Touch of Evil

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(1958, directed by Orson Welles)

- inducted 2015 –

"I can’t imagine a world in which Orson Welles isn’t remembered for, more than for anything else, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil, but apparently until 1998 it was just another 'for hire' film; in particular, the one that would drive him away from Hollywood and maybe much more maligned as a result. The way in which the film itself was disowned by Welles probably didn’t help either in its popularity and its reputation, as he felt that the version that was shown to the public wasn’t the one that he wanted. It didn’t have the cross-cutting editing style that makes it intensely intriguing to me, and it had added sequences that aided the exposition, but mostly just just over-complicated an already complex film.

"I now live in a cinephile world in which the 1998 version is the only version that people watch today and is considered a masterpiece of noir and one of the highest achievements in Orson Welles’s career, ranked alongside his first two films. And while some out there might say that their favorite Welles picture is one of his post-Hollywood works, to me Welles never made a more quintessentially American film than this one about the border between the United States and Mexico. It is legendary and at the same time a final eulogy for film noir, a sign of the changing times.

"While the film's opening shot is justly celebrated (an elegant and efficient encapsulation of the film's world that brings forward what Bazin called ‘spatial realism’), that's not the key to the film's greatness. Nor, for that matter, is its references to drugs and youth in revolt, though in many ways this might be one of the few films of the era to actually take these two obviously connected issues seriously, not as a way to attract viewers, but as a depiction of the present. Instead, it’s Welles' realist tone that makes this film seem urgent even today, the gritty and down-to-earth mood that Welles imposes even through the beautiful and sometimes flamboyant images that he creates.

"At times the film, at least in this latest edition, becomes a modernist film, one that forgets about its plot, its characters, the acting, and turns into an assembly of pictures, shapes, shades, blacks and whites. And yet it never loses its sense of realism. Obviously inspired by what he had done before, but also the B-Cinema that was thriving at that time, Welles manages to combine the striking (and sometimes shocking) realism with the thrills and visual flair of film noir and even 50’s sci-fi films. At times we seem to glimpse at alleyways and rooms that seem to exist in the future, and those elements don’t make us forget that Welles has made one of the best and most artistically superior genre B-movies ever made."

~ Jaime Grijalba

Principal cast: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joanna Moore, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver, Valentin de Vargas, Mort Mills, Victor Millan, Lalo Rios, Michael Sargent, Phil Harvey, Joi Lansing, Harry Shannon, Marlene Dietrich, Zsa Zsa Gabor, with uncredited appearances by Joseph Cotton, Mercedes McCambridge, and Keenan Wynn
Screenplay by Orson Welles, with additional uncredited contributions by Franklin Coen and Paul Monash
Based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson
Produced by Albert Zugsmith
Director of photography: Russell Metty
Art direction by Robert Clatworthy, Alexander Golitzen
Set decoration by John P. Austin, Russell A. Gausman
Gowns by Bill Thomas
Original music by Henry Mancini
Makeup by Bud Westmore, with additional uncredited makeup by Vincent Romaine, Maurice Seiderman, Monty Westmore
Sound by Leslie I. Carey, Frank Wilkinson
Titles designed by Wayne Fitzgerald
1998 re-edit supervised by Walter Murch
Film editing by Aaron Stell, Virgil W. Vogel, Edward Curtiss (uncredited)
Hair stylist: Merle Reeves (uncredited)
Stunts by David Sharpe (uncredited)

Duration: 95 minutes (original release cut), 111 minutes (1998 alternate cut), 112 minutes (director’s cut)
Languages: English, Spanish
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Produced by Universal International Pictures
Released in USA by Universal Pictures
Premiered in Los Angeles, California, USA on 23 April 1958

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1993
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 13 September 1998
- NYFCC Awards, 1998: Special Award for the Reworked Version (won)