Touch of Evil (1958)

TouchofEvilposterBy: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Mexican Drug policeman Ramon Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston), and his American wife Susan (Janet Leigh) witness a car bombing just as they’re crossing the border into the U.S.  Ramon works with American investigator Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), a seasoned and celebrated detective in the area, in order to find the attacker. Along the way, Mrs. Vargas find herself deeply unsettled, as a local crime boss briefly detains Mrs. Vargas and gives her a message to deliver to her husband. When Mr. Vargas witnesses Quinlan and his men plant evidence, he begins to suspect a criminal conspiracy.

A Toast

After Citizen Kane’s financial failure, Orson Welles was kept under the thumb of studio executives, rarely being given the ability to fully pursue his vision.  In Touch of Evil, Welles was determined to make an impression, and that he does.  Welles took a fairly straightforward crime story, and injects his own brand of style.  The film begins with an extended tracking shot following a bomb as it is planted in a car, following the car as it passes the film’s protagonists while winding through the streets of a busy Mexican border town, and finally crossing the border into the U.S.  This complex unbroken shot brilliantly sets up the story, while feeling effortless.  This is just a single example of the camera wizardry on display.

Touchofevil2
Never cross the border with a bomb in your car, it won’t turn out well…

For their part, the cast delivers in droves.  Janet Leigh is solid as the put-upon wife whose husband is perhaps more concerned with the job than her safety.  Orson Welles’ turn as Quinlan is a sad look at a man whose mental and physical faculties are in full decline, perhaps from a few too many drinks, or a guilty conscience.

TouchEvil1
But he’s always a large presence…

Charlton Heston is an amicable leading man, though about as believable a Mexican as you can expect from 1950s American cinema (which is to say not at all).  The only weak-link is Dennis Weaver, who normally is dependable, but as the Night Manager of the hotel, seems wasted in a too-easy comic relief role.

Verdict

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A gorgeously directed crime-drama with much to appreciate for movie fanatics.

 

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: when Charlton Heston speaks Spanish (Double it if he convinces you that he’s Mexican)

Take a Drink: for over-the-top strangeness of the Night Manager, and an early example of why Janet Leigh should not stay in rural hotels managed by the crazies.

Psycho
Doesn’t tend to work out well

Drink a Shot: when Orson Welles takes a drink

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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