Making Movies: Touch Of Evil (1958).

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Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil (1958) is unlike any film I’ve ever seen. It’s highbrow and lowbrow at the same time, as Welles put his masterful cinematic stamp on a most lurid story. To me, it’s a true masterpiece, an incredible stylistic exercise, while a friend called it the skankiest movie they’d ever seen. Maybe we’re both right.

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Here’s Welles with cinematographer Russell Metty and Charlton Heston.

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Valentin De Vargas (back to camera) with Welles on the set. Though most of credits are in TV, De Vargas worked for three of my favorite directors: Welles, Howard Hawks (Hatari!, 1962) and William Friedkin (To Live And Die In L.A., 1985).

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Here’s Welles with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. Note the sling: Leigh broke her arm a week before rehearsals. In the finished film, her arm is obscured by sweaters and other things quite a bit.


This shows us of what Welles looked like during production. It’s easy to imagine him being as big and slovenly as Hank Quinlan. This was just 17 years after Welles the wunderkind made Citizen Kane (1941). Wish I could’ve found a shot of Dennis Weaver between takes.


How cool is this? Color! Welles is directing the opening single-shot bomb-in-the-car sequence. That crane’s about to get a real workout.


Filed under 1958, Albert Zugsmith, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Making Movies, Orson Welles

2 responses to “Making Movies: Touch Of Evil (1958).

  1. One of the things I like about Touch of Evil is the score by Henry Mancini. He was a Universal contract composer who contributed to a lot of soundtracks that usually got credited to music director Joseph Gershenson. Touch of Evil was one of the first, or maybe the first, where he got a credit in the opening titles. It would be only a short time later he’d team up with Blake Edwards to do Peter Gunn for NBC television. Of course that was the beginning of a beautiful professional relationship as well as personal friendship that lasted the rest of their lives. There was a controversy over the music though. The original Welles’ version used Mancini’s music as source music (music that came from radios or bands on stage, record players actually on the scene). The studio recut it and added other music Mancini had written, including a long Afro Cuban tune that plays through the long one-take opening. I like both versions, frankly. Can’t get enough of old Hank.


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