Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
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.