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Touch of Evil

USA 1958. Dir: Orson Welles. 110 min. DCP

A “Goya-like vision of an infected universe” (Peter Bogdanovich), Orson Welles’s spectacularly seedy 1958 noir (screening here in its 1998 reconstruction) is one of the great director’s major masterpieces. Adapted from a pulp novel by the pseudonymous Whit Masterson, Touch of Evil is set in a town along the California-Mexico border, where a murder investigation brings Mexican narcotics agent Vargas (Charlton Heston), honeymooning with his American wife Susan (Janet Leigh), into conflict with corner-cutting Hank Quinlan (Welles), the local American lawman. Employing his characteristic baroque compositions, director Welles weaves a tour-de-force tapestry of the grotesque out of flea-bag motels, pot-smoking delinquents, butch bikers, and sweaty backwater hoodlums. Marlene Dietrich appears as the madam of a Mexican bordello. The swooning, three-minute, single-take opening sequence “may be the greatest single shot ever put on film” (James Monaco, The Movie Guide).


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REVIEWS

"Raises the usual brooding nightmare ambiance of film noir to a level few other pictures have attempted."

LA Times | full review

"A masterclass in tension, visual panache, and B-movie excess ... A rich, haunting film.

Time Out | full review