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YMMV / Touch of Evil

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  • Adaptation Displacement: The film was based on an obscure pulp thriller called Badge of Evil. Orson Welles took great liberties with the plot, including relocating it to the Mexican border, making this film so much his own (and supposedly improving the story greatly in the process) that the original novel is even more obscure today.
  • Award Snub: The film was completely ignored at the Oscars.
  • Common Knowledge: A mistake even movie-buffs make. It is often considered the "greatest of the B-Movie" and even Charlton Heston insisted that while he's proud of his work stated that he saw it as a minor work and not one of his important films. It's important to note that the film was released as a B-Movie by the distributors, and not the producers (at that time the distribution and production arm had broken into two companies and in the case of Touch of Evil they clashed on the editing, post-production and marketing).
    • While the film was produced by Albert Zugsmith, who was known as "King of the Bs", towards the late-fifties and later he started making more ambitious productions, including Douglas Sirk's The Tarnished Angels adapted from a William Faulkner novel and he engaged Orson Welles to raise his profile, proving that he could work with top talent and he expected Touch of Evil to be a thriller made on a low-budget with top-talent so as to get a big audience. The film was eventually released on a double-bill but the A-Picture a forgotten film called The Female Animal was also produced by Zugmsith and had the same cameraman, Russell Metty moreoever.
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    • Touch of Evil is not really representative of the B-Movie aesthetic. Most of the actors (Janet Leigh, Charlton Heston, Marlene Dietrich and Welles himself) were A-Actors. Leigh and Heston had both appeared in major Epic Movie at that point, The Vikings and The Ten Commandments, and Heston in the same year starred in William Wyler's The Big Country. Dennis Weaver was a TV actor who Welles liked, but he was in a minor role. Joi Lansing, a TV and B-movie actress who Welles had directed in a half-hour TV-episode the previous year or so, was cast as the lady passenger in the bombed car. As film historians noted, the marketing of the film was really incompetent for a movie with this talent and argue that the reason the distributors short-changed and sabotaged the film was their squeamishness about the content (the edgy sexuality, violence and focus on police corruption was far beyond the usual in American crime films and even trashy B titles) which they saw as unbecoming of an A-Picture.
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  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The film was a box-office failure in the U.S., but was well received in Europe, especially in France. Internationally this is long considered one of Welles' masterpieces and in the eyes of many critics, Hank Quinlan is Welles' best performance as an actor and the film is considered the ultimate Film Noir.
  • It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars: While Charlton Heston was quite proud of his work, he always called it "just a B-Movie" and insisted that he doesn't think it's a great film solely because of its genre. When Orson Welles heard this, he while praising Heston's conduct as an actor on set, described his attitude as that of a "horse’s ass, because he’s in a film of mine that other people think is important, so why doesn’t he shut up and pretend it’s important". Likewise, Touch of Evil was not intended to be a B-Movie, the decision to release it on the lower-half of a double bill was made by the studios during post-production, and of course Welles indeed never had that snobbism towards B-Movie or low-budget films (being a fan of William Castle films).
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  • Magnificent Bastard: The intense, ruthless police captain Hank Quinlan once lost his beloved wife to violent crime and is dedicated to bringing down criminals whenever he finds them. Quinlan resorts to framing those he believes to be guilty, setting them up to be convicted. When he locks on to a potential bomber, Quinlan runs afoul of the Mexican investigator Vargas who suspects Quinlan of framing others, prompting Quinlan to attempt to ruin him by trying to frame his fiancee for the murder of a criminal named Grandin who Quinlan personally outwits and murders. Even at the end, Quinlan sees through a potential trap and is only stopped with the betrayal of his former best friend Menzies, who Quinlan once took a bullet for. When confronted and asked how many he has framed, Quinlan's only is to declare "nobody who wasn't guilty".
  • Moral Event Horizon: Quinlan reaches his when he arranges for Suzie Vargas to be pumped full of drugs and then framed for the murder of Grandi whom he personally strangled just to discredit her husband.
  • Narm: The Grandi thug who shakes constantly during the scene where he and the other gang members menace Susie in the motel is probably meant to be scary and crazy but many audience members just find him silly.
  • Retroactive Recognition: The Cloud Cuckoo Lander motel clerk was played by Dennis Weaver, who would become familiar on 1970s television and starred in the first feature-length film of Steven Spielberg.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Charlton Heston playing a Mexican. Though it must be noted that this attitude is highly anachronistic. At the time, it was intended as a genre movie and not a serious docudrama about American-Mexican relations and furthermore, the notion of actors affecting accents for their roles was rare and not at all expected by audiences of the 50s (take Viva Zapata! an A-Movie by Elia Kazan with Marlon Brando as the iconic revolutionary sporting no accent at all, and Brando was a method actor at that unlike the cast of Welles' filmsnote ) especially the genre movie audiences for whom the film was targeted. Also, Heston's character was originally supposed to be white, but Welles changed his nationality to Mexican, so Heston wasn't cast to play a Mexican, but the changes to the screenplay required a race change.
  • Vindicated by History: The studio released it as a B-movie and gave it little promotion in the United States, but it became a huge hit in Europe. It's now regarded as "the best B-Movie ever made" or to those of a less snobbish disposition, one of the greatest films ever made and one of Orson Welles' best films.


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