Monday, September 24, 2012

Film Review: Touch of Evil

As with many classic films, there is no way this film gets made today.

Charlton Heston in "brownface" (is there such a thing?) as a Mexican anti-drug officer?  No chance that makes it through the studios today and is only one of a host of items that would be seen as unpalatable to modern audiences (an obviously retarded night caretaker at a hotel??).

The film is a near brilliant film-noir concerning a Mexican based bombing on American soil.  The international politics, racial stereotypes, suspicions and back and forth are as well done as any modern film and likely better.  Internal Mexican strife over the drug trade is front and center here as is the oil money derived from the American side of the border.  The issues portrayed here are just as poignant today as they were in 1958 when the film was made.

The opening shot of the film, over two minutes without a cut tracing the lead characters from one side of the border to the other, introducing both them and carrying the suspense of a bomb placed in the trunk of a car is one of the most well known in all of film and has been aped over and over again.  Its influence in cinema is near par with that of Eisenstein's baby carriage.  For that reason alone you should see the film.

Orson Welles is genius as usual, fattening up to near explosive levels to play the role of dirty cop Hank Quinlan.  The closeups of his stubbly face are incredible in portraying his porcine features.

Janet Leigh is wonderful as Susan Vargas the independent minded wife of Heston's Ramon Vargas.

While the conclusion of the film is not quite as biting as one may like, it is still solid and forceful enough to stick in your memory as a classic work of one of cinema's auteur's.

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