Here we are. The fourth Orson Welles film from the 1001 film list that I have seen. Prior to this I have seen Citizen Kane, F for Fake and The Magnificent Ambersons. Based on my previous experience to Orson Welles films I don’t think it is too much of a surprise to say that this was, by far, the best Orson Welles film that I have seen (and am likely to see).
Knowing my own taste I think I can make a wild stab in the dark as to why Touch of Evil really worked for me: it’s a noir film. Not just that either, it is one of the final noir films from the classic noir period. This lateness helps with the film since it means that you have a classic noir featuring the most modern filming techniques available at the time.
If you want an example of how the filming/direction just makes this film – just look at the first long take of the film. It runs at about 3 minutes 20 seconds and you only realise that this is one long take at about the time they cut away to a car exploding. You also have some beautifully framed shots in a murder scene about half-way into the film.
As with pretty much all noir films there is a crime being investigated and the lines of enquiry are, to begin with, complicated. Honestly, there were points within the first 15-20 minutes where I needed to really think about the complicated web that the plot was weaving, that and there were a lot of names being used at once. After the 30 minute mark everything clears up though and I could just settle in.
I really don’t want to say too much because, you know, spoilers, but this film is a fantastic look at police corruption, American-Mexican relationships and the almost uncontrollable bloating that Orson Welles was going through. Seriously, having seen him in Citizen Kane this was an extreme in weight-gain that I was not expecting.
One final thing – we have an example of a white-actor (Charlton Heston) in brownface since he is meant to be playing a policeman of ethnic extraction. The only reason it really stuck out to me is because I know Charlton Heston from a lot of other films. Still, it was a strange thing to see. Didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the film, but it was one of those things that just made me go, “oh”.