I Watched… (#8)

5 Apr

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Touch of Evil (1958)

Another 50s film-noir, I just can’t get enough of them (I think). This is one is another classic, directed by and starring the great Orson Welles. He plays the bloated, repulsive and simply evil Hank Quinlan, a crooked police captain who comes up against a honeymooning Mexican narcotics agent (Charlton Heston) whilst investigating a car bomb in a seedy Mexican border town. Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich wrap up a stellar cast in this lurid tale of murder, kidnapping and police corruption that has become one of the most beloved film-noirs to come out of Hollywood.

The film starts with a wonderfully long tracking shot that introduces us to the seedy town as well as two honeymooners, Mike and Susan Vargas (Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh), who are blissfully unaware that their honeymoon will be soon be over as a car bomb drags Mike Vargas into the local police’s web of corruption. The stunning opening sequence is a mastery of camerawork and cinematography and reminds you just how fantastic and memorable a simple scene can be when you have a director such as Welles behind the camera.

Past the magic of the opening shot; the story, which is based on a cheap pulp thriller Badge of Evil, is engaging throughout with Janet Leigh a mere pawn in the battle of wits and underhand tricks between Vargas and Quinlan. All the characters feel right, apart from Heston dubiously playing the tanned Mexican Vargas, but this can be overlooked as the film doesn’t give you too long to linger on such minor problems. The cat-and-mouse ending is suspenseful and brilliantly done and finishes in the typical noir style with bleakness, death and memorable quotes. There is no light or happy ending to be found anywhere near the fictional Mexican border town where this evil tale plays out.

8/10

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