Touch of Evil

Released 1958




out of 10
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Movie Summary

Orson Welles
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Touch of Evil is a 1958 film noir thriller written and directed by Orson Welles. Miguel "Mike" Vargas (Charlton Heston), a top narcotics investigator in Mexico, has just married the beautiful Susan (Janet Leigh). On their honeymoon, Susie and Mike witness a brutal event - a car explodes as it crosses the border between Mexico and the United States, with everyone inside killed. Mike decides to become part of the investigation, working with local American police captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). In Hank's eyes, the case is a simple one and he quickly arrests Manolo Sanchez (Victor Millan). But Mike begins to suspect that Hank is trying to frame Manolo, and is soon involved in a complicated web of deceit and danger, with Susie the main suspect in a brutal murder, and Quinlan seemingly able to manipulate everyone to his own ends.


Metacritic Score

  • 100

    Philadelphia Inquirer Steven Rea

    What Touch of Evil is really about, though, is filmmaking: evoking a mood of sweaty despair, of sour, sinister doom, using the vocabulary of a crime picture and a group of remarkab...

  • 100


    Welles manages to wring engaging performances out of all of his actors, but what's most impressive about the film is the way in which the director makes use of every corner of the ...

  • 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The film has always been a favorite of those who enjoy visual and dramatic flamboyance.

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • The brief cameo performances of Joseph Cotten and Mercedes McCambridge are uncredited; Cotten is partially dubbed by Orson Welles.

    • Orson Welles was originally hired simply as an actor for this film, at a time when no director had been set. Charlton Heston was reluctant to take on the role of the hero until he discovered that Welles had been signed as an actor; then he suggested Welles also be employed as the director. As a result, Welles got the job as director, although he had no extra salary for this function.

  • QUOTES (7)

  • NOTES (3)

    • The legendary opening shot of the film lasts for almost four minutes, with the camera constantly in motion as it traverses almost the entire length of a small town's main street, whilst dozens of people move about. The shot was made in a single night, although it took eight takes to get it right. Universal insisted initially on superimposing the opening credits over this shot, which Orson Welles felt greatly diminished its effectiveness. The restoration of the film removes these titles and puts them at the end of the film, as Welles intended.

    • Orson Welles wrote a 58-page memorandum to Universal Studios describing in detail certain changes he wanted made to their version of the film, to bring it more into line with his own vision. All his suggestions were ignored. However, when the memo was unearthed after Welles's death, a restoration of the film was undertaken, using the missing footage which had been found and added to the film in the mid-70s, but also making alterations to the soundtrack and removing the opening credits, which Welles had wanted delayed until the end of the film. However, the additional footage directed by Harry Keller is still in the movie. In all other respects, it is now as Orson Welles originally wanted it.

    • The film was made on location at Venice, California, and at Universal Studios; Orson Welles's version of the film lasted about 105 minutes, but was cut to 93 minutes by the studio against his wishes. The film, in this form, also contained some brief footage shot by another director, Harry Keller. The missing footage was found and restored in the mid-1970s, but Keller's work remained in the film.


More Info About This Movie


Murder & Mayhem, Blackmail, Thrillers, Crime, Classics