Touch of Evil
Genre: Crime, Suspense, Noir
Year Released: 1958, 2023 Eureka Entertainment 4K UHD
Runtime: 1h 51m
Director(s): Orson Welles
Writer(s): Orson Welles, Whit Masterson, Franklin Coen
Cast: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh
Where to Watch: available on 4K UHD from Eureka Entertainment on September 25, 2023; pre-order here www.eurekavideo.co.uk
RAVING REVIEW: If you’re looking for a classic Noir film filled with mysterious murder plots, crooked cops, and a thick plot, then TOUCH OF EVIL will likely be right up your alley. Stepping back into the 1950s in a grimy and happening U.S./Mexico border town, this dark tale follows Mike Vargas, a Mexican cop who has just had his honeymoon derailed when the car of a wealthy businessman explodes right in front of him. During his investigation, Vargas takes the audience on a ride-along as the intense story unravels.
Freshly married and ready to embark on their honeymoon, Mike Vargas, who is played by Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments), and his new bride Susan Vargas, who is played by Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate) find themselves wrapped up in a murder plot when crossing the U.S./Mexico border. The film opens with a gorgeous one-take long shot that follows a car as it crosses the border. It was entrancing how the camera followed the car as it moved through intersections. Raising high for a bird’s eye view, then moving in close. This shot was a signifier of the beautiful camera work and cinematography that were to be in store throughout this film. The lighting and shadow work were also impressively foreboding, and I felt like they told a story of their own. One that doesn’t follow Vargas as he’s on the trail of who plotted the murder, but one that builds the seedy world in which he operates. It’s dark, brooding, cold, and selfish. It doesn’t have room for weak-minded people. Only the strongest survive here.
Though I found many things to enjoy about this film, the story was honestly a bit of a chore to bear. It was slow and methodical but, to be frank, too slow. For reference, I am speaking of the 1998 reconstructed version of the film in which the film was re-edited with a memo of notes from Welles to show the film according to his vision. This version clocks in at around 111 minutes, adding about 16 extra minutes compared to the original cut of the film. In my opinion, this made the film drag on a bit long. It felt sluggish. The dialog also seemed too exposition-heavy and a bit messy. I wasn’t a fan of the circus show performed when you get a bunch of cops in a room arguing, talking over one another, and screaming at each other just for Welles’ character, Hank, to get the final word in.
It may be no surprise to find that I enjoyed Welles’ character, Hank, as I thought he was portrayed with such fervor and intensity. He’s a cop who’s on top of the world, and we get to experience his downfall. His fall from grace is incredibly tragic, though well deserved, and Welles plays it as such. Janet Leigh as Susan Vargas is also another standout. She’s beautiful, strong-willed, and knows how to stick up for herself. She commands respect without necessarily hiding behind her husband. In this regard, her role here is not entirely distant from her role in Psycho. Other characters, such as Sergeant Menzies and Mirador, the Motel Night Manager, were also intriguing and fun to watch. My biggest issue, however, comes from Charlton Heston. Mike Vargas should be a suave and dangerous man. He’s a Mexican narcotics detective, for crying out loud, but Heston plays him so stiffly that it feels like he didn’t even want to be there.
At the end of the day, TOUCH OF EVIL still deserves a lot of respect, and Eureka has delivered that respect tenfold in this new 4K UHD Limited edition box set.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!
– Limited Edition Box Set – 3000 Copies
– Limited Edition hardcase featuring artwork by Tony Stella
– 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentations of all three versions, presented in Dolby Vision HDR: the Theatrical version (95 mins), the Preview version (109 mins), and the 1998 Reconstruction (110 mins), across 2 UHD Discs.
– A LIMITED EDITION 100-PAGE BOOK featuring writings by Orson Welles, François Truffaut, André Bazin, and Terry Comito; interview excerpts with Welles; a timeline of the film’s history; two new essays by critic Richard Combs; and rare stills and imagery
Special Features included are as follows:
– Four audio commentaries featuring: restoration producer Rick Schmidlin (reconstructed version); actors Charlton Heston & Janet Leigh, with Schmidlin (reconstructed version); critic F. X. Feeney (theatrical version); and Welles scholars James Naremore & Jonathan Rosenbaum (preview version)
– New video interview with critic, broadcaster, and cultural historian Matthew Sweet
– New video interview with critic Tim Robey
– New video interview with author and critic Kim Newman
– Bringing Evil to Life + Evil Lost and Found – two video pieces featuring interviews with cast and crew, as well as critics and admirers
– Original theatrical trailer
– Optional English SDH subtitles
TOUCH OF EVIL feels like a time capsule of the dark side of the 50s. When it hits, it hits hard, and when it misses, it doesn’t miss by a lot. The beautiful cinematography and camera work make it an absolute standout among other noir pictures of the time. The story, while a bit too drawn and sluggish, is still intriguing and thrilling. Overall, this is a good film, but the issues with the story and some of the character work make it not quite live up to the hype.
[photo courtesy of EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT]
MY SAG-AFTRA/WGA STRIKE STATEMENT:
As an advocate for creators, actors, and writers, I firmly stand with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA in their current strike. The entertainment industry is built on these individuals' extraordinary talents, and their contributions must be appropriately recognized and rewarded. They deserve fair compensation, sensible work hours, and respect for their creative rights. I believe in the power of unity and collective action, and I'm steadfast in my support for their fight for better working conditions and fair remuneration. Together, we can shape a more equitable future in the entertainment world.
#SAGAFTRA #WGA #SAGAFTRAStrong #WGAStrong