Touch of Evil 3.0 stars

Touch of Evil movie poster

Orson Welles at his most orotund as director, but not quite most rotund as actor. Rotund enough, though. ("You're a mess, honey," he is told by a wise Mexican whore. "You ought to lay off those candy bars." And later, after he has sent an underling to fetch coffee, he mutters with sincere disappointment, "Didn't you bring me any donuts or sweet rolls?") As for orotund: the effect is made by wide-angle photography, sharply receding perspectives, and a tendency to keep the actors on the run, herding them directly toward or away from the camera. Because of all that, the movie appears to be taking place in some sort of wind tunnel, with the dialogue having to fight upwind to reach the audience and only doing so on a several-second delay. The grotesque characters are a lot of fun, most of all Dennis Weaver's skittish, woodpeckerish motel manager, but the dime-novel truths about police corruption, Mexican bordertowns, the drug trade, etc., are trivialized (if possible) by the comic-book sensibility. With Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, Akim Tamiroff, and Mercedes McCambridge. 1958.

Duncan Shepherd

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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