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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
4,841 ( 112)
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

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

While at Universal working on this film, Orson Welles picked up some extra work by doing the narration for the trailer for the science-fiction classic The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). See more »

Goofs

The degree of beard stubble on Quinlan's face changes from sequence to sequence within the same 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 Be Cool (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Blues Pianola
Written by Henry Mancini
Performed by United International Orchestra
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An Intriguing, If Somewhat Uneven, Combination of Welles & Noir
1 October 2004 | by Snow LeopardSee all my reviews

It would certainly be worth watching "Touch of Evil" just to see how the combination of Orson Welles and film-noir works out. Adding in Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston, and a border town setting makes an even more unusual mix. The result is very intriguing, though somewhat uneven. It's quite a tense and entertaining movie, but it's hard not to notice some of the flaws.

The most impressive part probably comes right at the beginning, with the lengthy single take that sets up the story. It's clearly a technical triumph, but it is more than that. It not only gets the story rolling, but establishes both the atmosphere and the setting very efficiently. It is also followed up well, setting up the entrance of Welles's character nicely.

Welles himself does a fine job as the jaded but perceptive policeman. His character is believable and complex, too menacing to like but too pitiable to hate. Heston is oddly cast as Vargas, and through little fault of his own, the character is not fully convincing. Dietrich's role seems to have been tailored just for her, but it fits in reasonably well. Janet Leigh always seems right at home in even the weirdest of stories. Joseph Calleia also gets some good moments.

The story is always interesting, and often peculiar, sometimes to the point of distraction, yet there's no denying that it holds your attention all the way through. It's hard to call it a great movie due to the rough edges, but it's an intriguing combination that's well worth seeing.


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