August 27, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Touch of Evil

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Touch of Evil

Today's movie: Touch of Evil, 1958 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because now that I'm largely caught up with the contemporary movies in my Netflix queue, I'm taking the chance to finally get some older titles off my to-watch list; and this is one that's been on there for a long time, especially since the 1998 edit that restored the movie back into the condition that writer/director Orson Welles wanted it, widely considered the last good film of his career and hugely influential on the generation of filmmakers directly following him.

The reality: Not too bad! Although I have to confess, this film wears its age on its sleeve in a way that his 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane simply doesn't; there's a certain '50s cheesiness baked right into its heart, which Welles just can't get rid of despite all the usual ahead-of-their-time camera tricks and the like. Plus, in all honesty, I kept getting pulled out of this film mentally by that constant sight of Charlton Heston as a Mexican, part of that "white males can do anything!" mindset that so unfortunately marked the Mid-Century Modernist arts; now add the fact that this was essentially pickup work for Welles and not a pet project he was passionate about (in fact, one of several competing origin stories has it that Welles specifically asked for the worst script the studio had at the time, specifically so he could egotistically turn it into a decent movie), and you're left with a film that's good but not great, one that's picked up a slightly inflated reputation for being so influential on the European New Wave moviemakers who were just getting started when this film was released. Definitely worth your while if you just happen to have an opportunity to see it, I'm not sure I'd recommend going out of your way to view it unless you're a Welles completist or especially big film noir fan.

Strangest piece of trivia: This was screened as part of a film festival at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, with a judging panel that included New Wave pioneers Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. The next year, the filmmakers respectively released Breathless and The 400 Blows, and it's said that Touch of Evil had a major influence on both their styles.

Worth your time? Kinda

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:32 PM, August 27, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |