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Los Robles, a seedy town on the US – Mexico border, is woken from its sleazy slumber when a bomb explodes in the trunk of a visiting car, just as newlyweds Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and Susan (Janet Leigh) are passing. Vargas is a Mexican drug squad officer but this is not his beat. It’s Hank Quinlan’s (Orson Welles), a fat, unshaven, bleary-eyed and used up cop who walks with a cane and nurtures a grudge. And he’s never framed a crook who wasn’t guilty. Vargas thinks he’s obnoxious and corrupt, which doesn’t endear him to the big man, but he’s drawn into the investigation - and soon his young bride is in all sorts of trouble at the hands of suspect drug runners in the shape of the Grandi family, led by its pudgy, predatorial patriarch (Akim Tamiroff). The bomb investigation becomes less the focus as Quinlan, Vargas and Quinlan’s long-time sidekick and junior, Menzies (Joseph Calleia), twist and turn in the odorous breeze of corrupted ideals and frayed friendships.

"It would be a great shame – a lamentable loss for them - if some people avoided seeing Touch of Evil simply because it’s not a new film. Don’t be put off thinking it’s just for the film buffs when critics call it a ‘classic’. This is a film that was made to be seen by millions on a Saturday afternoon, to get them sitting on the edge of their seats, to be fascinated by the murky ambiance of a sleazy border town where the sheriff’ll stop at nothing to track down the crims that pollute his beat. Where the smoke from the past curls in the air and mingles with the cigarette smoke and the smell of booze and the hollow echo of lives misplaced. The original cut, released without Orsen Welles’ approval, disguised its brilliant cinematic inventions and ignored key requests from the director – including the removal of a single shot (of Quinlan’s sidekick, Menzies) that changes the nature of the film because it changes the motivation for Menzies’ final act of courage and betrayal. Welles creates an unforgettable, odious yet riveting Quinlan, with enough complexity to allow us a splinter of pity for him with which to salvage his soul. The camerawork and choice of shots influenced many filmmakers that followed Welles, including those icons of the French New Wave, Godard and Truffaut, as did Welles’ use of sound and music, the play with stereotypes and ‘the routine acceptance of human degradation’ as Murch puts it - all tragically feared by the executives at Universal in 1958. It’s riveting stuff, whether you’re into film appreciation or film enjoyment pure and simple. Do yourself a favour and catch Touch of Evil."
Andrew L. Urban

"There are so many things to recommend Touch of Evil. The historic opening shot that lasts for over three minutes is legendary, when the camera follows a car in whose boot a bomb has been planted. And even if, like me, you haven't seen the original film, it does not distract if you know very little or nothing about it. In this tale of good versus evil, when morality and doing the right thing is pitted against corruption and greed, the cinematic way in which the characters are interwoven is riveting. It might be set in another time and another place, but there's nothing dated about the motivations of any of the characters, whose weaknesses and strengths are as pertinent today as they were then. The central characters are so well defined – Orson Welles' pitiable, grotesque, debauched Hank Quinlan steals every scene, and is as formidable as his girth. He is as offensive physically as he is morally. Charlton Heston, complete with dark Mexican make-up is ideal as the idealistic drug enforcer, while Janet Leigh is alluring as his bride. Fascinating to watch is Marlene Dietrich, seductive and enigmatic as the gypsy, in a small but memorable role. When Quinlan asks her to read his fortune, her inevitable reply that his future has all been used up is one that burns into our psyche, in this complex story set on a border town, on the edge of reality. Watch out too for Zsa Zsa Gabor's tiny cameo. Haunting, powerful and very entertaining, Touch of Evil is a masterpiece, where character and plot are pivotal to the film’s effect – not the effects."
Louise Keller

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See Sue Vermilions' interview with

WALTER MURCH details how he restored Touch of Evil from the recently unearthed 58 page memo by Orson Welles.

TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) –Director’s Cut 1998 (M)

CAST: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joanna Cook Moore, Marlene Dietrich

DIRECTOR: Orson Welles

PRODUCER: Albert Zugsmith

SCRIPT: Orson Welles, Paul Monash (from badge of Evil by whit Masterson)


EDITOR: Edward Curtis, Aaron Stell, Virgil W. Vogel

MUSIC: Henry Mancini

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes





AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 27, 1999 Sydney; May 30, 1999 Melbourne

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