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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welles captures the realism and surrealism of a nightmare, 15 April 2014
This review is from: Touch of Evil (1958) (Masters of Cinema) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I write to respond to the negative reviews because I understand fully why some viewers, particularly Welles fans, might not just dislike Touch of Evil (TOE) but be infuriated as well. I have found myself disagreeing with the high praise accorded to some purported masterpieces such as Bringing Up Baby, Night of the Hunter, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, to name a few.

One level, much of TOE does seem sloppy, juvenile, inelegantly exaggerated and overblown -- both plot and acting. Some may still be attributed to the studio's handling of Welles' work; but, even the restored film can grate. Yes, even Heston, one of the more intelligent actors of his day, laughed at the idea of his casting as a Mexican police detective. He acquitted himself well, however, and mercifully did not attempt a Mexican accent.

Janet Leigh's character is embarrassingly foolish; but she brings out the smarmy smugness of many Americans' attitude towards Mexicans. The Amazon commentators did not mention the character played by Dennis Weaver that can only be called uncomfortably weird.

Yet, I find TOE completely fascinating and compelling, not like watching a train wreck, but because I think it is cinematic art true to Welles' world viewpoint. TOE at one level is a crime drama played out in the tension and contradictions of a border town: America vs. Mexico, intuitive policing vs. true detection, love vs. family corruption, justice vs. eliminating crime and other similar topics.

My take on TOE is that Welles presented not simply a crime story but, rather a crime story as a nightmare. Thus, much of the plot plays out with believable characters, credible events and plausible dialog. But, within the tense drama of murder and drugs are odd, alarming almost surreal moments, just like a bad dream. Perhaps viewed in that light, the moments exaggerated acting, odd plot twists, occasional anticlimax and odd motivations make sense. Each character is experiencing a nightmare -- a wedding night shattered by death and violence, careers that may fall due to corruption and prejudice, disappointments, fears, loss and such.

So, what others see as flaws, I see as technique. Maybe everyone is right, art is, after all, personal.
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