Touch of Evil

Last week, I watched by chance [on Arte] the second half of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. I had never seen this 1958 film before and I was stunned by Welles’ amazing acting, the personification of evil he manages to infuse to his character, the crooked cop Hank Quinlan. While a typical film noir, Touch of Evil has a rather unrealistic plot, Quinlan being too obvious and Vargas (Charlton Heston, also amazing!) too knowledgeable. It feels more like a theatre play than a movie, but it is superb nonetheless, with great (highly improbable) dialogues. (It is quite a treat to hear Heston say that police work should not be easy except in a police State!) All actors are actually fabulous, from Joseph Caleia playing the faithful and naïve collaborator of Quinlan who eventually perceives his evil side, to Janet Leigh as a doomed victim (prefguring the later masterpiece Psycho), and of course to the unforgettable Marlene Dietrich, mostly filmed in a clair obscur than enhanced her singular beauty. As I have missed the first part and the anthological opening scene, I will have to watch it again!

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