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
Orson Welles claimed to have only read "Badge of Evil" by Whit Masterson, the novel on which the film was based, after he completed the film. He based his rewrite of the screenplay upon Paul Monash's initial treatment. See more »
As the night-man leads Vargas to cabin seven, Vargas jumps from his right side to his left at a cut. See more »
Uh, you folks American citizens?
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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 »
I'm an admirer of Welles, his use of the single take, and his camera technique, but I'm not a big fan of this too unstructured movie. It's a great six minute opening shot in search of a decent story. Just as Leigh kisses Heston and they are interrupted by an explosion, a rather tiresome movie begins. She is instantly carted off to the sidelines to sit around passing time in a pointless sidebar, that feature Mercedes McCambridge as either the first lesbian to take part in a rape on film, or the first time a woman is cast as a man to put one over on the audience. Seemingly every race but an actual Mexican will do here in portraying the Mexican roles, no matter how absurd the casting; uber-Caucasian Charlton Heston, or German Marlene Dietrich. None of this would matter if the movie were any good, but it's two inter-cut holding patterns that have no tension and nothing filmic going for them (except maybe composition) once that first shot is over. At the re-release of the respectfully recut version, people were just laughing at the over-dramatic, hoary script of the last half hour. I was more respectful but I could understand their reaction.
Welles could fastidiously conceive and execute single set-pieces like no one else, but he just didn't didn't have much interest in making whole films after his first two (Kane & Ambersons). His Othello is also a terrible mess.
Give me Torneur's "Out of the Past" over this. This is a whole lot of fuss (and technique) about nothing.
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