Touch of Evil (1958)

  • TCM tells us in its intro that Orson Welles, having seen the studio’s edit of the film, sent them a 58-page memo of things to correct. The studio ignored it, but – many years later – someone got hold of that memo & followed Welles’s editorial suggestions to create the version of the film I/we are currently watching. Very interesting. I wonder – if this cut merited 58 pages – how many could he have written (and I’m sure did, at some point) about THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)?
  • That opening sequence is beautiful. I’m so glad it doesn’t have credits over it.
  • Also, the work of Mancini is recognizable from the get-go.
  • When you are presented with a plan that requires you to accept it by uttering the phrase “Lead on, Pancho” – you know you are in for it.
  • Susie (Janet Leigh) is an unexpectedly feisty one! She just yelled at an unidentified creeper across the apartment-alley darkness. Maybe the creeper had a gun and a flashlight…? Susie’s like, “Fuck that! I’m gonna throw things at him!”
  • Janet Leigh, you better have a lock on that motel door – you don’t have a very good track record when it comes to motels run by weirdos.
  • Orson Welles is really hard to understand in this. I think he might be overdoing it a little.
  • The other thing that’s making this movie really hard to follow is how dark, visually, it is. In the majority of these scenes, there are patches of light – which I know must be intentional – it just makes it physically difficult to watch. (This concept reminds me of MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971) – I remember having to move my chair really close to the TV so I would be able to see what was going on in that one. This is kind of like that.)
  • Yeah, so…if I was Vargas (Charlton Heston), there’s no way in hell I’d leave my wife in an abandoned motel near the Mexican border with no way for her to reach me or anyone around to offer her any sort of protection. How stupid can you get?!
  • Oh, SNAP! The dynamite was in the box, BUT IT WASN’T!!!
  • Quinlan (Welles) + Uncle Grandi (Akim Tamiroff)? I don’t like where this is heading.
  • Music playing 24/7 in your motel room that you can’t control? What the hell kind of motel is this? Whoever heard of such a thing?
  • Oh, Jesus. “Vargas & his wife are drug addicts,” says Orson. Groan, says me.
  • K – sorry Orson, but at an hour and 15 minutes in, I am kinda done with this movie. The scene in the file room between Vargas and Evidence Faking Cop #2 (Mort Mills) did the trick – specifically the line “Vargas, I – I don’t even know where he is. That’s what you’ve done to him.” Get a grip, Quinlan’s partner. You’re a dope.
  • Vargas left his gun in his briefcase in the motel room? Someone recently tried to throw acid on this guy, and he’s gonna waltz around without his gun? He’s a goddamn cop! Aren’t they required to carry their guns, or something? Geez. This is getting stupider.
  • The blinking lights in the hotel scene with Orson and Uncle Grandi (with Janet Leigh passed out on the bed) reminds me of that scene with the blinking lights in VERTIGO (also made in 1958). Interesting…having that that lighting effect, as well as the ‘Janet Leigh in trouble in a motel run by a mentally unstable weirdo’ appear in the same movie.
  • Oh. Shit. Schwartz (Mills’s character’s actual name) just gave Vargas Quinlan’s cane. (I know there’s a joke to be made here about Kane’s cane – but I don’t feel like putting the effort in.)
  • Vargas’s recorder/speaker under the bridge, following Schwartz & Quinlan seems really ill-conceived. Like…there’s no way this can turn out well.
  • Wouldn’t it be funny if Quinlan had fallen on the recorder & broken it? Hahaha. That’d suck.
  • Marlene kicks ass in her tiny part (Tana, Quinlan’s ex-lover). It’s awesome.
  • Also, Orson is a great actor. I know I said earlier that his performance here is a bit overdone, but…in the end, I think it works. (And that’s why you never stop watching a movie halfway through!)
  • So. The movie as a whole. Meh. I mean…I get why it’s good, I just didn’t enjoy it all that much.
  • Can’t love ’em all, I guess.

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