December 27th, 2014: Touch of Evil

Cast and Crew: Henry Mancini (Score); Akim Tamiroff, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joseph Cotton, Mercedes McCambridge, Keenan Wynn

What It’s About:   Mike and Susie Vargas (Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh) find their honeymoon on the US-Mexico border interrupted by an assassination.  “Mike” is Ramon Miguel Vargas, a Mexican Narcotics Officer, and soon he’s involved in the investigation and butting heads with his U.S. counterpart, Police Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), memorably described by his old flame, fortune-teller Tanya (Marlene Dietrich), as a man whose future is “all used up.”

Why Watch it Today?:  Marlene Dietrich was born 113 years ago today.  Her role in Touch of Evil barely qualifies as an extended cameo, but contains more memorable moments than most actors get in an entire movie.  Touch of Evil was writer and director Orson Welles’s last Hollywood picture.  It is also one of the few films he directed that exists in a version approximating his intentions, thanks to a memo star Charlton Heston saved in which Welles laid out the elements he wanted restored after major studio cuts.  Touch of Evil is one of Welles’ best films, and one of the best Film Noir films.

Where to Get It: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu; Netflix (Rental), Libraries

4 comments on “December 27th, 2014: Touch of Evil

  1. geelw says:

    While the casting of Heston as a Mexican was just ridiculous, this one’s a true classic. That opening sequence is still amazing after all these decades.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      Honestly, as bad as it was, the worst thing about that casting is the decision to throw the make-up on him. There were enough European immigrants to Mexico in the 19th and early 20th century that, while it might not be likely, Heston as himself would at least be less weird as Heston with that wear brown face. Anyhow, agree 100%.

  2. geelw says:

    Yeah, that’s true. It’s the only thing anyone I recommended the film to has complained about and it’s usually while they’re laughing or notes that brown makeup made them laugh and/or cringe each time he’s on screen. Of course, Marlene Deitrich also had to wear that cocoa powder complexion concoction, but her part is so short (but more memorable to some viewers) that her look can be forgiven. A little bit, heh…

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      I guess Deitrich’s performance is why I forget the brown face but it’s right there. I think the brevity of it-and the weird resonance it has-is why I forget.

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