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Touch of Evil (1958)

PG-13 | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | February 1958 (USA)
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A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.

Director:

Orson Welles

Writers:

Orson Welles (screenplay), Whit Masterson (based on the novel "Badge Of Evil" by)
6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Charlton Heston ... Mike Vargas
Janet Leigh ... Susan Vargas
Orson Welles ... Police Captain Hank Quinlan
Joseph Calleia ... Police Sergeant Pete Menzies
Akim Tamiroff ... 'Uncle' Joe Grandi
Joanna Moore ... Marcia Linnekar
Ray Collins ... District Attorney Adair
Dennis Weaver ... Mirador Motel Night Manager
Valentin de Vargas ... Pancho (as Valentin De Vargas)
Mort Mills ... Al Schwartz
Victor Millan Victor Millan ... Manelo Sanchez
Lalo Rios Lalo Rios ... Risto
Michael Sargent Michael Sargent ... Pretty Boy
Phil Harvey ... Blaine
Joi Lansing ... Zita
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

The Overwhelming Drama of a Strange Vengeance See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

February 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Badge of Evil See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$829,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$70,725, 13 September 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,237,659, 3 January 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Captain Quinlan is not seen without his hat during the entire film. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
Customs Officer: 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 »

Alternate Versions

A new version, running 111 minutes, has been restored by Universal and debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in September 1998. This version has been re-edited according to Orson Welles' original vision, as outlined in a 58-page memo that the director wrote to Universal studio head Edward Muhl in 1957, after Muhl took editing out of Welles' hands. The new version has been prepared by editor by Walter Murch, sound recordists Bill Varney, Peter Reale and Murch, and picture restorer Bob O'Neil under the supervision of Rick Schmidlin and film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. One difference between the two versions is that the famous opening tracking shot is now devoid of credits and Henry Mancini's music, featuring only sound effects. See more »

Connections

Referenced in House: Wilson's Heart (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Reflection
Written by Henry Mancini
Performed by United International Orchestra
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

So many eyes, so little vision
6 December 1998 | by fatburgrSee all my reviews

Seldom have I seen so many comments with so little understanding. The movie is not about Heston's "Mexican-ness" or lack of it. The movie is not about the 5 or 8 or 10 minute opening shot. The movie is not even, god help us, about Welles' descent from the heights into "slumming it" in a "Grade B" flick.

The movie is about two things : film-making, and character. Every shot worth remembering (and there are few that aren't) is an exercise in the possibilities of film, particularly black and white film. Woody Allen makes movies in black and white that are all conversation. Welles made movies in black and white because that's where the colors of the characters, the location and ultimately the meaning of the movie are possible. Black and white film is about the infinite possibilities of shadow. Touch of Evil is about the infinite possibilities of human nature.

Heston, for those of you who just can't see past a "bad" accent is about rigidity and short-sightedness. What kind of idiot would leave his wife in all those threatening situations? The kind of idiot who can't imagine that anyone would harm HIS wife, simply because she IS his wife! Akim Tamiroff's Grandi is about flexibility to the point of breakage. Always playing ALL ends against the middle he is the essence of "harmless" corruption, that ultimately harms everyone.

And Welles' Hank Quinlan ... I just don't have the time or space to explain that Quinlan is about the true cost of police work when the humanity has gone out of it. Ultimately Quinlan would kill his best and only friend, the only one, as Dietrich has it, who really loves him. At one time, perhaps, Quinlan WAS the image that Pete Menzies saw. But the man behind that image was eaten up long ago with alcohol and frustrated grief. It's all about winning and losing now, and things he would never do. Until he does them.

There are so many other moments and characters that I'm afraid you'll just have to watch the film with your eyes and your mind open instead of shut to "get it". Pay attention to what's on the screen instead of the smart, cynical, hip comments you can make about an actual work of heart.

Well, what the hell. Joan Didion said it best. Film criticism is petit point on kleenex.

Raoul Duke


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