Tuesday, May 29, 2012

330. Touch of Evil (1958)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Orson Welles
Written By: Orson Welles, from the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson
Main Cast: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff
Click here to view the trailer


Well, "Touch of Evil" finally arrived in the mail today, after the long three day weekend and thus, I was able to continue on with "Welles Week". Unfortunately, "Touch of Evil" didn't impress me as much as I hoped it would and is definitely the worst film starring Welles that I've seen from THE BOOK.

The film opens with a bomb timer being set and a man, whose face we can't see, planting it in a car. Soon after, a couple enters the automobile and begins to drive. What follows is a fantastic tracking shot and a superb way to start a film, as the car drives from Mexico into the United States, crossing border patrol. At the crossing, the lady in the car complains of hearing a ticking in her head, but she's brushed off and they're instructed to keep driving. Meanwhile, Mexican government official Mike Vargas (Heston) and his new wife Susie (Leigh) are crossing the border on foot, in search of an ice cream soda. Not long after the cross, they hear the car explode and the film is off and running. You see, the whole plot hinges on the complications that occur when a bomb, planted on Mexican soil, explodes in the U.S. Not long after the incident, Captain Hank Quinlan (Welles) is on the scene, representing the United States in the investigation and is almost immediately at odds with the Mexican Vargas. There's also a subplot involving a family named Grandi, who run a drug racket in Mexico and who are being hunted by Vargas. It seems that Vargas is set to testify against a member of the Grandi family and they spend a good part of the film trying to take him (or his wife) out of commission. The real suspense of the film takes place at a hotel, as Susie waits for word from Vargas and tries to get some rest, but is halted by the Grandi clan.


Lets first discuss the cast and what I didn't like about them. First you have Charlton Heston playing a Mexican - need I say more? I'm not a big fan of Heston in the first place, but why he'd be cast as a Mexican is beyond me. My guess is that they wanted a big star for the role of Vargas and Heston was available. My other problem with the cast was...*sigh*...Orson Welles. What happened to him? I mean, I'm not one to talk about a man being overweight, as I'm no fitness guru myself, but apparently they added extra padding to make him look even heavier and there's absolutely no sign of the debonair, smooth talking man I know from the previous films I've watched. Instead, he's replaced with a snarling, overweight, slob of a man and he just doesn't deliver like he did previously. Everyone else was fine I guess, with Dennis Weaver really impressing me and cracking me up as the nervous night man at the hotel.

Then there's the characters and the situations that they get into, which don't really seem to make sense at times and I could care less about these characters. Everything is thrown together within that first (beautifully shot) three minute opening and it's not enough time to get me acquainted with these people, or why I should care about them. It's like I'm watching a group of strangers doing a bunch of exciting things for no reason. Why should I care about these people?

There were good things too though, so don't raise your arms up just yet. As I've said, I loved the opening. The scenes at the hotel with Janet Leigh were also really great, as they provided the most suspense and proved that Leigh characters really need to steer clear of hotels. The picture had a grittiness that I really enjoyed, a type of darkness and gloom that really made you wish there was a more interesting story set in this background.

RATING: 5/10  I'll stop there because I really need to learn when to just stop writing. I've made all my points and that's that. Next up: "Chimes at Midnight".


May 29, 2012  6:32pm

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