#95: Touch of Evil

Is that a cheeseburger? Or are you just happy to see me?

Director: Orson Welles
Year: 1958
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

A couple drives a car through the U.S.-Mexican border. The car explodes on American soil killing the couple within. An honest Mexican drug enforcement official, Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston), and a bitter old police Captain, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) face off to close the investigation before the other one can. How far will Vargas go to ensure a just investigation and protect the integrity of his country? And how many rules will Quinlan break to put the case to rest as quickly as possible?

Touch of Evil is the last great Film Noir and one of Mr. Welles’ masterpieces. SEE Welles himself give an electrifying and unforgettable performance as alcoholic and magnificently overweight police Captain, Hank Quinlan. FEEL the fear and paranoia Janet Leigh went through before her iconic role in Psycho. LICK the rich textures of the film’s stunning black and white cinematography. And DON’T fall off the edge of your seat when you’re experiencing the many thrilling set-pieces Welles constructed.

There is one unfortunate downfall in that the protagonist, Miguel Vargas, is supposed to be quite Mexican but he’s portrayed by none other than Charlton Heston. Whilst the man is a fine actor, his being cast in that role is a silly and racially patronising choice by today’s standards. Such a decision would be unforgivable today but as Touch of Evil is a 50’s film, Heston’s portrayal can be laughed off as nostalgic charm.

Touch of Evil is a sophisticated investigative thriller with a touch of freshness and Orson Welles is that touch. A typical Welles film promises striking black and white cinematography, a sly sense of humour, and a dark and slightly twisted sensibility towards its drama, which to me is most effective in the Film Noir genre, hence why Touch of Evil is my favourite of his films.

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