Don't read this if you've never seen Touch of Evil.
There are SPOILERS
here, in this garbage dump of a world.
I watched Touch of Evil
yesterday, and I have to say, I feel like I never really saw it before. I was always looking at Welles makeup and the camera work, loving Akim Tamiroff as usual....laughing at Dennis Weaver's hopped up "night man" and Chuck Heston's starchy bronzed straight man, and enjoying poor Janet Leigh's plight in a most unhealthy way. It's so easy to get caught up in the fun of Welles, the puzzle of his mind. I barely remembered the plot, though I remembered certain scenes and Welles towering performance vividly.
Well, watching yesterday was quite the revelation. Because I am such a Joseph Calleia
fan, I watched from his perspective. Oh my, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for! To watch Pete Menzies
is to watch the heart of the film, and it's very, very painful. The movie became so much more for me seeing it this way. To see Quinlan through his eyes, oh, is it ever sad. At the beginning, Hank is a big man to Pete. See how much larger Hank is in this shot than Pete, and it's not just his girth:The two friends... Hank and his shadow.
For me, watching the scales fall from Pete's eyes and maybe finally from Quinlan's, was brutal. Calleia is just superb, and I am not saying that because I am such a fan. It's simply true. His character - this simple, simple man - who probably ought not to have been a cop, well, he's better than pitch perfect... Pete wants so to believe what he's believed all along, that Hank is a great man. Pete's always been proud that Hank has allowed him to be part of his life.... but he starts to see something he has felt deep inside, maybe for a long time....something corrupt. Mixed in to this emotion is the sneaking suspicion that Hank only needs Pete as a fall guy. I feel so for him. But then, somehow, Hank catches that same sadness. Hank is unable to live, literally, with Pete's blood on his hands --- Welles ends on such a graceful, melancholy, tender note of friendship ruined..... it's heartbreaking. Why is it that the garbage only swirls around Hank?
Long tunnels and doorways litter Touch of Evil:
Just in case you don't know what's going on, Welles gives us a little hint:
Welles gives us lonely vistas and the most claustrophobic shot I can think of, perfectly composed and lit:Check out Pete's face here - he's half in the light, half in the dark...
Menzies on the inside looking out at Hank as he plots with Uncle Joe Grande:
Can you see Hank's reflection in the window on the left?