Soumajit Nath’s review published on Letterboxd:
On a dark night, in a fictional Mexican border town, Los Robles, a very tight close up on a clock mechanism holding by a pair of hands, then he moves a nob in that clock like system while camera moves a little with him to the wide broad passage of hallway. Then it focuses on a wall, can be clearly guessed there must would have been put a light source somewhere infront of that wall with an angle as camera follows a shadow running fast on the wall, soon it changes it's gaze just a little and we have seen someone puts that clock like system in to the deck of a car and runs way. Then camera has been lifted upward by crane and has been settled with making a specific angle while having constant focus on that car somewhat equivalent to very last seen of CITIZEN KANE where Thompson concludes that he is unable to solve the mystery and that the meaning of Kane's last word will forever remain a mystery but here this crane arabesque feels much more creative as well as beautiful too. A old man with his recently married wife gets in to the car and starts driving while the camera begins pulling back, up and around seedy buildings, down fly-blown streets, past odd revelers, herd of goats flowing through a customs gate. Car stops at a point where the lady inside the car says to someone "Hey!! I have this ticking sound in my head", and then car starts to run again..but noone as well as patrolling police officer takes her words seriously...now camera goes in behind two newly married couple. When they are just about to kiss each other, we have seen a blast, the car is in the wind and then collides into the ground. The young man who's a famous Drug Enforcement investigation agent of Mexico goes to the accident place where we have seen people are running by panic and curiosity and everything has now captured by shaky handheld camera. It's a long take scene may be best long take used in cinema whole over the history of filmmaking. Moreover this is just not a long take with useless chattering and bluffing between few characters nor it just creates a big excitement node which will sustain it's audiences' attentions for rest of the movie time rather than it's something much more special, regardless of all phenomenal technicalities and visual aesthetics of Welles this scene is brilliant depiction of what we are going to watch in next one and half hour. The musics coming from nearby shops, chattering, visualling the pattern of lifestyle into a long take riveting scene it creates the mood of the movie, defines in which world this movie is going to take place...sly juxtaposition of huge good looking cars of 1950's timeline along locals with hand carts and herd of goats all in same time same frame it manages to capture the same world out of from the seedy disturbed nature of the boarder, here post is more concerned with greeting locals and meaning of security or patrolling the flow of immigrants.. it speaks in a boarder between America and Mexico that's completely vulnerable regardless which side of the boarder character belongs to the same world with long shadows fade away in darkness and duelling radio stations. Now imagine if I have to write all these words and long sentences for just only defining a 3 minutes 20 seconds long first shot then how long this essay or review whatever it would become if I have to discuss the perfection level and superiority factor of each n every scene of this masterclass classic noir written-directed-acted by The ORSON WELLES.
This one may be the last great masterpiece of film noir era in Hollywood as well as this one also confirms that Orson may have never again got a chance and hope to direct in Hollywood. Such a huge dissapointment that such great filmmaker whose first film even creates a hallmark in world's film industry, whose style and visual aesthetic makes each n every scene of his each n every film special and matter of discuss, such brilliant actor whose accent and expressions steal the show everytime, such extraordinary writter who can make a masterpiece thriller by some cheap and pulpy crime novels..this great name Orson Welles have struggled in Hollywood..such a shame, he had been fighting for years with different studios for claiming his rights of filming whatever he wants. Even before filming TOUCH OF EVIL first of all Studio wasn't ready for giving Welles freedom to write and direct another film but having big names like Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and offcourse himself too make them rethink and reconsider their descision once again. Finally film has been made, there's certain reason for one to think that now atlast Welles might has been renowned and well known among everyone and his film might would get tremendous success in Hollywood but no, all these would become true only if studio didn't interfere in Welles' final product. The film which got released in 1958 wasn't the same film which is now available in internet..that version of film differed qualitatively and quantitatively in both sense from Orson's original cut, useless unnecessary changes in the editing, removing vital scenes and adding additional new scenes directed by a complete new director i.e Harry Keller makes thing more than worsen. Even in this studio's cut there was opening credit popping up in the screen with completely different music in background in the very fast masterclass opening shot of TOUCH OF EVIL. It completely fails. It's a dissapointment for Welles. Though latter on a new version got released in 1998 that implemented Welles' notes from his 58 pages long memo to the studio...and that's the one which I have watched fortunately. Orson wrote this memo in 1957 immediate after watching the version of Keller's which had been edited without the permission and presence of himself contained some notable changes including the removal of the credits and Mancini's music from the opening sequence.
In short TOUCH OF EVIL is a story of increasing corruption and racism in a fictional border town. It got everything what a noir thriller needs to have. A brave young policeman named Vargas devoted to his passion and work, his beautiful young wife whom he loves more than anything else, a creepy looking very intelligent sweaty fatass villain who's the head of the Police authority maintains the exact opposite polarity that of the hero..loves to follow his "hunches" and shortcuts to solve down a case rather than confining suspects in the basis of proper evidences, a gangster family lead by Grandi Uncle after imprisonment of their previous leader whose reputation is impeccable in top drug circles of the locality got a tremendous rage against the hero due to previous rough arguments exchange between the family head with the hero policeman with some beatnik gangster youths in the family and their reefer madness jittering and nodding to the beat...willing to terrorise at the drop of a hat....a perfect set up where corruption is everywhere inside the town as well as even inside the system which's predefind to diminishing corruption from the town. Orson has been spotted here as Police Captain Hank Quinlan in his fat suit and made to be chubbier than real life with the edition of a fake nose. He has been looked funny and scary at the time. Again a brilliant performance from him. But undoubtedly it's true what director Peter Bogdanovich once told his friend Orson, “I'd seen the film four or five times before I noticed the story,” certainly it's true even for anyone if there are lots of going on in the background of the story then it's impossible to stick our eyes toward the story to feel and understand the content of the story. Actually TOUCH OF EVIL is simple story but what makes it special that's the way of presenting a story, the deep focus camera movements, gorgeous black n white cinematography with brilliantly placing different lighting set ups and definitely by placing two long take sequences which again create a hall mark in history of inputting long takes in the film..one is just at the beginning that was almost 4 minutes long and another was 12-minutes long take that most folks don’t even think of, thanks to the subtlety with which Welles and his cinematographer Russell Metty constructed it which has been placed in the middle where a very pivotal moment of this film takes place, the whole scene places inside apartment of Sanchez, a Mexican shoe clerk who has been considered as primary suspect of bombing the couple from first scene as he has dated with the daughter of oldman Mr. Linekar since a long time but Mr. Linekar didn't really agree to consider a cheezy poor Mexican shoemaker as his would be son-in-law. Most of the time in the sequence either camera stands still focusing someone or smoothly follows a character moving and finding evidence inside the room. Prime suspect Sanchez tries to establish his innocence to the men of Quinlan (Welles) search the place and eventually turn up some dynamite that was pretty obviously planted. All during this conversation, discovery, and the consequences of both the camera never cuts, which was a decidedly trickier accomplishment than the opening sequence because of environment: the opening is an exterior shot in constant thorough motion; the apartment scene is entirely interior and mostly still. And as just like the first long car tracking scene creates the mood of the film just like that this 12 minutes long take makes us understand about one of the core themes of the whole movie i.e pride and racial prejudice of Cap'n Hank. Here we have seen how Hank desperately forces his prime suspect to confess what he wants as his "hunches" tell him Sanchez is the one who bombed the old Lenikar as he has the motive...it's his pride that leads him even falsely plants the evidences to just make a prime suspect in to a criminal of his case and shuts down the casea as soon as possible. It's the completely different thing that his vision and hunches always guess the right one but falsely planting evidences to just prove his superiority is making him tooo small so that he even doesn't bother even a little to shake his hand with Creep like Grandi uncle to just tighten righteous Vargas who's just about to opens up his scam to everyone of the authority. There's also was a scene under this 12 minutes sequence where Quinlan slaps Sansez for not talking in English. He also disregards Vargas and Sansez both in multiple times just for talking with each other in their mother tongue. That's his racial prejudice against Mexican. A scene with heavy excitement, riveting suspense and heavy word exchanges...a brilliant showcase of how to sustain viewer's attentions by just showing conversations and interrogation between characters..which is best shown in Hitchcock's masterpieces DIAL M FOR MURDER and specially in THE ROPE.
Again in near end scene there's a brilliant sequence where Welles' Quilian sitting, drunk, listening musics inside a brothel...just infront a giant wild animal's head hanging from the wall. We have seen the reflection of his coworker and his atmost faithful friend Menzies in a piece of mirror, he's hiding but wanted to get Hank's attention so that he comes out and talk with him. The lighting set up is literally perfect. Low level camera angle captures Hank's legacy and arrogance beautifully in that part. Then he comes out Soon he meets with Menzies talks with him while walking and passing through an oil factory. But now Menzies has been wire trapped whatever Hank tells to him all have been recorded in the recorder holding by Vargas himself. Vargas followed them with that radio and tape recorder in hands. This scene is again visually compelling , as the captain and deputy follow a garbage-strewn canal. Vargas gets in to the water and even climbs mountains of shits and garbages to stay within radio range of the talking men, when he could simply have hidden the tape recorder on Menzies. And surprisingly atlast he leaves the radio turned up, so Quinlan can hear the echo of his own voice. I cannot find any logic behind his descision but who cares? The situation has become too much tensed And suspenseful that it's felt like any trivial errors or illogical stupidity from any characters really doesn't matter at all on that time for me...I was just dying on that moment for just knowing what will happen next? And that's the nature of the film. It's beautiful, it's somewhat scary, suspenseful as much as like Hitchcock's PSYCHO..wait did I just forget to mention the motel scene..Janet Leigh again in the motel..again gets attacked...again gets almost killed , it's certainly visually stunning and the example of aesthetic filmmaking and again it gives us a moral lesson that "there was, there's and there will be noone like Orson Welles in the world and history of filmmaking".
🔙In The Earth(2021)...
●ORSON WELLES ALL FILMS RANKED: HERE
●OLD IS GOLD: HERE