“Touch of Evil” is a 1958 American film noir written and directed by Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the mystery novel “Badge of Evil” (1956) by Whit Masterson.
The film is characterized by its artistic images with elaborate techniques, such as one-shot long takes and shooting wide-angle (18.5mm).
The one-shot long take (three minutes and 20 seconds) in the opening is quite famous.
Set in the U.S.–Mexico border area. It deals with such themes as police corruption and racism.
A Mexican narcotics detective, Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his wife Susan (Janet Leigh) come to a Mexican town along the border for their honeymoon. They witness a car exploding and burning on the American side of the border. Rudy Linnekar, a local construction magnate, and his female companion are killed in the explosion.
Vargas begins investigating the case along with American police chief Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles).
Quinlan takes a young Mexican as a suspect. Vargas finds that Quinlan fabricated evidence, and he is going to accuse Quinlan, while Quinlan plots to kidnap Susan to silence Vargas.
The film was a bomb in the box office in the U.S., but it gained popularity among European audiences, and it was selected as the top award by critics, such as André Bazin, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, at the World Film Festival in the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
It is now widely regarded as one of Welles’s best films and one of the film noir masterpieces.
The 96-minute version (re-edited without Welles’s intent) had been screened since its release, but in 1998, it was reconstructed based on the Welles memo, and released as a 111-minute version.
Marlene Dietrich played Tanya, a brothel owner like a gypsy fortune teller.
Music by Henry Mancini.