[[quoteright:275:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/movieposterTouchOfEvil-275W_3406.jpg]]

-> '''Tana''': He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?

''Touch of Evil'' (1958) is one of the last and one of the greatest examples of FilmNoir, written, directed and co-starring Creator/OrsonWelles.

Welles plays Captain [[DirtyCop Hank Quinlan]], a fat, ugly and sad corrupt police officer. The black-and-white film also features Creator/CharltonHeston as [[KnightInSourArmor Mike Vargas]], a Mexican narcotics agent on his honeymoon, Janet Leigh as his bride, and Marlene Dietrich as Tanya, a cigar-smoking Mexican gypsy brothel owner with huge beautiful eyes.

The film begins with an exploding car killing a powerful businessman, witnessed by Vargas and his new wife Susie on the Mexican border. Claiming joint jurisdiction (as the bomb may have been placed in Mexico), he works his way into the investigation headed by Quinlan. Quinlan quickly sets his beady eyes on a lowly Mexican employee that had a grudge with that businessman (the employee wanted to marry the businessman's white daughter). When Vargas notices that some of the evidence found by Quinlan's loyal partner Menzies was clearly planted (but can't prove it), Vargas starts questioning Quinlan's case history. But while this is all happening, Susie Vargas is left all alone at a creepy hotel where some gang members that Vargas is after is holed up as well and Quinlan starts making a few calls to the gang's boss about what to do with that lonely newlywed.

The film is an unlikely collaboration between producer Albert Zugsmith (former media lawyer and producer of B-movies and Rock Hudson melodramas) and Orson Welles. There are two versions on how the film got made. In version one, Creator/CharltonHeston was cast in the film but on learning that Welles was also cast, he insisted that he direct the film. The other story is that Orson Welles had appeared for one of Zugsmith's films and asked Welles to choose one of the properties he had. Welles chose the less promising one (the pulp novel ''Badge of Evil''), reasoning that the weak material would allow him more creative freedom, less risk and that a success would make it easier to make his long-term projects. It didn't work out as planned though. The film suffered from ExecutiveMeddling, was re-edited and some of the scenes were shot by other directors. It was then dumped poorly and failed at the box-office. It would be Welles' final Hollywood film. There are three versions of the film. The original theatrical cut, an earlier preview version with more Welles footage discovered in the vaults from 1976. In 1998, producer Rick Schmidlin, worked with Walter Murch and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum to create a Reconstruction based on a memo written by Welles. Recent DVD-BR releases features all three versions but since the 90s, the Reconstruction is regarded as the film closest to Welles' vision.

----
!!This film provides examples of:
* TheAlcoholic: Quinlan doesn't drink often, but when he does he gets absolutely ''plastered''.
* AuthorAppeal: Welles had been a huge fan of Dennis Weaver's work on ''Series/{{Gunsmoke}}'' for years, and wrote his part specifically so he could have the chance to direct him in a movie. Similarly, Marlene Dietrich's role was [[ThrowItIn added during filming]] because she and Welles were best friends and she wanted a part in the movie.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: Charlton Heston's attempts to speak Spanish are pretty laughable. When the sentence is short, he'll give it the old college try, but his gringo accent betrays him (e.g. "¿Puedo usar el teléfono?" in Sanchez's apartment). Most of the time, though, he'll just mumble something deliberately inaudible and end it with an appropriate Spanish word. (e.g. "Murmurbliggleblamurmur derechos aquí" in the same scene, presumably explaining to the suspect that he has no jurisdiction.)
* CaliforniaDoubling: Sorta. While it depicts life on the California/Mexico border, most scenes were filmed in Venice, California about 140 miles away.
* TheCameo: Welles's old friend and former co-star Creator/JosephCotten makes a brief appearance at the bombing crime scene as the coroner ("Now you could strain him through a sieve."), as well as later on after Susie [[spoiler: gets arrested]].
* CloudCuckooLander: The Mirador Motel Night Manager.
* CreepyCrossdresser: [=McCambridge=] appears as an androgynous-looking gang member abducting Susie Vargas. Her big line? "I like to watch."
* {{Deconstruction}}: Welles' film was a parody of several BMovie and FilmNoir conventions, taking the genre inside out:
** The plot of the film which starts with a bombing that brings several key players together but eventually becomes the subplot to the larger background laid bear the strategies and subtext of noir movies. In a traditional noir, police investigation into crime often had a subtext laid on that the cops were not as guilded as the plot seemed, in Welles' film, the actual unconnected crime becomes an ExcusePlot by law-enforcement organizations on both sides of the law to exercise their political and personal wills and prejudices, which has absolutely nothing to do with the original crime.
** Detective Hank Quinlan is also a dark look at police work, showing how a life of crime-fighting has disillusioned and embittered him to the point that he has become worse than the criminals he has hunted down, and absolutely dismissive and snide to the idealistic Vargas. Vargas himself is not happy about some of the measures he has to take to bring down Quinlan, nor the fact that his dedication to his work keeps him away from his wife. As Vargas himself notes, honest policework is never intended to be a easy or safe job.
** Many of the characters are themselves parodies of older films. Suzy Vargas mocks Grandi for being a Film/LittleCaesar, and he and his outfits are essentially gangster movie cliches. Suzy's ordeal in the film, where she goes from idealistic newly bird wife to almost being StuffedIntoTheFridge to give the hero trauma, and eventually framed [[spoiler:as a floozy and murder suspect]], is a commentary on the female lead/love interest/femme fatale archetype actresses often played in these movies.
* DiesWideOpen: Grandi when he is strangled.
* DirtyCop: Quinlan has been framing suspects for years.
* DodgyToupee: Grandi have a tendency to loose his "rug" and then taking several attempts at making it sit right again.
* EpicTrackingShot: The opening consists of one long tracking shot, which is considered by film aficionados to be one of the best ever.
* {{Fanservice}}: Janet Leigh laying on her bed (both when talking to Vargas over the phone and later, when sleeping). In a figure-hugging teddy, sans skirt. [[ShesGotLegs With her long and beautiful legs featured prominently.]]
* FilmNoir: Considered one of the last great ones from that era. Indeed, critics noted that it was such a GenreBusting film and that so many censorship taboos were broken that it [[GenreKiller ended]] the classic FilmNoir era. In terms of film production, its pioneering use of the lightweight Eclair camera paved the way for independent and arthouse films across the world.
* FramingTheGuiltyParty: "How many did you frame?" "Nobody that wasn't guilty!" And in fact it turns out that the bombing suspect actually was guilty, or at least he confessed that he was guilty.
** Subverted with Quinlan's effort to get the Mexican drug gang to kidnap an innocent Susie Vargas, then kill the gang leader and frame the drugged Susie for that murder.
* GambitPileup: Between Vargas and Border police, Quinlan on the other side, Mexican gangsters and their greasers, and the original bombing criminals.
* GoryDiscretionShot: We hear a few remarks on what was left of Mr. Linnekar and his girlfriend, but we never get to see their scattered remains.
* GreyAndGrayMorality: Quinlan only frames criminals he thinks are guilty, and Vargas is only able to stop him when Menzies -- whom Quinlan had previously ''taken a bullet'' for, causing his limp -- agrees to betray him. Vargas for his part sees the grayness of policework:
--> '''Vargas''': ''"A policeman's job is only easy in a PoliceState."''
* GutFeeling: "I wonder, what makes you so very sure it was dynamite?" "My leg."
* HalfwayPlotSwitch: More like three-quarters. But while it starts out as if the film is about Vargas being a crusading lawman, the finale
* HitlerCam: Orson Welles was fond of this trope, going all the way back to ''Film/CitizenKane''. Here he uses it for the scene where Quinlan, Vargas, and others are gathered around the body of the murder victim. Notably he does not use it when showing Menzies, Quinlan's faithful sidekick.
* ICantBelieveItsNotHeroin: There is ''actual'' heroin as well, but...
-->'''Gang Leader''': We've scattered more reefer stubs around.
-->'''Grandi''': You kids didn't use none of that stuff yourself, anh?
-->'''Ginnie''': Think we're crazy?
-->'''Grandi''': Nobody in the Grandi family gets hooked, understand? That's the rule.
* IncrediblyObviousBomb: So obvious that the lady passenger in the car complains about a ticking noise. Since the bomb was planted with a short timer and was inteded to blow up immediately, subtlety was not really necessary.
* IOweYouMyLife: Menzies, to Quinlan.
* IronicEcho: "Pete... that's the second bullet I stopped for you..."
* KnightInSourArmor: A long time ago, Quinlan was unable to prove the guy who killed his wife committed the crime. It drives him to start framing guys he's convinced by the pain in "my leg" are guilty.
* KnightTemplar: Quinlan firmly believes he's the law and can't do wrong, so when he frames criminals who he can't convict with available evidence, he's not doing anything wrong by planting evidence. When Vargas starts investigating his activities, Quinlan believes he is perfectly justified to abduct, terrorize and frame his wife to smear his reputation, because [[TautologicalTemplar obviously he knows best]].
* MadeOfPlasticine: "An hour ago Rudy Linnekar had this town in his pocket." "Now you could strain him through a sieve."
* MalignantPlotTumor: The original bombing investigation is almost completely forgotten by the end of the film in favor of Vargas' attempts to bring down Quinlan. The ending shoehorns in a line that the guy Quinlan framed really was guilty after all. This is justified since the movie is about the toxic relationships between various law-enforcement organizations.
* NeverBareheaded: Quinlan's hat never comes off, not even as he strangles [[spoiler: Grandi]] to death or as he [[spoiler: falls dead into the murky waters of the stagnant river.]]
** Subverted with 'Uncle' Joe Grandi, who seems to lose his rug pretty often.
* NotEvenBotheringWithTheAccent:
** One of the most infamous examples, Welles assured Heston he didn't have to do a Hispanic accent for his FakeNationality role as the Mexican Narcotics officer Vargas, cobbling together unofficial backstory saying that Vargas lost his accent due to his travels outside of Mexico and working with Caucasians.
** There's even a scene in ''Film/EdWood'' poking fun at this, where Welles is shown complaining about the sheer absurdity of the studio wanting Charlton Heston to play a Mexican character. This is highly inaccurate, since Welles had no problem with foreigners playing different roles and Heston was integral to the film getting made in the first place. Though, years later, Heston said he felt that not doing an accent for the role of the Mexican narcotics officer was a huge mistake, one of the biggest of his career.
** It must be noted that there are no Mexicans in the cast. Grandi is played by an Armenian actor Akim Tamiroff and the Gypsy Fortune teller played by Creator/MarleneDietrich who doesn't even hide her famous German accent. The film is set in a border area between America and Mexico and actually shot around Venice Beach, Los Angeles with very distinct, identifiable architecture. It's not a realistic film by any means. In any case, the idea of actors affecting accents for their part wasn't all that common among Golden Age actors like Charlton Heston or Welles, who weren't into the later dominant style of MethodActing.
* TheOner: The opening sequence features one of the most famous continuous camera shots. Also, at the shoe clerk's apartment, there is a ''long'' continuous shot where the camera moves from room to room following Heston.
* ReCut: A "Reconstruction" of ''Touch of Evil'' based on a contemporary Welles memo of how he wanted to salvage the film after seeing the first Preview and the release cut. The main intent for Welles was to preserve the plot structure of several parallel stories intercut together. The producers recut it to make it more "accessible" but ended up, as per researchers, being more confusing than Welles' version.
* RedRightHand: Inverted in a way. Quinlan has a limp and says he can tell when someone is guilty because his leg begins to hurt. However, the reason he has a limp is because he took a bullet for his partner.
* SweaterGirl: Janet Leigh manages to provide {{Fanservice}} while portraying a respectable woman by wearing some very, very tight sweaters.
* VillainousBreakdown: Hank's descent after his last meeting with Grandi.
* VillainWithGoodPublicity: Hank Quinlan became a very well-respected policeman through careful evidence tampering. In the end, it even turns out that the man Quinlan was trying to frame in the film ''was'' guilty, giving him the epitaph, "He was a great detective, but a lousy cop."
* YourDaysAreNumbered: When Quinlan visits his friend Tana the fortune teller. He asks her to see his future. Tana warns him "You haven't got any... Your future is all used up."
----