Touch of Evil

April 18, 2010
By TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
177 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To be great is to be misunderstood" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Among many noted film historians, critics, and makers, Orson Welles is regarded as the Shakespeare of cinema. It makes sense as well, as he is the man who directed Citizen Kane, which is considered the greatest film of all-time. Naturally, I was drawn into seeing Welles, though I thought I'd first check out one of his lesser known works, Touch of Evil. It's not fantastic, but it's extremely easy to see why Welles has the reputation he does.

The film begins at the US/Mexico border, as an unsuspecting wealthy man and his girlfriend are blown up in their own car, with no clue as to who or why someone could have done this. Witnessing the explosion form the street, Mike Vargas - a drug enforcement official - realizes the implications behind such an event and begins to investigate the matter with the local police, which includes the proud (and corrupt) detective Hank Quinlan. Meanwhile, Vargas' wife, Susie, has to wait for Vargas to be done with the caper while local gangster pursue her in order to get to Vargas himself.

The film is a classic example of film noir, and an excellent film at that. The mystery-enthroned characters, the incredibly dark and rich visuals, the convoluted investigation - all the tropes of the film noir are here in a daringly dark way. The film's daring in that it deals with subject matter that was completely taboo in America during the late '50's, such as sex, drug use, the abuse of power, etc. and so forth. I was pleasantly surprised at the film's boldness, and I thought its honesty concerning its subject matter to be quite admirable of Orson Welles' directing.

The characters aren't incredibly deep, but they don't necessarily have to be. They're just pawns in a world and narrative that mean to emphasize the human condition of the border towns and the corruption present in them. While Vargas is an admirable and interesting protagonist, the corrupt detective Quinlan definitely steals the show. Played by Welles himself, the brooding, slightly racist, and dark detective's character really drives the narrative and his sluggish speech only adds to his foreboding appearance.

The visuals, though, are incredible. Seriously, they're just absolutely phenomenal. The use of tracking shots, the lingering movement, the chaotic and dark shots - the cinematography of the film is amazing. By far, the best example of this film's cinematography would have to be its opening tracking shot. Uncut and with excellent use of lighting, the film sucks the viewer in with a scene that is just shot so fantastically.

If the film has a major fault, its the editing and pacing. I can't completely blame the film, as Welles wasn't allowed full control of this aspect due to Universal's control on the matter. Regardless, the editing suffers from a few flawed moments (such as the change from Vargas' story to Susie's story) and the pacing can sometimes be too fast for its own good. I can enjoy fast paces as well as slow ones, but the edits to trim the film's length make some emotional scenes just seem more like an afterthought.

It's got some flaws, but Touch of Evil is still a very great movie. Great atmosphere, an interesting cast, incredible visuals, and an engrossing narrative, Touch of Evil is just as much a dark thriller as it is a visual treat.

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