Film of the Day: TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)

MURDER! DRUGS! RACISM! CORRUPTION!

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*ANOTHER WELLES MASTERPIECE AND ONE OF THE FINEST – AND LAST – OF THE CLASSIC FILM NOIRS*

Starring, and directed by, Orson Welles. Also starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich. Keep an eye out for Joseph Cotten’s cameo…

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“ORSON, YOU LOOK WONDERFUL!”

– An earnest exclamation made by a well-known Hollywood actress at a party Welles attended during the making of Touch of Evil. The actress was unaware that Welles was actually still in make-up, including large amounts of padding and prosthetics.

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Vargas: Captain, you won’t have any trouble with me.

Quinlan: You bet your sweet life I won’t.

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Susan: I could love being corny, if my husband would only cooperate.

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Sanchez: What are you trying to do?

Quinlan: We’re trying to strap you to the electric chair, boy.

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**MARLENE – SOME KIND OF A WOMAN**

by Dixie Turner

Michael Moore: Smug, Self-Righteous and Generally a Bit Annoying, But Still…

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…Happy Birthday, anyway.

If you haven’t seen Bowling for Columbine, now’s probably as good a time as any. In light of America’s continued inability to curb its gun laws, Bowling for Columbine – which looks at America’s fascination with bearing arms in light of the Columbine High School tragedy – is a pretty topical watch. Amongst the most memorable moments are the scene in which Moore goes to a bank that gives away a free rifle when you open up an account (am pretty sure Nat West won’t even give you a smile) and the footage of (and subsequent interview with) Charlton Heston, former president of the National Rifle Association, yelling “From my cold dead hands” as he holds aloft a rifle at a rally. Who will ever watch The Ten Commandments and think of Moses in the same way again?

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From: “Thou shalt not kill”…

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…to: “FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS”. Wow.

(In some respects, of course, it’s perhaps not such a leap. I mean, if there has to be a National Rifle Association, there’s a beautifully warped logic to having Moses as President. Who better than Moses to remind you of your right to defend yourself when your adulterous wife steps out with another man? Defend your moral indignation by shooting him down (but, take heed: it’s only righteous if you have two fingers resting on the Bible whilst you pull the trigger). Lockheed Martin’s new logo will feature Gandhi riding a nuclear missile and I’m sure World War III will be brought to us by Disney. Freedom will be delivered with deadly force, and Mickey Mouse ears. God Bless America (P.S. Thou shalt not kill).)

So, thank you Michael Moore for ruining Ben-Hur and El Cid etc. Now, when I think of Touch of Evil, I of course think of it as one of the greatest – and last – of the film noirs; I think of the incredible cinematography and Orson Welles’ incredible bulk – but in the back of my mind is a new and annoying association between the name Charlton Heston and the words ‘touch-of-evil’.

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Charlton ‘Touch of Evil’ Heston and the incredible bulk of Orson Welles.

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Anyway. It’s also worth having a look at the documentary made about Michael Moore (Manufacturing Dissent). Whilst not being a fantastic piece of filmmaking (and obviously having an agenda of its own), some of the aspects of Moore’s allegedly less-than-ethical methods of journalism that it digs up are a bit of an eye-opener. Not sure Noam Chomsky would approve.

By the way, if you’ve seen Farenheit 9/11 and thought that was good, it’s worth checking out Why We Fight, by Eugene Jarecki (director of the more recent, and excellent, House I Live In), all about the arms trade – that’s a real eye-opener. Happy hunting!

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by Dixie Turner