Orson WellesUSA111 minutes1958B&WEnglish
Orson Welles directs and stars in this fevered film noir classic, playing a beastly, bloated detective in a seamy border town who draws a straight-arrow Mexican narcotics agent (Charlton Heston) and his blonde, all-American bride (Janet Leigh) into a labyrinth of corruption, drug-peddling and murder.
"The high point in Orson Welles's career, after Citizen Kane" (Tom Conley), this marimba-propelled tale of mendacity turns its every improbable shot, from the famous opening long take forward, into a feast of seedy sensibility. Following an explosive incident at a border crossing, a Mexican narcotics agent (Charlton Heston) honeymooning with his new bride (Janet Leigh, warming up for Psycho) gets caught in a labyrinth of corruption, drug peddling and murder, all of it engineered by the beastly, bloated detective Hank Quinlan (Welles). A big, tawdry pleasure machine, Touch of Evil is enlivened not only by its lurid high style, but also by a game-show cast of international has-beens, wannabes, and yet-to-bes, including Marlene Dietrich (memorable as a fortune-telling cantina queen), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Akim Tamiroff, Dennis Weaver and, most bizarre of all, an uncredited and androgynous Mercedes McCambridge, who whines "I wanna watch!" as a gang of hopped-up leather boys circle round Leigh's virginal bride in an isolated motel room. Re-edited according to Welles' original intentions, this restored version brings new clarity and even more virtuoso fireworks to the director's high-'50s fandango of bras, bongos, and barbiturates.