Submitted by Jay A (7 months ago)
    1. Hank Quinlan: Intuition.
    – Submitted by Garrett C (2 years ago)
    1. Tanya: He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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