A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.
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
The genius of Orson Welles (and I am only convinced of his genius and that of Eisenstein and Griffith, though I have seen thousands of movies) was so amazing that one could easily see in the reviews on the IMDb that mostly everybody got the right idea about Touch of Evil. It is almost impossible not to SEE what Welles intended to be seen in this picture, the differences of opinion come afterwards and have nothing do do with the movie itself but with the way we interpret it. We have to keep in mind that Heston himself, who was the damn actor playing the leading role had no idea what he was actually doing in here, just as Anthony Perkins will be clueless to the meaning of his role in The Trial four years later. It is obvious for everybody that the movie has style, but few understand the meaning of that style. It is not only the noirish cinematography (partially invented by Welles-Tolland in Citizen Kane) and the overall movement of the camera and the brilliant lighting and everything that means cinema that gives this picture style, but the fact that it is aware of its being the last of the mohicans, the last of the noir genre. This awareness gives a new depth to the movie that other B-flicks never had. The customary recipe with a noir movie was a gullible guy, falls for pretty, dangerous woman with a dangerous husband or boyfriend, a crime is committed and the gullible guy gets the fall. This is a story about the appearance of things not being their essence, and every noir movie shared something from this. Touch of Evil is all about this: yes, for all you frustrated Heston-haters, he was suppose to be a parody of a Mexican, just as Welles was supposed to be both a parody of his Harry Lime character and a parody of himself. And Marlene is a German actress speaking English, playing a Mexican gypsy saying "Adios" at the end. Akim Tamiroff is a Georgian playing a Mexican etc. etc. There are also the apparently transsexual...fellows at the motel. Everything is fakery in this picture and I think that this should be looked upon in the same analytic vein as we look at movies such as Alphaville or A bout de soufle. Nobody thinks Godard intended a sci-fi or a noir with those movies, then why should we think that Welles intended a noir with this one? Is it simply because the story seems to unravel in the usual noir way? I agree that the story is not so convincing if you look at it only at the surface. Any story from any noir movie more or less is filled with holes and loose ends. The main intent of those movies was never to create a perfect, novel-like story, but a cinematic account of what a story could be. Touch of Evil is one of the most cinematic movie you will ever see. Every shot is composed with a perfect understanding of what the medium can do, and in this category I think it is only matched by Welles' own Othello in the use of architecture in order to achieve a sense of space within the frame. Look at the way the shadows are projected on the walls and at the relative proportions of the characters. It is clear to the fullest that the movie develops in space and time, a conscience alone for which this movie deserves praise .
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