Down by the River

October 16, 2010

Touch of Evil, 1957.  So many versions.  A good film, but calling it noir doesn’t seem to capture what it is.  It’s too idiosyncratic.  What would you expect from Orson Welles?  Maybe one of these days I’ll watch the other versions to find out just what the Studio couldn’t handle in Welles’ lost original cut.  (I watched the restored version, believed to be close to his artistic intent.)

Janet Leigh is Suzie, a blonde gringo married to Vargas (Charleton Heston), an idealistic Mexican police officer.  Together, in the course of the film over a day and a night, they cross and recross that filthy river separating the two ‘civilizations.’  Blonde, spunky, wholesome, but soo sexy.  She doesn’t know she’s being set up for a narcotics rap by the partyers next door in Motel Nowhere.

Marlene plays the another type of woman, dark, and familiar with that little touch of evil, although she mostly observes.  On meeting overweight Quinlan (Welles) for the first time in years since he last holed up in her bordello, she remarks, “I didn’t recognize you.  Better lay off those candy bars.”  Was Orson making fun of himself?

The river separates Mexico from the USA.  The river brings forgetfulness, the river is where people enter the underworld.  Hank Quinlan can’t wash the evidence of crime from his hands, not in that scummy filthy water.  It’s just dirty everywhere you look.