Newest Review: ... the border by being an honest and upstanding detective, aiming for the big shots crooks and getting them within the law. This clash of styl... more
Welles and Heston get their teeth stuck into this noir
Touch Of Evil (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
Touch Of Evil (DVD)
Advantages: Welles and Heston; plot and side plots
Disadvantages: Drags a bit in the middle
The opening scene of this film sets things up magnificently. A slow and languid drive with celebrated Mexican lawman Mike Vargas and his wife Susie as they cross the border for their honeymoon in America ends with a huge explosion as a building contractor's car is blown up. Somewhat a local legend himself, police Captain Hank Quinlan is on hand to take the case, but fills it with his high levels of corruption. Quick to pin the explosion on some young Mexican vagrants, Vargas leaps to their side, causing a confrontation of wills that lasts throughout the film.
The best thing going on here is the tete a tete battle between Quinlan and Vargas, played respectively by Orson Welles and Charlton Heston. Welles' corrupt Quinlan with all his fingers in EVERY pie steals the show from the dashing and to the letter Vargas, who has earned his reputation across the border by being an honest and upstanding detective, aiming for the big shots crooks and getting them within the law. This clash of style, ideals and ultimately machismo leads to both of them being blinkered to everything else going on around them, and it leads to a number of side plots being run without them needing to be curtailed at any point.
Perhaps the most notable of these is what happens to Susie, Vargas' wife. Janet Leigh plays her, and does so with the air of an abandoned woman left on the dangerous streets of an unknown town. She is led into danger by an undesirable gang, with their intentions left in the air, unstated but unsavoury nonetheless. Vargas sort of throws her to the side, unable to just let the matter go, even though it's not his jurisdiction and he's on honeymoon. It's not even in his country.
Welles' control is somewhat legendary throughout his cinematic history. This is a film that is often overlooked by many modern film noir fans, as its atmosphere is mainly controlled by the characters and the side plots, whereas music, the traditional detective at home on his own plot and a drawling overtone are often the clinchers for the genre. This goes outside of this and does what others noirs don't - it delves into the side effects of job obsession and law corruption, leaving the main crux of the matter to nature and letting it run tis course. We know that the outcome of the exploding car lies with whoever ends up being the dominant male, and the advantage switches throughout, but it's the backdrop and the focus on other things that makes this atmospheric. Heston is great in the role, and he has the facial way of something who is intent on doing the right thing. you need only look at films such as Planet of the Apes and Ben Hur to see a moral upstanding character actor, and this is no different. With Welles though, you need only look at Citizen Kane and look into the man's eyes to know that he's the perfect role for an overweight, lazy and controlling bully of a police Captain, reminiscent of crooked Sheriffs in Westerns. Perfect casting and great acting by both of them.
I really enjoyed this. The way the corruption is obvious to everyone but not provable is cleverly done, no one daring to say anything against Hank for fear of what may happen to them apart from Vargas who'd rather risk everything, including his wife's safety, to see the law followed. It does slow down a bit which makes the film drag, and this was a real shame as I felt it needed the momentum all the way through, but what it lacks in consistent pace is made up for by the skill of the two leading men. It's a noir well worth watching, just make sure you keep paying attention. Watch out for a few excellent scenes from Janet Leigh as well, showing she's more than just a woman who scream effectively in a shower! Recommended.
Summary: Small town corruption as a Mexican lawman and a US police Captain go head to head