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
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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