CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12
  • Crime, Film-Noir
  • 1958
  • 95 mins

Touch Of Evil

Touch Of Evil

Synopsis

Another Orson Welles masterpiece. The big man stars as a corpulent US cop, facing off against Charlton Heston's Mexican narcotics officer over the border and over murder, corruption and abduction

About

"He was some kind of a man... What does it matter what you say about people?" It could be Welles' epitaph as much as that of Hank Quinlan, the obese, vile and potentially corrupt US border cop. If Welles is to be remembered for something other than Citizen Kane, it would probably be the justly famous opening tracking shot here, the ideal introduction to a perfectly stylized noir.

Touch of Evil had a chequered history. The original script by Paul Monash was shelved by B-movie producer Albert Zugsmith. Welles was employed to act in it, then encouraged to direct too. He didn't bother to read the source novel ('Badge Of Evil' by Whit Masterson). After the best part of a decade working in TV or on international features (1955's Mr. Arkadin was a French/Spanish/Swiss production), Welles returned to Hollywood and created another masterpiece.

But it's amazing the film survived at all - Welles was sacked in post-production and it very nearly never saw the light of day. Instead, the studio hacked it into a supporting movie, a B-movie. Restored as per his original notes in the 1990s, Touch Of Evil has emerged near faultless in style and characterisation; a confirmed masterpiece and one of the great American classics.

The film concerns Mexican narcotics officer Mike Vargas (Heston, in a role that twisted his usual all-American heroic credentials) who is on honeymoon with young American wife Susan (Leigh) in a fictional border town (Los Robles, which was recreated in rundown Venice, California). Vargas gets caught up with political intrigue involving, among others, a sharp-tongued hooker (Dietrich, brilliant) and corrupt local cop Quinlan (Welles, brilliantly vile).

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Joseph Calleia, Dennis Weaver, Ray Collins, Akim Tamiroff, Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Janet Leigh, Mort Mills, Marlene Dietrich
  • Director: Orson Welles
  • Screen Writer: Orson Welles
  • Writer (Book): Whit Masterson
  • Producer: Albert Zugsmith
  • Photographer: Russell Metty
  • Composer: Henry Mancini

In a nutshell

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. A very fine piece of Hollywood filmmaking.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Guardians Of The Galaxy

    Spacefaring Marvel Comics adventure starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and the voice of Bradley Cooper

  • Film4 Like Someone In Love

    Like Someone In Love

    Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami travels to Japan for this reflective drama

  • Film4

    Summer Days On Film4

    Join Film4 for afternoons full of of fun, magic and adventure

  • Film4 Shell

    Shell on Film4

    Watch Scott Graham's award-winning Highland drama, starring Chloe Pirrie as a teenager who works at a remote petrol station

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share