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Welles' Film Noir Masterpiece
on January 8, 2016
"Touch of Evil" is simply a masterpiece of film noir from Orson Welles, seen here uncut and restored in the way Welles intended it to be seen. This film features outstanding performances from Welles as Hank Quinlan, an amoral police chief and Charlton Heston as Ramon Miguel 'Mike' Vargas, an upright Mexican narcotics detective who clashes with Quinlan. Janet Leigh plays Susan, Heston's wife, to great effect, meddling where she shouldn't and getting caught up in a complex web of criminality and deceit. Small but effective performances from Zsa Zsa Gabor (!) and Marlene Dietrich round out the cast; there is not a substandard performance in the mix.
The lighting and direction are particularly noteworthy here and the extras include Welles' production notes, a great addition. Some of the editing and camera work hints at surrealism, but it's very cohesive when viewed as a whole. Welles borders on going over the top in his characterization of the seedy Quinlan on occasion, while Heston is restrained in comparison. For those who believe that Heston wasn't up to the task of playing a subtly nuanced Mexican lawman, I ask you to watch the film first, as this role was surely one of the finest of his career.
From the great performances, inspired direction and editing, and sordid plot of underworld intrigue, to the perfectly disturbing score by Henry Mancini, "Touch of Evil" should be seen by anyone who truly appreciates film.