Touch of Evil

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i was looking at everyones top 20 lists and touch of evil showed up a lot. now, i like almost anything orson does to a certain extent and the extended opening shot(the mexican/rock&roll version, there is a different soundtrack for that part on a different version right? ive just come to it via the newer dvd)is absolutely breathtaking in every way along with almost any shot that he does in this movie or any other, but i still cant get past CHARLTON HESTON. jesus christ. ughhh. i understand this gives it a certain kitschy appeal but i have trouble accepting it. i just get angry at him. another thing that bothered me was all the bits about drugs that were just plain silly. do people like this for the same reasons that im slightly annoyed? perhaps ill come around some day once my bitter hatred for charlton has subsided. i think my expectations are probably just too high or im looking for a movie that doesnt exist. its also not as "tight" as some of his other movies (this too could be a positive or negative thing). its been a little while so im gonna check it out again and see what else i can find in it.

orson himself is fantastic in it of course in a disgusting, despicable, charming way.


tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 02:42 (eighteen years ago) link

"didn't they have any donuts or... sweet rolls?"

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 04:15 (eighteen years ago) link

Also, Welles was even fatter and better in Chimes at Midnight.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 04:16 (eighteen years ago) link

i don't know, i think heston sort of accentuates the slanted weirdness of the milieu. he's the perfect, gameshow-host foil for the slobbering, sweating welles. something about his forced sense of control, a kitschy, play-acted hardboiledness, makes the kinetic quality to welles' visuals and sound all the more satisfying. i cheer for and against him.

a spectator bird (a spectator bird), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:56 (eighteen years ago) link

heston has the right kind of self-righteousness for the role. plus i believe he is the one who got the movie made in the first place.

ryan (ryan), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 14:01 (eighteen years ago) link

Charlton Heston is great in that film.

the key thing about Touch Of Evil is that it is essentially an early Russ Meyer film, only made by Orson Welles.

DV (dirtyvicar), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 15:40 (eighteen years ago) link

touch of evil was originally good, but after the first viewing it has left me cold.
the opening scene is brilliant.
everything else could have been made by a noir robot. every shot is predictable, every angle is textbook.

it doesnt interest me.

todd swiss (eliti), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 19:24 (eighteen years ago) link

yeah, every angle looks like it's been poured over, and that's welles being welles. but it's so ridiculously over the top, flamboyantly campy. i like the film a lot, despite the fact that every time i watch it i get these low-level anxiety attacks. i'm always sure that somebody's going to pop in from offscreen and toss a bucket of acid at any second.

a spectator bird (a spectator bird), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 20:07 (eighteen years ago) link

I recently read a review of Planet of the Apes which said that Heston "acts with his teeth", which I thought was a perfect description of his grimacing style...
but in the right part, he has a unique presence. "El Cid", "Planet of the Apes", "The Warlord" and "Touch of Evil" all make good use of him. So does "Ben Hur" if you watch it with gore Vidal's homoerotic themes in mind...

David Nolan (David N.), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 22:01 (eighteen years ago) link

yea, just as i supposed. i dont want to get into a big argument, as i dont have too much invested in it but i still hold to loving all his shots. each one seems to hit me viscerally, and if youre looking at it from the "greatest b movie ever" point of view theres room for making everything a bit campy. if that wont do, ill fall back on the "he wrote the textbook" argument. i dont know why im defending it now. just for the sake of contradiction i suppose.

im just going to have to accept the film for what it is.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Thursday, 29 April 2004 02:56 (eighteen years ago) link

T/S: Touch of Evil vs. The Stranger

Girolamo Savonarola, Thursday, 29 April 2004 04:03 (eighteen years ago) link

It would take something for anyone to come out on the side of 'The Stranger'... while it weren't bad, it's nowhere as good as 'Touch of Evil'; the material in 'The Stranger' seems far less suited to Welles than virtually any of his other films, and he gives an indifferent acting performance in it.

Tom May (Tom May), Thursday, 6 May 2004 02:43 (eighteen years ago) link

I thought The Stranger was his sellout movie after his RKO career went bust; that would explain his indifference to it.

Chris F. (servoret), Thursday, 6 May 2004 06:59 (eighteen years ago) link

one month passes...
"I did [The Stranger] to show people that I didn't glow in the dark." (OW, Arena special, 1982)

But they still refused to have Agnes Moorehead in the role given to Edward G., and they cut 20-odd minutes from the beginning (the old non-advancement of plot thing).

I wax and wane on Touch of Evil. It's my favourite film some days. Heston is bone-achingly straight and earnest, but this kind of emphasises the texture of Welles -- he IS the bad guy, but he's also the character we need to feel something for (love/hate) (apart from Joseph Calleia's tragic character, anyway). Heston needs to be a dummy, a symbol, and he does that just fine. CH may not have seen it that way, but OW did.

The drugs stuff is a bit silly, but this is the 1950s. Some people would've been shocked back then. Films are an artefact of their time, like it or not. Brando's tough biker seems more camp than rugged these days. (That opinion comes from my mother, BTW, and she lived through the period.)

OW's own fave was Chimes at Midnight, probably followed by The Trial. On an off day, I'll sit on the fence.

ChrissieH (chrissie1068), Monday, 14 June 2004 21:59 (eighteen years ago) link

im all about the trial, though that may have something to do with the fact that i finished the book at about 1 am one night and then stayed up to watch the movie in a sort of weird dementia. i think it handles the sort of overtop visuals in a much better way, but theres more room for that because anything with kafka is going to be surreal and ridiculous. i still have to see chimes and mr arkadin and then i think ill have covered all of welles's directed movies. the stranger is pretty lackluster though.

with Evil, somehow i feel that welles was just trying a campy remake of the third man which i think has similar themes but does it much better overall. hm.touch of evil is slowly growing on me as ive rerun it over in my mind these last couple months. maybeill go ahead and give it another go soon.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Tuesday, 15 June 2004 03:22 (eighteen years ago) link

In my religion the words "Heston" and "Mexican" go together like "Strawberries" and "Cream".

PVC (peeveecee), Tuesday, 15 June 2004 10:27 (eighteen years ago) link

The best Heston performances are the ones where he suffers a lot, and thereby grits his teeth with unrelenting intensity. See OMEGA MAN, SOYLENT GREEN, PLANET OF THE APES, BEN HUR (the "ramming speed" and chariot race scenes). You could tell Heston felt truly at home when his characters were abused and eventually martyred.

PVC (peeveecee), Tuesday, 15 June 2004 10:33 (eighteen years ago) link

"every shot is predictable, every angle is textbook."

Welles wrote that textbook.

earlnash, Wednesday, 16 June 2004 18:35 (eighteen years ago) link

i already used that line earl, haha.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Thursday, 17 June 2004 02:45 (eighteen years ago) link

but the textbook is boring...

maybe thats why i like godard

todd swiss (eliti), Thursday, 17 June 2004 07:16 (eighteen years ago) link

"May we be accursed if we forget for one second that he alone with Griffith, one in silent days, one sound, managed to start up that marvelous little electric train... All of us will always owe him everything." - Godard on Orson Welles

so there!

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 17 June 2004 08:46 (eighteen years ago) link

Interestingly enough, OW hated to be praised for 'great shots' anyway, because he felt that if people were noticing that stuff the film wasn't arresting the viewer's attention as it should (= directorial failure).

The first time I saw ToE, I didn't even notice the length/complexity of that opening tracking shot. By his own criteria (which I think I more or less agree with), that was the desired response.

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Thursday, 17 June 2004 17:30 (eighteen years ago) link

sure godard praised welles, but i contest that godard made films that were far more interesting, ground-breaking, and better *gasp*. and anyways, renoir was better with the long take than welles ;)

todd swiss (eliti), Saturday, 19 June 2004 00:02 (eighteen years ago) link

you can "contest" that all you like but it doesn't make it true! ok "better" and "interesting" are all down to opinion i suppose, but saying godard was more "groundbreaking" is completely meaningless, like saying picasso was more "groundbreaking" than van gogh. it may be true, but innovation alone isn't the full sum of an artist's achievement. godard and welles were both flashy virtuoso geniuses from different eras, but i've never seen godard do anything as restrained and beautiful as the battle scene in "chimes at midnight."

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Saturday, 19 June 2004 01:30 (eighteen years ago) link

I couldn't give a damn about groundbreaking. Kane was probably the most groundbreaking picture he did, but also one of the least interesting (still very interesting, I hasten to add!). My feelings are more driven by an ineffable, hard to articulate 'something' that a creative work either has or hasn't -- I'm probably describing personal taste cack-handedly -- and being groundbreaking is never a guarantee of pushing that particular button.

That battle scene is fabulous. Ineffable's a good word: what does it have that a massive budget and rampant, stunning use of CGI somehow can't generate? It's just two dozen guys running around a field in cheap costumes, but...

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Sunday, 20 June 2004 12:49 (eighteen years ago) link

man, i want to see chimes even more than i did before. damn netflix is without that and arkadin. this means ill have to actually go to a video store.

which do you find more interesting chrissie? other than the two i mentioned i havent seen. hah. i hold kane higher than all the others ive seen except maybe the trial.

i just watched the rules of the game by the way (ive seen grand illusion) and ive defintiely begun connecting dots with his and welles's work. after i watched it over for the 3rd time and specifially looked for where cuts were i was amazed at the seamlessness, simpleness, and beauty of his long takes. what renoir should i see next?

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Sunday, 20 June 2004 14:57 (eighteen years ago) link

Spanish import DVDs of Chimes (R0 PAL) are being sold on ebay almost all the time -- English soundtrack, removable subs. Go do a title search, or search for 'orson welles' worldwide for a full list of possibilities. (There's also an NTSC DVDR laserdisc dub under the title Falstaff doing the rounds. Can't comment on quality.)

Chimes isn't available in America (or the UK) in stores. It's been beset with legal problems. It may appear eventually -- there is scary talk of a 'restoration' a la Othello* -- but the Spanish disc is the best bet at the moment.

(*If anyone can do me a DVD dub of the untampered Othello from the OOP Criterion laserdisc, please drop me a line. I find the restoration... distasteful.)

Which do I find more interesting? Yeah, The Trial! And Chimes, Touch of Evil, Othello, Lady from Shanghai... but not Mr. Arkadin, which suffers too badly from bad editing away from Welles' hands (though Michael Redgrave's 'gay' performance is endlessly amusing).

Have you seen Immortal Story? That might be his least interesting effort, bar The Stranger. Very static and subdued, which is perhaps fitting to the source material (a Karen Blixen short story), but it doesn't seem to amount to much -- might as well just read the story, for all that OW brings to it. Which is odd, as he said he'd never do a Crime and Punishment picture specifically because he'd be unable to 'give' it anything...

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Sunday, 20 June 2004 17:01 (eighteen years ago) link

Hmmm... if anyone's interested, there are two copies of Chimes going right now:

The first one is cheaper, but both are resonable.

(These links are apt to become redundant very quickly, natch...)

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Sunday, 20 June 2004 18:08 (eighteen years ago) link

thanks chrissie! i have some money im dying to get rid of.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 01:58 (eighteen years ago) link

though im located in the us. ill do a search.

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 01:59 (eighteen years ago) link

do you know anything about this version?

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 02:02 (eighteen years ago) link

also, i must say taht ive not seen almost anything he did for television besides "around the world." whats worth seeking out?

tom cleveland (tom cleveland), Monday, 21 June 2004 02:14 (eighteen years ago) link

I didn't know there was a Japanese DVD. There is certainly a Japanese laserdisc, so this might be a dub from it... couldn't begin to guess. The packaging isn't very polished, but that doesn't tell us much. Then again, it's quite cheap, and in NTSC format, so maybe it's worth the risk.

I haven't seen any of the television stuff, to be honest. Immortal Story qualifies, I guess -- although it had a theatrical release, it was made ostensibly for television. I'm particularly interested in seeing the early '50s King Lear, though I've read the print quality is atrocious. (It's lucky to have survived at all, though.)

You can order it in the US on a DVD with The Stranger here:

Quite cheap. If you bite, you'll have to let me know if it's worth my effort to get it. :)

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Monday, 21 June 2004 15:28 (eighteen years ago) link

i've seen the '50s king lear (directed by peter brook, not welles). it's not great, but it's interesting enough to see for OW's performance. he also made a short version of the merchant of venice in the late '60s that i'd really like to find.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Monday, 21 June 2004 21:53 (eighteen years ago) link

And he did a test shoot for his own Lear (which no one wanted to finance, shock, horror) shortly before he died. No costume. That'd be interesting to see.

_chrissie (chrissie1068), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 11:49 (eighteen years ago) link

three years pass...

previously unpublished Heston interview on making ToE:

Dr Morbius, Monday, 7 April 2008 15:18 (fourteen years ago) link

Ah, the glory days of ILF.

C. Grisso/McCain, Monday, 7 April 2008 16:43 (fourteen years ago) link

This is possibly my favorite movie ever made.

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:08 (fourteen years ago) link

Exaggerating slightly but not by much.

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:10 (fourteen years ago) link

(first time I saw it I was mad ^^^ and had this theory that Welles casting All-American Man Heston as a Mexican was a coded commentary on the social construction of race)

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 7 April 2008 18:11 (fourteen years ago) link

they need to redo the "director's cut" version in the right aspect ratio.

abanana, Thursday, 10 April 2008 20:17 (fourteen years ago) link


latebloomer, Saturday, 12 April 2008 04:13 (fourteen years ago) link

j/k this movie rules

latebloomer, Saturday, 12 April 2008 04:14 (fourteen years ago) link

five months pass...

OK, what are the arguments on the "right" aspect ratio? (and we don't really HAVE a "director's cut" of ToE)

New 50th anniv DVD (1.85:1) just out, w/ commetary by James Naremore & Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 14:25 (thirteen years ago) link

This strain of camp grotesquerie encroaches on myriad aspects of the picture, certainly on Welles's larger-than-life performance as Quinlan and in the glaring presence of Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican fortune-teller. Take a look at the blind woman who sits impassively frame right as Vargas apologetically telephones his new wife. Universal cropped her out of the frame, but she was reinstated after Welles argued his case in the famous 58-page memo of December 1957, when he fought to minimize the damage wrought by the studio's editors (see Chronology, below). "It was meant to be peculiar," he insisted. The effect is deeply self-aware and quintessentially Wellesian in its cockeyed excess. His next picture, after all, turned out to be Kafka's The Trial, which he insisted was a comedy even if no one else was laughing.

Dr Morbius, Friday, 10 October 2008 16:14 (thirteen years ago) link

I dislike the "director's cut" released in 1998; and if it's a piece of camp grotesqueness we're dealing with, then I want Mancini music.

As for Dietrich, she was right: it's her best performance.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Friday, 10 October 2008 16:38 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

just saw this last night; totally righteous. seems rather dark and grotesque for the time period (not necessarily in a basic "oh that guy is creepy" kind of way, this weirdness just permeates the whole film)

tons of incredible shots of course; how the actors are locationally positioned in the scenes really strengthens the dialogue.

david lynch has got to love this movie but maybe that's a shallow assessment

guammls (QE II), Tuesday, 13 October 2009 23:13 (twelve years ago) link

Not shallow at all, I can certainly see that. As for dark and grotesque, I think a lot of people couldn't handle it at the time, and I'm sure there was at least one totally outraged review from the original release.

Soukesian, Sunday, 18 October 2009 14:44 (twelve years ago) link

This is more of a "shallow masterpiece" than Citizen Kane, and this isn't a bad thing.

Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 18 October 2009 15:02 (twelve years ago) link

three years pass...

this film is fairly humdrum for the first hour or so and then utterly fucking spectacular for the last twenty minutes. better that than the inverse

ghosts of lower belvedere high technology sludge incinerator (imago), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 22:56 (nine years ago) link


A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 22:57 (nine years ago) link

Isn't the opening sequence part of the first hour or so?

Roddenberry Beret (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 22:59 (nine years ago) link

by welles' 'lofty standards'. charlton heston's fault mostly. opening sequence is great but then it's all brooding menace and then the epic payoff

ghosts of lower belvedere high technology sludge incinerator (imago), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 23:00 (nine years ago) link

oh damn, brooding menace and an epic payoff, what a terrible disappointment

¬╡▫ ▫╞⌠ (sic), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 23:34 (nine years ago) link

no beef, just a structural observation

ghosts of lower belvedere high technology sludge incinerator (imago), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 23:57 (nine years ago) link

two months pass... is Zsa Zsa Gabor the last living cast member?

Miss Arlington twirls for the Coal Heavers (Dr Morbius), Friday, 16 August 2013 16:32 (eight years ago) link

i remember seeing the restored version in theaters back in 98, and there were a couple of gay dudes in the row behind me laughing really hard at the scene where janet leigh was lying in bed wearing this:

i guess thats when i learned what camp is

i wanna be a gabbneb baby (Hungry4Ass), Friday, 16 August 2013 20:53 (eight years ago) link

four years pass...

Rewatched on DCP in a theater last night. Dennis Weaver's lunatic "night man" is really a marvel, and his interactions with the hoodlums at the motel have a big proto-Lynch vibe.

Always forget that Heston's primary cop ally (Schwartz) is played by Mort Mills, who was the cop with the dark shades in Psycho.

the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 April 2018 15:39 (four years ago) link

Agree about Dennis Weaver, never knew this latter bit of info.

We’ll Take Chanhassen (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 22 April 2018 15:41 (four years ago) link

had this theory that Welles casting All-American Man Heston as a Mexican was a coded commentary on the social construction of race

by now i hope HOOS knows that Welles didn't cast Heston (it's closer to the reverse).

the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 April 2018 15:49 (four years ago) link

three years pass...

Watched this for the first time today and had a ball. Some things:

- Obviously, the opening scene is just spectacular. I found myself thinking 'Renoir!' in quite a few places.
- Welles has something of Renoir about him - particularly Renoir-as-Octave?
- The Janet Leigh character does consistently confusing things but she eats up the screen when she's on it. She should definitely stay away from motels.
- Heston is kinda bad to be honest. Acting like he's being pulled along by his teeth. And the blackface is just, jeez (the entire portrayal of Mexicans is quietly astonishing).
- That final scene in the graveyard of industry absolutely made me think it was a deliberate reference to the wheel in The Third Man.
- Honestly had no idea it was Dietrich! She was the best thing in it?

Loved this: "I could work forever on the editing of a film. For me, the strip of celluloid is put together like a musical score, and this execution is determined by the editing; just like a conductor interprets a piece of music in rubato, another will play it in a very dry and academic manner and a third will be very romantic, and so on. The images themselves are not sufficient: they are very important, but are only images. The essential is the length of each image, what follows each image: it is the very eloquence of the cinema that is constructed in the editing room."

Is there a particular Welles/Welles-adjacent book I could or should go to?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 14 November 2021 17:38 (seven months ago) link

I didn't cope too well with the Dennis Weaver character. It was like he'd been dropped in from a different film? He definitely added to the overall sense of fear and nightmarishness I guess. Similarly with 'jittery guy' who must have been told to 'bob up and down', and again 'keep bobbing!'.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 14 November 2021 17:41 (seven months ago) link

Is there a particular Welles/Welles-adjacent book I could or should go to?

― Vanishing Point (Chinaski),

For sure his booklength interview with Bogdanovich -- such a literate man, our Orson.

I read Clifton Heylin's critical bio last month. The last two volumes of Simon Callow's bio also terrific for insights.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 14 November 2021 17:44 (seven months ago) link

Nice one, cheers. My university library has the Bogdanovich. Got myself a copy of the Renoir autobiography as well - cheap hardback.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 14 November 2021 21:54 (seven months ago) link

Renoir's memoir of his old man also worth a read.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 14 November 2021 21:55 (seven months ago) link

how is thomson? I picked it up for cheap a while ago but haven’t really opened it yet

mens rea activist (k3vin k.), Monday, 15 November 2021 22:49 (seven months ago) link

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