Touch of Evil

Border-crossing, corruption, betrayal: fitting themes for Welles's simultaneous return and farewell to Hollywood. Welles famously objected to Universal's edit of Touch of Evil; we present the version reedited by Walter Murch in 1998 based on his instructions, heightening the syncopation of sound and image in what was already a pinnacle of pulp synesthesia. Russell Metty's kinetic camera roves through a border zone of drifting trash and aural debris (actually Venice, California), where Mexican narc Charlton Heston and new bride Janet Leigh struggle to defend principle and virtue against assault by assorted grotesques—oily gangsters, menacing delinquents, shady cops, and, outweighing them all, Hank Quinlan (Welles), a detective who never framed anyone who wasn't guilty. In the end, François Truffaut said, “the stool pigeon and mediocrity triumph over intuition and justice,” but while the characters are left to wallow in the murk of moral ambiguity, the real triumph is for Welles's style.
—Juliet Clark

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