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  • Writer's pictureDomenic

Touch of Evil| Review

Updated: May 31, 2022

Every film class teaches Citizen Kane. It really is an undisputed masterpiece and quite possibly the greatest film of all time. What Orson Welles managed to do with every aspect of cinema -- cinematography, writing, directing -- fully deserves its level of respect. That amount of respect towards that one singular film does overshadow a wide filmography of almost equally deserving films. The Magnificent Ambersons, Chimes At Midnight, The Lady From Shanghai, F For Fake, and Touch of Evil are all masterpieces in their own right. Some people actually debate that if not for the studio editing The Magnificent Ambersons, then it would reign superior over Citizen Kane. But none of these films -- despite Kane-- even monumentally come close to the masterclass of filmmaking called Touch of Evil.

A car bomb explosion causes tension among the Mexican-American Border. Crooked police captain, Hank Quinlan,(Orson Welles) is ordered to investigate and is accompanied by Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his wife, Susie (Janet Leigh).

Suspenseful scenes run rampant throughout Touch of Evil but none are as famous, well-done, and influential as the opening scene. The audience is given only two pieces of information -- there's a bomb with a timer set for 3 minutes and it's put inside a car -- and yet Welles turns it into one of the best exercises in suspense in all of film. He lets the camera continuously linger on it for 3 minutes for one entire shot. Through the shot, the audience learns much more than just the bomb. He introduces the setting and conflict that derives from it and two of the main characters. This single shot lets the audience know they’re in for one helluva movie.

Welles manages to again push the boundaries of cinema. The way he positions his camera to create a different approach to a close-up adds layers of subtext to the scene at hand. The technique he utilizes influences as far as The Shining in terms of legacy. He lingers on shots that most directors would choose to cut. This is most prominent during the "motel" scene. Welles once again crafts a near-perfect screenplay with this script. Every single actor, piece of dialogue, and event in some ways adds to or keeps the story going. How Welles lays out the story almost adds the effect of a circle or "loop" to the script. To put it simply, the story flows in both forward and backward directions at the same time. Welles not only gives his talent behind the screen but also as an actor. He perfectly plays the part of a crooked cop. His mannerism fits what most people would assume a corrupt official to act like. Charlton Heston gives an exceptional performance as Vargas, as well as the always beautiful Janet Leigh as his bride. This film really is a monumental masterpiece. For my favorite Orson Welles film, I would have to choose # TeamTouchofEvil, but I still consider Citizen Kane his best work.

Without a doubt, Film Noir is my favorite genre right now. In my top five favorite films at the moment, three of them are Film Noir. There is much debate on whether or not Noir counts as an actual genre. It has its tropes -- femme fatales, detectives, black and white -- like every genre, but Noir is way too specific to even barely have a sub-genre. It all started with 1941's The Maltese Falcon -- a personal favorite of mine-- and somewhat ended near the late 50s. Besides the great American Western, no genre has had such a groundbreaking impact on cinema as Film Noir. Touch of Evil is one of the best to belong to that genre, as well as cinema as a whole.

Time Stamp: September 2020

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