Orson Welles' Touch of Evil
16 January 2012
Touch of Evil opens with a bit of cinematic history. The three minute and twenty second long tracking shot has been described as one of the greatest long takes. As well as being technically brilliant for it's time, it's almost painfully tense. We see a time bomb being placed in the car at the start and every time it comes into the scene, in and out of the shadows, the audience is left wondering just when it is going to go off.
It was made in 1958, making Touch of Evil one of the last films of the Film Noir genre and is set on the border between the US and Mexico. The ticking time bomb has exploded and the repercussions of this on American soil could be huge. Detectives including Police Captain Hank Quinlan (played by Orson Welles himself) are quick on the scene but the investigation is not going to be simple. A manhunt commences and fingers are pointed but the detectives are accused of the most damming of corruption: murdering witnesses.
Touch of Evil marked Welles' return to mainstream cinema after a decade spent in Europe and he had a lot to prove to American audiences, as it had been 17 years since the epic Citizen Kane. Universal Studios actually hated his final version of the film and recut it, involving another director. Welles wrote a 58-page memo outlining his original intentions but the release of the film based on these details was not released until 1998, 14 years after his death. Even then, as the original film had been lost it was not a true director's cut. Touch of Evil was received well in Europe but ended up being released as a B-Movie in the states.