Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Universal Pictures, May 21, 1958 (US)
Screenplay: Whit Masterson, based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson
Starring: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Marlene Dietrich
Ramon Miguel “Mike” Vargas (Charlton Heston): We’ll have to postpone that soda I’m afraid.
Shadows splash sinister veils over dirty walls covered with torn posters and the many shades of gray living between the ends and the means on the outskirts of a border town. This is a place of sudden U-turns, where strangers carry the routine promise of threats, where suspicious beams of light streak across darkened roads not too many miles away from dank alleys where envelopes exchange hands surreptitiously in the wee hours of the night.
Ramon: Captain, you won’t have any trouble with me.
Police Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles): You bet your sweet life I won’t.
Like fragile wooden ships attempting to navigate a dense fog, old friends pass by one another carefully in the night. Histories are revealed in sentimental glances that hide behind soft lazy plumes of cabaret smoke.
Tanya (Marlene Deitrich): I didn’t recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars.
Hank: (grunt). Ehhhh. It’s either the candy or the hooch. I must say, I wish it was your chili I was getting fat on … anyway, you’re sure lookin’ good.
Tanya: You’re a mess honey.
As rich as our histories are that have led us to this crossroads, equally vacant are our futures. Truth remains laced with a bittersweet consistency.
Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tanya: You haven’t got any.
Quinlan: What do you mean?
Tanya: Your future is all used up.
Life in a border town is a dichotomy where lines are distinctly drawn yet easily blurred. Midnight deals are sealed with a special house blend. The character of a man fades in the hunt for justice.
Quinlan: There was an old lady on Main Street last night, picked up a shoe. A shoe that had a foot in it. We’re gonna make you pay for it.
If you lose yourself along the way, you won’t be the first. You can don a mask so that dirty little secrets can hide, safely tucked away from the scraggy self portraits that were etched with painstaking detail during years of hard living.
Al Schwartz (Mort Mills): Is that all you have to say for him?
Tanya: He was some kind of man … what does it matter what you say about people?
Characters dissolve into the darkness and trespass the shadows of immortality. Another day is done. Nothing more.