AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Touch of Evil
Alternate Title: Badge of Evil
Director: Orson Welles (Dir)
Release Date:   Feb 1958
Production Date:   18 Feb--early Apr 1957
Duration (in mins):   95
Duration (in feet):   8,388
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Cast:   Charlton Heston (Ramon Miguel "Mike" Vargas)  
    Janet Leigh (Susan Vargas)  
    Orson Welles (Hank Quinlan)  
    Joseph Calleia (Pete Menzies)  
    Akim Tamiroff ("Uncle" Joe Grandi)  
    Joanna Moore (Marcia Linnekar)  
    Ray Collins (Adair)  
    Dennis Weaver (The night man)  
    Valentin De Vargas (Pancho)  
    Mort Mills (Schwartz)  
    Victor Millan (Manuelo Sanchez)  
    Lalo Rios (Risto)  
    Michael Sargent (Pretty Boy)  
    Phil Harvey (Blaine)  
    Joi Lansing (Blonde)  
    Harry Shannon (Gould)  
    Marlene Dietrich (Tana)  
    Zsa Zsa Gabor (Strip-club owner)  
    Joseph Cotten (Coroner)  
    Rusty Wescoatt (Casey)  
    Mercedes McCambridge (Gang leader)  
    Wayne Taylor (Gang member)  
    Ken Miller (Gang member)  
    Raymond Rodriguez (Gang member)  
    Arlene McQuade (Ginnie)  
    Domenick Delgarde (Lackey)  
    Joe Basulto (Young delinquent)  
    Jennie Dias (Jackie)  
    Yolanda Bojorquez (Bobbie)  
    Eleanor Dorado (Lia)  
    Gus Schilling (Ex-convict at construction site)  
    Keenan Wynn    

Summary: While passing through the seedy border town of Los Robles, newlyweds Mike and Susan Vargas witness a car bomb explosion in which Rudy Linnekar, a local construction magnate, and his female companion are killed. Suspecting that the bomb was planted on the Mexican side of the border and may be the work of the Grandi narcotics ring, Vargas, the Mexican head of the Pan-American Narcotics Commission, offers his assistance to the Los Robles officials investigating the case. The lead detective, the obese and lumbering Capt. Hank Quinlan, rudely rebuffs Vargas' offer and makes subtly racist remarks. However, Quinlan's partner, the loyal Sgt. Pete Menzies, and Adair, a district attorney, apologize for Quinlan's behavior and invite Vargas to observe their investigation because of his status as a highly placed Mexican government official. In the meantime, a group of young Mexican men working for "Uncle" Joe Grandi, a small-time crime boss with a bad toupee, bring Susan, an American, to Grandi's headquarters in a sleazy hotel. Grandi warns Susan of dire consequences if her husband continues his prosecution of Grandi's brother, an imprisoned drug dealer awaiting trial in Mexico, but Susan, unimpressed, insults Grandi by calling him a "lop-sided Little Caesar." While investigating the case on the Mexican side of the border, Quinlan visits the tawdry brothel run by Tana, a former lover, and the place fills him with nostalgic yearnings. Tana, who at first does not recognize him, looks upon Quinlan with pity and suggests that he "lay off the candy bars" which he has substituted for liquor since going on the wagon several years before. Upon learning of Susan's encounter with Grandi, Vargas decides that she will be safer stashed in a motel on the American side of town while he continues working on the Linnekar case. However, unknown to Vargas, the motel is owned by Grandi, managed by a disturbed night clerk, and in the middle of the desert. Quinlan soon tracks down a suspect, a Mexican shoe clerk who was having an affair with Linnekar's daughter, Marcia, and later married her in a secret ceremony. Sanchez claims he is innocent and appeals to Vargas for help, infuriating Quinlan, who demands that they stop speaking in Spanish. After a prolonged search, Quinlan declares that Menzies has found damning evidence of Sanchez's guilt concealed in a shoe box. Vargas, who had earlier seen that the box was empty, accuses Quinlan of planting dynamite in the box to frame Sanchez, but Quinlan claims that Vargas is only trying to protect his own kind and has a "natural prejudice" for Mexicans. Grandi approaches Quinlan to suggest that they work together to ruin Vargas and after Quinlan has downed several drinks at Grandi's prodding, they plot to destroy Vargas professionally and personally by framing Susan. Grandi's gang of young hoodlums, led by a sadistic woman clad in black leather, take over the motel and accost the terrified Susan, who is shot up with drugs and then transported to a room in Grandi's hotel. When Vargas meets with Police Chief Gould and District Attorney Adair to discuss his suspicions about Quinlan, the faithful Menzies doggedly tracks down his partner to inform him of the meeting and is devastated when he finds Quinlan drunk in a bar. Quinlan storms in on the meeting and, furious that Gould is not defending him, makes a show of throwing down his badge. Uncomfortable with the fact that Vargas is an outsider making accusations against a star detective, Gould and Adair placate Quinlan by telling Vargas to stay out of police business. Al Schwartz, a young assistant D.A., stands by Vargas and secretly gains him access to Quinlan's case files, which strongly suggest that Quinlan, tortured by the fact that he was unable to find enough evidence to convict the "half-breed" who strangled his wife, has been framing suspects for years. Unable to accept that his partner and best friend is crooked, Menzies attempts to defend Quinlan, blaming Vargas for Quinlan's binge after years of sobriety. Unable to reach Susan by phone, Vargas finally makes it to the motel to find the night clerk sitting in the dark and seemingly speechless with fear. To Vargas' horror, all that remains in Susan's room are the stench of marijuana smoke and the debris of a wild party. Meanwhile, Quinlan arrives at Grandi's hotel and enters the room where Susan lies naked and unconscious, the smell of marijuana clinging to the clothing strewn about the floor. After forcing Grandi at gunpoint to telephone Menzies to report that he has found Vargas' wife surrounded by evidence of a drug party, Quinlan, who wants to ensure that he will not be a victim of blackmail, strangles Grandi with one of Susan's stockings. Soon after, Vargas, who has launched a desperate search for his wife, learns that Susan has been jailed on suspicion of drug use, prostitution and the murder of Grandi. Knowing that Quinlan is behind the frame-up and feeling helpless to stop him, Vargas explodes with rage, but Menzies takes him aside and reveals that he found Quinlan's cane at the murder scene. Although he is devastated by the fall of his idol, Menzies agrees to help Vargas amass more incontrovertible evidence of Quinlan's criminal activities and consents to being wired in the hopes that Quinlan will confess to his trusted partner. Quinlan, still on a binge, has holed up at Tana's place where, in a drunken haze, he asks her to read his fortune. Tana, however, sadly declares that his future is "all used up" and advises him to go home. As he reels out the door, Quinlan is confronted by Menzies, who begins asking questions about the Grandi murder while, nearby, Vargas records the conversation. As they walk toward a bridge spanning a murky canal, Menzies accuses Quinlan of betraying his loyalty by setting him up as the stooge who always found the planted evidence. The argument is interrupted when Quinlan hears the sound of their voices on Vargas' tape and finally realizes that Menzies is wired. When Menzies tries to stop Quinlan from harming Vargas, who is clinging to the side of the bridge, Quinlan shoots him and then, in shock at what he has done, stumbles down to the canal to wash the blood from his hands. Vargas confronts Quinlan with the evidence he now has on tape, and Quinlan prepares to kill him so that he can pin the Menzies murder on him. However, Menzies, on the brink of death, manages to crawl to the edge of the bridge and shoot Quinlan. Schwartz arrives with Susan, who has been released from jail, and Vargas departs to take her home to Mexico City, knowing that he is leaving behind enough evidence to prove that Quinlan framed Susan, Sanchez and many others. Ironically, however, Sanchez has ended up confessing to the murder of Rudy Linnekar. Tana arrives at the edge of the canal and gazing with Schwartz at Quinlan's large frame floating in the black water, she sadly remarks that Quinlan was "some kind of man." 

Production Company: Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Co., Inc.  
Director: Orson Welles (Dir)
  Phil Bowles (Asst dir)
  Terry Nelson (Asst dir)
Producer: Albert Zugsmith (Prod)
Writer: Orson Welles (Scr)
Photography: Russell Metty (Dir of photog)
  Phil Lathrop (Cam op)
  Ledger Haddow (Asst cam)
  Roy Vaughn (Asst cam)
  Sherman Clark (Stills)
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen (Art dir)
  Robert Clatworthy (Art dir)
Film Editor: Virgil Vogel (Film ed)
  Aaron Stell (Film ed)
  Edward Curtiss (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  John P. Austin (Set dec)
Costumes: Bill Thomas (Gowns)
  Nevada Penn (Ward)
  Claire Cramer (Ward)
Music: Henry Mancini (Mus)
  Joseph Gershenson (Mus supv)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Frank Wilkinson (Sd)
  Don Cunliffe (Sd tech)
  Ed Hall (Sd tech)
  Walter White (Sd tech)
  Bob Bratton (Sd ed)
  Peter Berkos (Sd ed)
Make Up: Bud Westmore (Makeup)
  Vince Romaine (Makeup)
  Maurice Seiderman (Makeup)
  Merle Reeves (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Foster Thompson (Unit prod mgr)
  Charles Baquetta (Coord)
  Betty Abbott (Scr supv)
  Robert Tafur (Tech adv)
  Fred Banker (Unit pub)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson (New York, 1956).
Authors: Whit Masterson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 15/3/1958 dd/mm/yyyy LP10314

PCA NO: 18506
Physical Properties: Sd: Westrex Recording System
  b&w:

 
Genre: Film noir
 
Subjects (Major): Frame-ups
  Investigations
  Mexican-American border region
  Mexicans
  Police detectives
  Racism
 
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Betrayal
  Blackmail
  Brothels
  District attorneys
  Drugs
  Drug dealers
  Dynamite
  False arrests
  Friendship
  Gangs
  Loyalty
  Marriage--Mixed
  Mexican Americans
  Motels
  Murder
  Newlyweds

Note: The working title of this film was Badge of Evil . According to an Apr 1956 news item in DV , Universal purchased Whit Masterson's novel in 1956, at which time it was to be produced by Albert Zugsmith. Descriptions differ as to how Orson Welles, who had not directed a film in the United States since the 1948 Republic picture Macbeth , became involved sometime later in the Zugsmith production.
       Most modern sources credit John Russell as the camera operator who assisted director of photography Russell Metty, but only Phil Lathrop is credited as the operator in contemporary sources. Edward Curtiss, who is credited on HR production charts as the editor, was fired by Welles when they did not agree on the cutting of the film, but Welles did work well with the next editor assigned to the picture, Virgil M. Vogel.
       Among the significant ways in which Welles departed from the novel and the Paul Monash screenplay were to change the character played by Charlton Heston from a white district attorney to a Mexican narcotics agent; to change the nationality of Janet Leigh's character from Mexican to American; and to set the film in a Mexican-American border town rather than in a Southern California town. Welles also heightened racial and sexual tensions in his screenplay.
       The famous opening sequence, in which a camera follows the bomb placed in "Rudy Linnekar's" car and introduces "Mike Vargas" and his wife, has become one of the most frequently cited examples of Welles's talent for unusual camera work. Another well-known long take in the film is the interrogation of "Sanchez" in his apartment, which, according to studio production notes in the film’s production file at the AMPAS Library, Welles filmed on the first day of shooting to prove to the studio his ability to make the film quickly and efficiently.
       Welles shot the film in Venice, CA, where, according to the production notes, most of the filming took place at night. The picture was completed in early Apr 1957, and in a 10 Jun 1977 NYT article, Heston is quoted as saying that the film "had an $825,000 budget and [a schedule of] 38 shooting days...and Orson brought it in for $900,000 in 39 days." Although a 1 Mar 1957 HR news item includes Irene Snyder in the cast, her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a 21 Mar 1957 HR item, Marie McDonald was considered to perform a "guest star stint." Some modern sources also include John Dierkes and Billy House in the cast.
       The studio did not release Touch of Evil until Feb 1958 and did not advertize it extensively. The film was a box-office failure in the United States, where criticism varied, with some writers praising Welles's innovative style, while others disliked the story and "artsy" direction. The picture was better received in Europe, however, and Welles accepted the award for best international film at the World's Fair in Brussels in 1958. Despite the critical success of the film in Europe, Welles never again directed a picture in the United States. [Although Welles did work on some independent projects in the U.S., he was never hired by a studio to direct in America after 1957, nor did he complete any independent films there.]
       According to a 4 Sep 1960 NYT article, Marlene Dietrich considered the role of "Tana" one of her favorites, and claimed that she did her "best dramatic acting" in the last scene, in which she declares, "What does it matter what you say about people?" In the NYT article, Dietrich also stated that her scenes were shot all in one night. Most modern sources note that Welles wrote Dietrich's part after filming had already begun, calling her the night before he wished to film her scenes to offer her the part. Although modern sources refer to the character played by Dietrich as "Tanya," her name in the film is "Tana."
       Much has been written about the production since it was first released. Modern sources offer the following information about the production: Zugsmith assigned Paul Monash to write a screenplay based on the book, although the project was shelved after Monash completed his screenplay. Some writers state that Welles became friends with Zugsmith during production of Man in the Shadow (see above) in which Welles appeared as an actor, and after that film wrapped, Welles offered to direct the "worst" script Zugsmith had, which was Badge of Evil .
       In an interview printed in a modern source, Welles said that after Universal sent Welles the script, the studio contacted Charlton Heston and asked him to read the script, noting that Welles was also working on the project. Heston misunderstood their comment, however, and thinking that Welles was the film’s director, agreed to star in it. To please Heston, the studio then asked Welles to direct the film, and he agreed on the condition that he could rewrite the screenplay. The studio accepted on the condition that Welles would be compensated only for his acting duties. According to Welles, he never read Masterson’s novel, and he rewrote the entire original screenplay, keeping only “the basic situation about a detective with a good record who plants evidence because he knows somebody is guilty…and the fellow turns out really to be guilty.”
       Welles originally wanted to shoot the picture on location in Tijuana, but was unable to do so, and thus the film was shot in the Venice, CA. Some sources state that Universal ordered Welles to shoot closer to the studio so that his shooting schedule could be closely monitored, while other sources state that Mexican government censors, concerned over the depiction of drug use and violence, refused Welles permission to film in Mexico.
       According to various modern sources, while scouting the location, Welles fell into a canal and suffered painful injuries that required the use of a sling and a cane while he was off camera. Just prior to filming, Leigh was also injured and the cast on her broken left arm had to be hidden during shooting. During more revealing scenes, such as those set in the motel, Leigh's cast was sawn off and her arm re-splinted after filming. Although, according to a modern interview, Welles originally wanted Lloyd Bridges to play "Pete Menzies," he was "more than happy with Calleia" and considered himself "very lucky with that cast."
       Welles prevailed on several friends--Joseph Cotten, Dietrich, Mercedes McCambridge and Keenan Wynn--to act in the picture for union scale wages, although when the studio decided to include Dietrich in the onscreen billing, they were required to pay her more money. Maurice Seiderman, who was Welles's makeup man on Citizen Kane , is often credited with helping transform Welles into "Quinlan," for which he was padded with an extra sixty pounds.
       The post-production phase of the project was complicated. In Heston’s journals, summarized in a modern source, Heston wrote that after viewing the rough cut of the film in Feb 1957, the studio requested another day of shooting to clarify the plot. Heston, reluctant to appear in any sequences not shot by Welles, caused the production to be held up for a day, but then agreed to reimburse the studio for the delay. Harry Keller was then brought in to direct the additional sequences. In the interview, Welles stated that two scenes between Vargas and “Susan” in the hotel were added, as well as a scene between Vargas and the district attorney in the hotel. Welles also noted that a scene in which “Menzies” tells Susan how “Quinlan” saved his life years earlier by taking a bullet for him would have explained Quinlan’s limp and Quinlan saying “That’s the second bullet stopped for you partner.”
       Other modern sources note that after several months of post-production work, Vogel was replaced by Aaron Stell, who was later assisted by studio executive Ernest Nims. Keller worked with cameraman Cliff Stein and writer Franklin Coen for the added scenes. Another change imposed by the studio was the printing of the credits over the opening sequence. Welles had intended for the credits to appear at the film's end, so that the audience's attention would not be diverted from the long and narratively important tracking shot at the beginning.
       DV news items from Jun and Aug 1975 noted that a longer version of the film was discovered in the Universal vaults and subsequently preserved by the American Film Institute. That version, which contains approximately fifteen minutes of additional footage, was at first thought to correspond closely to the original cut made by Welles before the studio re-edited the film, according to the Jun 1975 DV news item. However, an Aug 1975 DV news item states that the longer version was not the director’s original cut, and that it contained additional scenes filmed by director Harry Keller.
       Over the years, the picture's stature among critics and audiences has grown, and it has become one of Welles's most analyzed and highly praised films. Often discussed are Welles's innovative use of sound, lighting and the camera, as well as his depiction of racism and sexuality. Many modern critics assert that the the motel scenes in Touch of Evil influenced Alfred Hitchcock, whose 1960 film Psycho starred Leigh and featured work by cameraman John Russell and art director Robert Clatworthy. A restored version of Touch of Evil , with editorial changes based on an editorial memo written by Welles to Universal in 1957, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1998. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   24 Mar 1958.   
Cue   10 May 1958.   
Daily Variety   17 Apr 1956.   
Daily Variety   17 Mar 58   p. 3, 14
Daily Variety   16 Jun 1975.   
Daily Variety   25 Jun 1975.   
Daily Variety   15 Aug 1975.   
The Exhibitor   19 Mar 58   p. 4447.
Film Daily   2 Apr 58   p. 6.
Harrison's Reports   22 Mar 58   p. 47.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Feb 1957   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 57   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 1957   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 1957   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 57   p. 52.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jan 1958   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Mar 58   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   24 Apr 1958.   
Motion Picture Daily   19 Mar 1958.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   22 Mar 58   p. 765.
New York Times   22 May 58   p. 25.
New York Times   4 Sep 1960.   
New York Times   10 Jan 1977.   
Variety   19 Mar 58   p. 16.
Variety   25 Jun 1975.   

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