Title: Touch of Evil
Rating: 3 Stars
I decided to watch A Touch of Evil after seeing it on a list of best Orson Welles movies. I chose it because it’s an example of film noir, which I like.
I guess that I’m a guy from the modern age. I’m not sure why, but I seldom get blown away by movies from the 50’s or earlier. Perhaps the cinematography is different. Perhaps the acting is more stilted. I’m not sure why. I enjoyed watching it, but I certainly wouldn’t put it on one of my top 10 lists or anything like that.
My main issue with it is definitely a result of the age I live in. I realize even now that casting a white actor in a non-white role still happens. Emma Stone in Aloha is probably the most recent example. More controversially, who’s brilliant idea was it to put Olivier in freakin’ blackface for Othello?
So, in this movie, Charlton Heston plays a Mexican. He doesn’t even attempt an accent. As far as I can tell, the extent of his attempt to ‘be’ Mexican was dark hair and a moustache. It was pretty absurd.
Also, I know that Heston is a man’s man, but did he really have to spend the last third of the movie with his broad, hairy chest exposed?
Marlene Dietrich plays a bordello owner. Her name is Tanya. Is Tanya supposed to be Mexican? It’s not clear. It was clear that she’d been there a long time, so maybe? Marlene did speak with an accent; of course the accent was German.
The most amazing casting was Dennis Weaver as the insane nutbag motel front desk clerk. My experience with Dennis Weaver is as the rugged 70’s detective McCloud. His character here makes Norman Bates look like a Holiday Inn employee of the year. It was a weird moment of humor in the movie.
Apparently, all young Mexican criminals during that time dressed like the Sharks from West Side Story. They’re all in leather jackets, white t-shirts, greased back hair, and listening to that happening rock and roll.
Orson Welles has a starring role here as the detective who’s not above planting evidence to procure a conviction (perhaps he has a later career working for the Manitowoc county in Wisconsin?). He’s definitely in that part of his life where physical fitness is not a priority for him. His detective is a rude, fat, slovenly man who has crooked written all over him.
Anyway, I found it an entertaining movie but it’s not even one of my best film noir movies. I’m guessing that the campy acting made it hard to pull me into the darkness of the story.