A car bomb kills a wealthy American in a US border town. Mexican narcotics cop Miguel Vargas and his wife, Susan, witness the crime. Vargas gets involved in the investigation, headed by corrupt US police captain Hank Quinlan. Vargas discovers Quinlan planting evidence against a young suspect and an argument ensues. Meanwhile, one of Vargas’ Mexican drug cases comes back to haunt him, when the dealer’s thugs harass Vargas’ wife, Susan, before drugging and kidnapping her. When she wakes up, she finds a corpse lying next to her; a body that goes on Quinlan’s account. Extolled by Paul Schrader as the “epitaph for film noir”, Touch of Evil takes the thriller genre into a cinematic experience of the beyond. The “Weimar Touch” is on full stylistic display with high-contrast, tilted, often “expressionist” camerawork, and of course a living, breathing Marlene Dietrich. In her role as cathouse madam Tanya – the owner, like the Blue Angel, of a player piano – Welles lights and shoots Dietrich as befits a movie icon. As the director told Peter Bogdanovich in 1961, “Marlene was extraordinary in that, she really was the Super-Marlene. Everything she has ever been was in that little house for about four minutes there”.
by Orson Welles
with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich