Sunday, 14 April 2013
Touch of Evil (1958) - ★★★★
Writers: Orson Welles (Screenplay), Whit Masterson (Novel 'Badge of Evil')
Stars: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Marlene Dietrich
Touch of Evil is an incredible film. Everything about this film screams 'masterpiece.' It's an extremely gutsy film, considering it was made in 1958. Some of the themes included were: hard drugs, gangs, kidnapping, corruption, and murder. I think there were a few problems with the editing department, for at times it felt either sloppy or unfinished.
The story centres around two renowned police officers, Vargas (Heston) from Mexico, and Hank Quinlan (Welles) from the US. When a car explosion forces them to work together, Vargas discovers that Hank may plant evidence to catch criminals. Tensions rise as they both try to ruin each others reputation, resulting in an unpredictable and thrilling film.
I don't say this often, but the best thing about Touch of Evil is the cinematography. The opening ten minutes of the movie is incredible. We see a person throw a bomb into a car, then watch as a man and his mistress drive away. The camera then follows Vargas and his wife (Leigh) through the streets of Mexico all the way to the border, all the while the car with the bomb is not far behind. When the car finally passes them, we hear an explosion and see a flaming car fall from the sky. As people run towards the flaming wreck, the camera is shaking also. It creates the feeling of panic and excitement. This is what I call masterful cinematography.
Janet Leigh didn't do much for me in this film. It's not her fault, we just didn't get to see many dimensions to her character. Charlton Heston did a good job, although he is so blatantly American (not Mexican)! Orson Welles stole the show, sealing himself as one of the greatest actors of all time. After all, this is his movie. Some of his scenes gave me chills.
The reason I will not call this film a masterpiece is because of technical errors. At times the film had to dub the voices and it didn't match with what was on screen. When what you hear and see don't match perfectly, it takes you out of the moment.
Orson Welles is a visionary film-maker. His movies are ground-breaking, and his acting in Touch of Evil is flawless. Unfortunately, not everything is flawless in this film. It's a great movie that could have been better.
Perhaps the greatest stroke of genius was Marlene Dietrich's small dialogue at the end, which is thought provoking and a perfect touch to finish the film.
"He was some kind of a man... What does it matter what you say about people?"