Insolent Enigma/Arrogant Auteur: Marlene Dietrich & Josef von Sternberg

Touch of Evil

Orson Welles

The summit of classic film noir, Orson Welles' marimba-propelled tale of mendacity stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican narcotics agent who, honeymooning in a border town with his new bride (Janet Leigh), is caught in a labyrinth of corruption, drug peddling, and murder, all of it engineered by beastly, bloated police detective Hank Quinlan (Welles). A big, tawdry pleasure machine, Touch of Evil is enlivened not only by its lurid high style, but also by a game-show cast of international has-beens, wannabes, and yet-to-bes, including Zsa Zsa Gabor, Akim Tamiroff, Dennis Weaver, an uncredited and androgynous Mercedes McCambridge (who whines "I wanna watch!" as a gang of hopped-up leather boys circle round Leigh in an isolated motel room), and Marlene Dietrich, giving what she considered the best performance of her career as a fortune-telling cantina queen who informs Welles' chocolate-chewing trainwreck that "Your future is all used up." Re-edited according to Welles' original intentions, this restored version brings new clarity and even more virtuoso fireworks to the director's south-of-the-border, high-'50s fandango of bras, bongos, and barbiturates.


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