Film Notes: Touch of Evil (1958) directed by Orson Welles

USA / 111 minutes (restored version) / Universal Pictures Dir: Orson Welles Pro: Albert Zugsmith Scr: Orson Welles Story: from the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson Cine: Russell Metty Mus: Henry Mancini Cast: Charlton Heston (Ramon “Mike” Vargas), Janet Leigh (Susan Vargas), Orson Welles (Hank Quinlan), Joseph Calleia (Pete Menzies), Akim Tamiroff (Uncle Joe Grandi), Marlene Dietrich (Tanya), Mercedes McCambridge (Hoodlum), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Owner of Nightclub), Ray Collins (Adair), Dennis Weaver (Motel Manager) Release Date: 21 May 1958

Summary Plot: 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. (Read full summary at American Film Institute here)

It is generally accepted that Touch of Evil marks the end of the ‘film noir’ classic era,  the one that goes from the early 40s and extends into the late 50s. Touch of Evil is a masterpiece written directed and performed by Orson Welles. It was his fifth Hollywood film, and the last one he made in America. The film suffered multiple vicissitudes until 1998, when it was restored, based upon a recently discovered memo of editing instructions, written by Orson Welles himself, and addressed to Ed Muhl, the boss of Universal International. The new version has now 111 minutes in length, in comparison with the 93 minutes of the earliest version. A must see for all film aficionados.

Notas de cine: Sed de mal (1958) dirigida por Orson Welles

Argumento: Un agente de la policía de narcóticos (Heston) llega a la frontera mexicana con su esposa justo en el momento en que explota una bomba. Inmediatamente se hace cargo de la investigación contando con la colaboración de Quinlan (Welles), el jefe de la policía local, muy conocido en la zona por sus métodos expeditivos y poco ortodoxos. Una lucha feroz se desata entre los dos hombres, pues cada uno de ellos tiene pruebas contra el otro. (Filmaffinity)

Se acepta generalmente que Sed de mal marca el final de la época clásica “del cine negro”, la que va de los principios de los 40 y se extiende hasta finales de los 50. Sed de mal es una obra maestra escrita dirigida e interpretada por Orson Welles. Fue su quinta película rodada en Hollywood, y la última que hizo en los Estados Unidos. La película sufrió múltiples vicisitudes hasta 1998, cuando fue restaurada, en base a un documento recién descubierto de instrucciones de edición, escrito por el propio Orson Welles y dirigido a Ed Muhl, el jefe de Universal International. La nueva versión tiene ahora 111 minutos de duración, en comparación con los 93 minutos de la primera versión. De visión obligatoria para todos los aficionados al cine.

Film Notes: Black Angel (1946) directed by Roy William Neill

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

USA / 81 minutes / bw / Universal Pictures Dir: Roy William Neill Pro: Tom McKnight and Roy William Neill Scr: Roy Chanslor Story: based on the novel by Cornell Woolrich Cine: Paul Ivano. Mus: Frank Skinner. Cast: Dan Duryea (Martin Blair), June Vincent (Catherine Bennett), Peter Lorre (Marko), Broderick Crawford (Captain Flood), Constance Dowling (Mavis Marlowe), Wallace Ford (Joe), Hobart Cavanaugh (Jake), Freddie Steele (Lucky), John Phillips (Kirk Bennett), Ben Bard (Bartender), Archie Twitchell (George Mitchell). Release Date: 2 August 1946 (USA)

Summary Plot: Has-been alcoholic songwriter Martin Blair goes to Los Angeles exclusive Wilshire House apartments to visit his estranged wife, popular singer Marvis Marlowe, but is refused entrance by the doorman per Marvis’ instructions. Martin sends up a gift of a small heart brooch and, while waiting outside the building, overhears a man receiving permission to see Marvis. Despondent, Martin goes to a bar to get drunk, then, as he often does, his friend Joe takes him home to his apartment and locks him in for the night. After midnight that same night, musician Kirk Bennett goes to see Marvis and, finding her apartment door unlocked and hearing her recording of “Heartbreak” playing, goes inside to wait. After a few moments, Bennett wanders around the apartment and finds Marvis in her bedroom, dead, with the brooch beside her. Bennett hurries out to use the phone, but upon hearing a noise coming from the bedroom, returns and notices the brooch is missing. Hoping to catch the culprit, Bennett hastens out to the hall and is promptly locked out when the door shuts. The next day police detective Captain Flood calls on Bennett and his wife, Cathy, a former singer, and Bennett admits that Marvis was blackmailing him. Bennett is tried and found guilty of Marvis’ murder and sentenced to death. Determined to find some way to prove her husband’s innocence, Cathy follows every lead based on each detail of Bennett’s description of that evening. After discovering that Martin wrote “Heartbreak,” Cathy locates him, only to find him in a drunken stupor. When Martin manages to admit he was outside the apartment that night, Cathy accuses him of the murder, until Joe arrives and explains that Martin was home, drunk. Feeling guilty about her outburst, Cathy leaves Martin some money. The next day, when sober, Martin goes to Cathy’s home to return the money and Cathy describes her fruitless efforts to clear her husband. Upon seeing a photograph of Bennett, Martin tells Cathy that Bennett is not the man he saw enter the Wilshire House, and the two decide to work together to find the murderer. (Read the full summary at American Film Institute here)

Black Angel is a film noir on the high end of the B scale. The story is based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1943 novel The Dark Angel, which is in turn based on his 1935 short tale, Murder in Wax. The film, except for the final twist, doesn’t follow closely the novel. It is said that, Woolrich himself, was not left satisfied with the outcome. I have to say that, even if the story line is rather weak, it can be followed with quite some interest. In addition, the film was made with great skill by British director Roy William Neill, in what was going to be his last film, and has the support of an excellent cinematography by Paul Ivano and a good performance by Dan Duryea.

Notas de cine: Ángel negro (1946), dirigida por Roy William Neill

Argumento: Hollywood, años 40. La policía encuentra en un apartamento el cadáver de la cantante y “femme fatale” Mavis Marlowe. El principal sospechoso es Kira Bennett, antiguo amante de la mujer. Cuando la policía averigua que Mavis había estado chantajeando a Bennett, éste es arrestado y condenado a muerte. Su esposa y el marido alcohólico de Mavis son los únicos que creen en su inocencia y se unirán para descubrir al auténtico culpable en una auténtica carrera contrarreloj. (Filmaffinity)

Angel Negro es una película de cine B negro que puede situarse entre las mejores de su categoría (cine comercial, de bajo presupuesto y sin demasiadas pretensiones artísticas). La historia está basada en la novela de 1943 de Cornell Woolrich The Dark Angel, que a su vez está basada en su relato breve de 1935, Murder in Wax. La película, excepto por el giro final, no sigue de cerca a la novela. Se dice que, el propio Woolrich, no quedó satisfecho con el resultado. Tengo que decir que, aunque el argumento es más bien débil, puede ser seguido con bastante interés. Además, la película fue realzada con gran destreza por el director británico Roy William Neill, en la que sería su última película, y cuenta con el apoyo de una excelente fotografía de Paul Ivano y una buena actuación de Dan Duryea.

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