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Touch of Evil (1958)

PG-13  |   |  Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller  |  1 May 1958 (UK)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 66,651 users  
Reviews: 261 user | 156 critic

A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.



(screenplay), (based on the novel "Badge Of Evil" by), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marcia Linnekar
Valentin de Vargas ...
Pancho (as Valentin De Vargas)
Mort Mills ...
Victor Millan ...
Manelo Sanchez
Lalo Rios ...
Michael Sargent ...
Pretty Boy
Phil Harvey ...


Mexican Narcotics officer Ramon Miguel 'Mike' Vargas has to interrupt his honeymoon on the Mexican-US border when an American building contractor is killed after someone places a bomb in his car. He's killed on the US side of the border but it's clear that the bomb was planted on the Mexican side. As a result, Vargas delays his return to Mexico City where he has been mounting a case against the Grandi family crime and narcotics syndicate. Police Captain Hank Quinlan is in charge on the US side and he soon has a suspect, a Mexican named Manolo Sanchez. Vargas is soon onto Quinlan and his Sergeant, Pete Menzies, when he catches them planting evidence to convict Sanchez. With his new American wife, Susie, safely tucked away in a hotel on the US side of the border - or so he thinks - he starts to review Quinlan's earlier cases. While concentrating on the corrupt policeman however, the Grandis have their own plans for Vargas and they start with his wife Susie. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Strangest Vengeance Ever Planned! See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violence and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 May 1958 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Badge of Evil  »

Box Office


$829,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$70,725 (USA) (11 September 1998)


$2,237,659 (USA) (1 January 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (1998 alternate) | (1975 alternate) | (director's cut) | (DVD edition) | (restored)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


At the end of the famous opening tracking shot, you can see the sky beginning to change to daylight but the rest of the shots in the sequence happen in the dead of night. See more »


[first lines]
Border Cop: Uh, you folks American citizens?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening statement (restored version): In 1957, Orson Welles completed principal photography on TOUCH OF EVIL and edited the first cut. Upon screening the film, the Studio felt it could be improved, shot additional scenes and re-edited it. Welles viewed this new version and within hours wrote a passionate 58-page memo requesting editorial changes. This version represents an attempt to honor those requests and make TOUCH OF EVIL the film Orson Welles envisioned it to be. "... I close this memo with a very earnest plea that you consent to this brief visual pattern to which I gave so many long hard days of work." -- Orson Welles See more »


Featured in Apartment Zero (1988) See more »


Flashing Nuisance
Written by Henry Mancini
Performed by United International Orchestra
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Another touch of brilliance from Welles
26 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Considered by many to be the last "classic" noir film ever made, and perhaps the last masterwork from child prodigy Orson Welles, who looks about sixty in this film, despite his 42 years. In TOUCH OF EVIL the "noirish" dark streets and shadows are darker than ever, practically swallowing up the soft tones like a murky swamp. The action takes place in a nondescript U.S./Mexico border town where the worst that both sides has to offer is most in evidence. The famous opening scene (a 3 1/2-minute continuous shot) where we witness a time bomb being placed in the trunk of a Cadillac is masterful. The camera pulls in and out of the city scene as it follows the motion of the vehicle winding its way through streets littered with pedestrians, thus effectively creating a level of anxiety that could not be duplicated with multiple edits. After the inevitable explosion, the drama dives into a seedy world of corrupt police justice and malevolent decrepitude, which is filmed with such a stylish flair, it is almost weirdly humorous and playful! Mike Vargas, the good guy, is played by Charlton Heston and seems more than a wee bit miscast as a Mexican narcotics officer with his face darkened by makeup. When U.S. Police Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) first meets him he remarks, "He doesn't look Mexican." Quinlan is the ultimate repugnant cop gone bad and Welles has the camera looking up into his nostrils most of the time making his character look even more monstrous. But Quinlan is also pitifully sad. A man who once had the instincts of a cat and the intelligence of a fox has been reduced to an insignificant mass of tissue, who's "instinct" is having a knack for finding evidence that he himself has planted. And while he may be revered by the local officials in law enforcement, he's acutely aware that he is a fraud and petrified that Vargas, has seen him naked.

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