5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Work of Art,
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This review is from: Touch Of Evil [DVD] (DVD)
Touch of Evil is a perfect demonstration of how even a modest small scale genre such as film noir can become a work of art in the hands of a genius, especially when that same genius is leading actor, script writer and director. Orson Welles takes what might have been a run of the mill tale about a dodgy murder investigation conducted by a ruthless, bigoted cop and turns it into an illuminating study in human nature. I first saw this film around 1970 on BBC-2's much-missed Midnight Movie slot and even in its studio release form it stood out as a gem. Now that we can see the film Orson Welles actually intended it to be it's even better, although personally I do rather miss that deliciously sleazy Henry Mancini score blaring over the opening credits.
This film is full of unforgettable moments like the first glimpse we get of Police Captain Quinlan. With the camera looking up from the gutter, a car door opens and Welles' huge bloated form completely fills the screen. This a man who isn't going to let anything get in his way. Metaphors too, the border town location fits well with the fact that Hank Quinlan's police methods have routinely crossed the line for so many years he no longer knows, or cares where the boundary between right and wrong is any more. But he's not a corrupt cop in the classic bribe-taking sense, he honestly believes that he's a force against evil. In his head, his ruthless methods, including planting evidence if that's what it takes, are justified by the ends. And it's his self-righteous certainty that makes him so dangerous.
A lesser movie would have portrayed Quinlan gratuitously as simply a monster but Welles' understanding of humanity shows us that the ageing, overweight Hank Quinlan that we see here - a man corrupted in just about every sense of the word - wasn't always like this. No, he started out with all the same dreams any man might have but which somehow got lost along the way. There's a beautiful moment where he goes into the old fashioned brothel run by Marlene Dietrich. Despite the fact that he clearly spent a lot of time there many years ago, Marlene doesn't even recognise him until he speaks to her. "Honey you're a mess," She tells him. In that one instant we see just how far he's fallen.
But Orson Welles' doesn't play for sympathy and his unrelentingly tough performance never tries to soften this portrait of a ruthless man who must be stopped. Touch of Evil doesn't try to make you sympathise with its central character, but it does give you the chance to understand him. That's why it's a work of art.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jun 2012 00:09:08 BDT
Terrific review, Brian.
Posted on 24 Jun 2012 09:37:53 BDT
Keith M says:
Yep, absolutely spot on.
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