Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Touch of Evil (1958)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Touch Of Evil (1958)

In Orson Welles' masterpiece (considered the last classic film noir):

  • the continuous-action, spectacular 3-minute and 30 second tracking and panning crane shot - an audacious, incredible, breathtaking, uninterrupted shot following a convertible (after a timed explosive dynamite device had been placed in its trunk as it was parked), as it crossed the US/Mexico border at Los Robles (Texas) in the film's credits/opening (appearing only in the 1958 version, not in the restored version); the convertible was drven by wealthy local American businessman - Rudy Linnekar (Jeffrey Green) and his blonde mistress-girlfriend Zita (Joi Lansing), a striptease dancer
  • the car's route was intertwined with views of a newly-married couple: Mexico City narcotics investigator Ramon Miguel "Mike" Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his blonde American bride Susan (Janet Leigh) walking to the border crossing; as the inter-racial newlyweds kissed, the sound of the sudden and violent explosion of the detonated car overlapped on the soundtrack, and they turned their faces toward the blast
  • the first appearance (a low-angled shot) of a grotesque, cigar-smoking, candy-chewing bloated local detective Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) as he rolled out of his car at the scene of the car bombing
  • the image of acid splashed on a peeling poster on a crumbling wall of stripper performer Zita (an echo of her death in the burning car explosion)
  • the appearance of cigar-smoking Mexican gypsy and brothel manager Tanya (Marlene Dietrich in a memorable cameo), the femme fatale, who engaged in verbal foreplay with Quinlan: (To Quinlan: "I didn't recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars....You're a mess, honey")
  • Susan's scenes of sexual terror - first in a dark motel room in town by a peeping tom with a flashlight that shone on her as she removed her cashmere sweater, and then in a deserted and remote motel room on the outskirts of town where she was attacked by thugs (members of the Grandi gang)
  • the character of the weirdo, nervous and twitchy motel manager/night watchman (Dennis Weaver)
  • the scene of planted evidence in a bathroom (in the film's second, long unedited scene)
  • Quinlan's chilling strangulation-killing of Uncle Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) in a hotel room next to a semi-unconscious Susan
  • the gripping climax when Quinlan heard the echo of his own voice as it was recorded on a transmitter held by Mike under a bridge, and realized he had been taped and everything about the frame-up had been revealed by his partner Sgt. Pete Menzes (Joseph Calleia)
  • the sequence of the death of Quinlan (shot by a dying Menzes to protect Mike Vargas)
  • the final image of Quinlan lying dead and floating whale-like in dark and stagnant gutter-canal water and garbage
  • Tanya's epitaph for Quinlan in the film's final line: "He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?...Adios!"


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