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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)
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Popularity
4,880 ( 2,600)
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 Strangest Vengeance Ever Planned! 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

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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

Orson Welles was heavily padded to play his part. Of course, in later life he physically came to resemble his character here. See more »

Goofs

During the struggle between Quinlan and Grandi Grandi reaches for a revolver under the bed. The first cutaway's gun is black and smaller than the second cutaway where the revolver appears larger and silver. 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

Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Film Noirs (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Bar Room Rock
Written by Henry Mancini
Performed by United International Orchestra
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Dark Noir film masterfully played and directed by Welles dealing with killing and corruption in the Mexican/US border
5 March 2016 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

This suspense movie contains intrigue , thrills , plot twists and layered dialog prevail . A stark , perverse tale of murder , treason , kidnapping , and police corruption in a sleazy Mexican border town . As starring 'Mike' Vargas (Charlton Heston who cited not doing a Hispanic accent for his Mexican role as one of the biggest mistakes he ever made as an actor) has to interrupt his honeymoon along with his wife (Janet Leigh who initially rejected her participation in this film due to the low salary offered without even consulting the actress ) when an American building contractor is murdered . Idolized alcoholic Police Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) and his Sergeant, Pete Menzies (Joseph Calleia), are in charge on the US side and Hank soon has a suspect . But things go wrong when Vargas discovers Quinlan puts fake evidences against the prime suspect . Quinlan joins forces with Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) , who seeks revenge against Mike , to impugn Vargas's proofs .

This overwhelming masterpiece of the strangest vengeance ever planned is plenty of suspense and twisted intrigue from start to finish . Awesome opening , justifiable known , shot in stylistic way begins this over-the-top picture . ¨Touch of evil¨ failed in the U.S. but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair , here director/player proved that he was still a filmmaking genius . Excellent acting by the great maestro Orson Welles playing the life of yet another ruthless character , he stars a corrupt inspector with a shady past and obscure present , planting evidences to detain suspects . Orson Welles was originally hired only to act in the film , but due to a misunderstanding, Charlton Heston thought that Welles was to be the director , to keep Heston happy, producer Albert Zugsmith allowed Welles to direct . Support cast is frankly magnificent , such as : Akim Tamiroff , Joseph Calliea , Dennis Weaver , Ray Collins , Joanna Moore , Marlene Dietrich , Zsa Zsa Gabor , among others . Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge only appears in the film because she was having lunch with Orson Welles during filming and Welles convinced her to film a scene . Attractive and dazzlingly photographed in black and white by Russell Metty . The entire film was shot on real locations, apart from the infamous ten-minute take in the Mexican shoe store clerk's apartment, which is actually a set , Welles and Metty insisted on filming in a real city , settling for Venice, California, when he couldn't get his initial choice of Tijuana . Rousing jazzy musical score by the maestro composer Henry Mancini , including Latin rock sounds . Although much of the music used throughout the movie was from sound sources that pertained to the film: radio transmissions, jukeboxes, player piano . And being ulteriorly reconstructed according to Welles'notes in 1988 .

The motion picture was stunningly directed by Orson Welles who shot predominantly at night in order to fend off meddlesome studio suits . Welles was a genius who had a large and problematic career . In 1938 he produced "The Mercury Theatre on the Air", famous for its broadcast version of "The War of the Worlds" . His first film to be seen by the public was Ciudadano Kane (1941), a commercial failure , but regarded by many as the best film ever made , along with his following movie , The magnificent Ambersons . He subsequently directed Shakespeare adaptation such as Macbeth , Othelo and Chimes at Midnight or Falstaff . Many of his next films were commercial flops and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948 . In 1956 he directed this great masterpiece Touch of evil (1958) but Orson was fired as director during post-production, and the film was recut contrary to his wishes ; before his death, he left instructions on how he wanted the film to be edited, and in 1998 a version was made the way he intended . In 1975, in spite of all his box-office flops , he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award . His reputation as a film maker has climbed steadily ever since.


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