Film Noir Club: Touch of Evil
June 10, 2016 6:53 AM - Subscribe

Next up, on Monday, June 13, is Orson Welles's Touch of Evil, widely considered to mark the end of the classic film noir era:
Welles' Mexican border-town B-movie classic Touch of Evil (1958) is generally considered the last film in the classic cycle of film noirs. It starred Charlton Heston as Vargas - a naive Mexican-American narcotics cop, Janet Leigh as his imperiled, honeymooning wife Susan, and Welles' own corrupt and corpulent local cop Hank Quinlan. The film also featured a comeback appearance by cigar-smoking bordello madam Marlene Dietrich, and a breathtaking opening credits sequence filmed in a single-take.
posted by MoonOrb (2 comments total)
It's an uneven movie, to be sure, and watching Heston playing a Mexican-American can be pretty damned off-putting. Still, watching Welles tear-up the scenery as Hank Quinlan is so much fun.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:50 PM on June 10, 2016

There's an interesting motif (or constellation of motifs) all through the movie that I've never quite understood, e.g.:
  • The business with the hidden microphone and receiver at the end, when Vargas is trying to get the confession on tape -- intermittent reception, bursts of noise, the echo that gives him away.
  • The intercom and the blaring rock'n'roll at the motel.
  • The player piano in Marlene Dietrich's place.
There's clearly something going on here with technology and disembodiment/presence (but surely the bomb in the trunk ought to use a radio-controlled remote detonator instead of a timer?). It seems like it should all connect to the movie's overarching pattern of dichotomies -- Mexico/US, Vargas/Quinlan, light/darkness, good/evil -- especially since it's radio technology that allows Vargas the border-crosser to tie everything together in the end. But I'm not sure if all that stuff amounts to a coherent symbol or whatever. Super resonant, though.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 12:43 AM on September 20, 2016

« Older Summer 2016 Anime...   |  Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circl... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments