Touch of Evil - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Touch of Evil Reviews

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½ December 1, 2016
Fantastic. It's nice to be able to see Welles's original intention with this classic noir. Some of the camera work is dizzyingly impressive, especially that opening.
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
November 29, 2016
This gritty drama from 1958 feels modern in so many respects, starting with its content, which is about police corruption, but also touches on a lot of other adult themes (murder, kidnapping, rape, marijuana, stripping, etc). Among other things, you'll see Jane Leigh terrorized in a small roadside motel where she's the only lodger (a couple of years before she'll run into Norman Bates), this time by Mexican gangsters who've come over the border to harass her (and I wish it stopped at that).

Orson Welles is absolutely brilliant as actor and director, and leads a great cast which also includes strong performances from Leigh and Charlton Heston (though I hate the fact that he was cast as a Mexican). There is a nice small part played by Marlene Dietrich and I really loved how she ended the film, as well a cameo from Zsa Zsa Gabor. However the biggest reason to watch the film is the way it's shot, which is gorgeous, and decades ahead of its time. The opening shot sequence alone, fluidly following the action through Mexican streets, is brilliant.

I have to say it was a little hard to follow at times, with the actors talking over one another, which, while more realistic, makes it harder to hear the dialogue. I was also not wild about a young Dennis Weaver in the role of the kooky night manager. All in all, though, this is a film definitely worth watching, and definitely shows off Orson Welles' genius. I also loved this interchange:

Heston: In any free country, the policeman is supposed to enforce the law, and the law protects the guilty.
Welles: Our job is tough enough.
Heston: It's supposed to be, it has to be. The policeman's job is only easy in a police state, that's the whole point, Captain. Who's the boss, the cop or the law?

Indeed.
November 25, 2016
Great classic film! Orson Wells is damn good in this film that he directed. Charlton Heston as a Mexican...a little hard to buy, but he's still pretty good. The drug references are pretty comical by today's standard. Great Soundtrack and awesome camera work.
October 30, 2016
Welles knows his pulp
October 18, 2016
A perfect noir thriller
September 28, 2016
85%
Saw this on 27/9/16
Touch of Evil is technically brilliant noir that is far better than most of the films of its kind. Moreover, it's well acted and the sinister nature makes it much more interesting than the films in the genre. It takes some time to settle, but after that it is gripping. However, what makes it seem ordinary is the fact that it's basic setup is as tried and tired as the noir genre itself.
½ July 24, 2016
Orson Welles brings us a mystery thriller that ranks amongst the most clever and the most unusual.
July 6, 2016
If by now you still think "Citizen Kane" is Orson Welles' best film, let alone the best film of all time, you probably are being a bit too snobby as a film critic. Right from the opening scene, you realize how better this film really is. There are strong performances all around from the main actors (Heston, Leigh, and Welles himself). His classic direction and ambition is seen here with camera work that makes you feel like you're part of the scene, albeit not part of the action. But what's surprising is the stunning parallels between Welles and his corrupt cop character, as this would be the last film he made for Hollywood. The result, according to Welles' memo at least, is a film that brings you every step of a characters' actions without overt explanation.
June 17, 2016
Jaw dropping timeless film with all around masterful acting, cinematography, direction, story, ect
June 10, 2016
Welles made this movie what it is, from the artistically aspect, from the thrilling touch and sense of intrigue on the story, and also, benefit from the delightful presences of Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, and also, himself in one of his best roles.
May 2, 2016
Orson Welles' film certainly is full of atmosphere, clever direction and nastiness, even if the story now seems a little pedestrian.
April 23, 2016
Touch of Evil is an amazing film. It is about murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town. Orson Welles and Charlton Heston give incredible performances. The screenplay is well written. Orson Welles also did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the drama and mystery. Touch of Evil is a must see.
April 16, 2016
A mesmerizing, haunting film, and a truly great one. Unforgettable and brilliant.
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2016
There are at least three different stories as to how Orson Welles became the director of "Touch of Evil" after an almost ten year absence of making films in Hollywood. One was that over drinks, he had asked producer Albert Zugsmith if he could direct and the producer agreed. The second story was that when the role of Miguel Vargas was offered to Charlton Heston, Heston was told that Welles was to co-star and that no director had been attached to the film yet. Heston recommended Welles should direct the movie. The third, and possibly my personal belief as to what happened, was that Welles was given another chance to work in Hollywood and their studio system once again. To prove how great of a director he was, and he is one of the ten best Classic Hollywood directors, he wanted to make a great film out of the worst script he could find. That script was an adaptation of the Whit Masterson novel "Badge of Evil."
Welles allegedly rewrote the script and was given sole credit for it. He was also so eager to work in Hollywood again after making a few films in Europe that he only took an acting fee for his work. Before filming there was two weeks of rehearsals, which were unusual in 1957, and during that time, according to actress Janet Leigh who played Suzie Vargas, Welles asked all the actors for their input in helping with the film's dialogue. Welles wrapped up production on time and under budget and showed his cut to Universal. Universal objected and had the film re-edited and some scenes re-shot. The rough cut that Welles submitted to Universal no longer exists (just like his film submitted to RKO Pictures in 1942, "The Magnificent Ambersons." The film had nearly 40 minutes cut from it and without Welles' knowledge, a new, happier ending was filmed).
There are three versions of the film that exist, the re-edited and re-shot film that included many scenes new to the film. They were directed by Harry Keller. Welles viewed the finished film that was 93 minutes long and made a 58 page memo detailing what he thought needed to be done in order to make the film work. The film ended up not being the film Universal or Welles had imagined and it was largely forgotten as a B-Movie. The film did, however, become quite popular in Europe. The 93 minute film was so confusing that many people had trouble following the plot. In the mid-1970's, Universal discovered they had a 108 minute cut of the film and released it to theaters in 1976 advertising it as "complete, uncut and restored." The film was not, however. Although the longer 1976 version pre-dated the 1958 release version, but post-dated Welles' 58-page memo. The 1976 version contained more Keller scenes than the actual 1958 release.
Finally, in 1998, Academy Award winning film editor and sound mixer Walter Murch re-edited the film from all available cuts based on the Welles memo. Notable changes included the removal of the credits and Henry Mancini's music from the opening sequence, cross-cutting the main story and Janet Leigh's subplot ad removing Harry Keller's hotel lobby scene. Although, no true "director's cut" can or ever will exist, this is the closest to what Welles had intended.
The film opens on the Mexican side of a border town as a man sets an egg timer attached to a bomb and places inside the trunk of an American couple's car as they drive to the border. The scene is a continuos shot that lasts three minutes and twenty seconds as the car passes newlyweds Miguel (Heston) and Suzie Vargas (Leigh) as they walk to the American side of the border. They stop after passing the border just as the car blows up and goes flying into the air, and that becomes the first cut in the whole film.
Vargas is a narcotics officer who works in Mexico City and he understands the international ramifications of a bomb being placed in a car on the Mexican side blowing up on the American side and he is there to help local police. The local police is run by Captain Hank Quinlan (Welles), a towering figure whose size and ego exceeds everyone around him. Though Welles was not that big at the time, he used padding and he and cinematographer Russell Matty exaggerate his size by using unique camera angles. Many scenes show the camera looking up at the characters as they argue and shout at one another in many buildings. This same effect was used by Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland in "Citizen Kane" to make Charles Foster Kane a larger than life character. Welles' Quinlan is unshaven with stubble on his face, he walks with a limp and mumbles and slurs many words except when he yells.
Quinlan knows that it was dynamite that blew up the car and when asked how, he claims it's his intuition. That intuition led them to the apartment of the slain man's daughter who is secretly married to a Mexican named Sanchez (Victor Millan) who Quinlan claims stole ten pieces of dynamite from a construction site he recently was fired from. Quinlan maintains that Sanchez's motive is that his wife's father didn't approve of his daughter marrying a Mexican. Vargas is there for the interrogation and uses the restroom knocking over an empty shoebox. Later, Quinlan's best friend and longtime partner Joseph Menzies find two pieces of dynamite in that very same shoebox. Vargas questions Quinlan and accuses him of planting the dynamite there.
In a subplot, the brother of a man being investigated by Vargas named "Uncle" Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) is having his nephews and members of his drug cartel follow Suzie around. When Menzies picks up Grandi after realizing he was following Vargas' car to a motel on the American side that Menzies was driving, Grandi is taken to meet Quinlan. Grandi meets Quinlan and Vargas and other officers at Sanchez's apartment when the dynamite is found. Upon realizing that Quinlan is also having a problem with Vargas, Grandi offers Quinlan help in getting rid of Vargas.
As Vargas tries to uncover the truth about Quinlan and reveal his findings to the District Attorney, Quinlan is trying to discredit Vargas and his wife by saying that the two are drug addicts and mixed up in the drug trade that Vargas is supposedly prosecuting. This leads everyone around Quinlan to question his intuition and integrity, and none moreso than his partner and best friend, Menzies.
The film also features Marlene Dietrich and Joseph Cotton in small roles.
There is no film quite like "Touch of Evil" ever made up to that point. It is considered the last film noir ever made. It is also considered be one of the greatest Orson Welles films ever made and one of the greatest films of all-time. Despite taking a generation or two for its due consideration as a fine piece of cinema. It's magnificent camerawork and direction is no match for many films made at the same time. The fact that the studio system was so hostile to Welles and many other filmmakers whose work would never be seen as the director intended gave rise to the growing interest in restoring many pieces of work of past cinema. Welles' 1966 film "Chimes at Midnight," also known as "Falstaff" was produced in Europe and has never fully seen a wide U.S. theatrical release until late last year when Janus announced a restoration of the film. For years, the film was available on VHS and import DVD with bad picture and sound. Hopefully, I and many other fans of Orson Welles will be able to enjoy a film whose legacy grew over time just like "The Lady from Shanghai" and "Touch of Evil."
March 25, 2016
Conventional wisdom is that Kane, Ambersons or Falstaff is Orson Welles' best film, but I think "Touch of Evil" deserves to be in this upper echelon of Welles' films. Welles took what would have been a standard crime film about a car bombing investigation along the US/Mexico border and elevated it to art. Welles completely rewrote the script and infuses the story with Shakespearean touches never seen in film noir, particularly Welles own flawed and tragic larger-than-life character, the corrupt police detective Captain Hank Quinlan. Besides the smart Shakespearean storytelling and character touches, in terms of directions, Welles essentially made a French New Wave film within the Hollywood system. Not only does "Touch of Evil" fit thematically within the French New Wave with it's social and political context of racism and government corruption along the border, but it also stylistically employs many of the techniques popularized by the new wave, from the famous opening long tracking shot to some nods to jump cuts to the use of handheld camera to an overall rock-and-roll free-wheeling type of wild style (although at the same time Welles' directions seems very precise and deliberate). Regarded as a lesser Welles film when it was initially release, it's slowly, and deservedly, gained respect over the years. When Welles made this film, he'd been forced to make his own films outside of the Hollywood system and this was his first time back in Hollywood as a director for years. Stories vary as to how he got the job, but the most often told one is the it was star Charlton Heston who wanted Welles for the job after he was cast as Hank Quinlan. Henry Mancini's terrific score is also worth mentioning, though his famous theme music was absent from this version because I'd watched the reconstructed version, which was re-edited according to Welles' 58 page memo to the studio after they had re-cut his film prior to it's original release. The main thing that seemed different was the opening long shot which originally had a catchy Mancini Latin score and the title credits, but this version had no title credits and no music, which made the scene incredibly suspenseful, slowly tracking a car the audience just saw a bomb placed in. This film is essential viewing for lovers of classic film, film noir and Welles in particular. This one is a real classic!
½ March 8, 2016
This is the most visually arresting film noir I've ever seen. Everything about the direction and visuals of this film are far ahead of its time.
February 15, 2016
I enjoyed this movie.
½ January 19, 2016
It boasts lots of impressive camerawork, along with an intriguing narrative center, but the taut, sinister atmosphere is sometimes overpowering. It's an Orson Welles picture that feels like he wasn't trying as much as in his early days.
January 17, 2016
Thriller policiaco que atrapa desde el primer minuto con un reparto inimitable y una trama que funciona como reloj. Una de las indispensables de Orson Welles, quien destaca en el papel de un policia corrupto.
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