One of Welles’s most sheerly entertaining efforts, Touch of Evil is a sordid noir of gray morality and striking black-and-white images, photographed by Douglas Sirk regular Russell Metty, set to the jazzy beat of Henry Mancini’s score.
Charlton Heston is “Mike” Vargas, a Mexican narcotics officer whose investigation into a border town bombing leads to danger for himself and his new bride (Janet Leigh, before she discovered that the Bates Motel isn’t the only roadside inn she should avoid). The film begins with one of cinema’s greatest long takes, a resplendent choreography of camera movement and blocking that is nearly as complex as the story that ensues. Shot in Venice, California, and purported to be Welles’s Hollywood return, Touch of Evil boasts an impressive array of memorable performers and performances, including Akim Tamiroff as impish crime boss “Uncle” Joe Grandi, Dennis Weaver as a sketchy motel clerk, Marlene Dietrich as a brothel owner and uncredited appearances by Joseph Cotten, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Mercedes McCambridge. But towering over them all, figuratively and literally, is Welles himself as epically sleazy police captain Hank Quinlan, one of his most memorable screen personas. As Dietrich unforgettably puts it, “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?”
1958, 95 minutes, black and white, new DCP | Written by Orson Welles, based on the novel by Whit Masterson; directed by Orson Welles; with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joanna Moore, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver, Valentin De Vargas, Mort Mills.
ABOUT THE ESSENTIAL ORSON WELLES
Screen legend Orson Welles was a pioneering filmmaker and raffish public personality, best known for the remarkable achievement of Citizen Kane. This series presented by the Academy will focus on Welles as a trailblazing director, presenting nine of the 11 films completed in his lifetime (several of them screening in brand-new restorations). As a body of work, these films – from the serene grandeur of The Magnificent Ambersons to the noir intrigue of The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil – reveal the dexterity and inventiveness of Welles's craftsmanship. The series will offer examples of his dazzling technical expertise, such as overlapping dialogue, potent bursts of montage and bravura cinematography, and explore the themes that fascinated him, from anti-heroes corrupted by power to the dangers of pursuing uncomfortable truths. These films are a testament to Welles the tireless visionary, who, whether in the lap of studio luxury or exiled in Zagreb, approached each motion picture as a mystery that only he could unravel.
The series runs from May 3 through June 7. For more screenings, please visit our Events page.
- Saturday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m.
- Bing Theater
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
- $5 general admission
- $3 Academy members, LACMA Film Club members and students with a valid ID.
- *Admission to both screenings on May 31: The Trial and Touch of Evil.
- Order Tickets Online