Touch Of Evil (1957)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/28/01
Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich

Charlton Heston plays a Mexican district attorney working on a narcotics case involving the notorious Grandy family. He and his wife (Janet Leigh) witness a car bombing in a Mexican border town and he decides to investigate. This is when he meets the corrupt town sheriff (a grotesque Orson Welles) and the two of them lock horns. Heston is determined to expose Welles for planting evidence and framing innocents, and Welles retaliates by kidnapping Heston's wife, pumping her full of drugs, and framing her for murder. In the end, Heston gets the upper hand and everything turns out well for "the good guys."

Generally considered the film that closed the classical film noir period, this is a bleak and nasty piece of cinema. The camerawork does a great job of complementing the general anarchy of the film, and leaves you feeling disturbed and uncomfortable. The moral ambiguities of "good" and "evil" are found throughout, and all of the characters are capable of each. The characters are all rather bizarre and eccentric, and not particularly likable, although delicious Marlene Dietrich and pretty Janet Leigh are definitely easy on the eye (not to mention Ms. Leigh's prominent breasts - they don't make 'em like that anymore...). Apart from not being able to pick up on a lot of the visual metaphors and noir themes, the biggest problem I had with the film was accepting Charlton Heston made up as a Mexican. Having grown up in an entirely different movie culture, I found it unsettling. Welles' camera is constantly in motion, but no shot is more spectacular than the film's opening scene, which is a fascinating and extremely complex tracking shot that follows the final moments before the fatal car bombing. Simply amazing.