Friday, 13 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Orson Welles in Touch of Evil

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil.

Touch of Evil is an excellent thriller about a crime ridden area right on the border between the United States and Mexico.

Touch of Evil opens with a bomb exploding that kills two people in a car right on the border leading it to be investigated by a Mexican detective who happened to be crossing the border with his wife Vargas (Charlton Heston) and a group of Americans lead by detective Hank Quinlan played by the director of the film Orson Welles. Perhaps it is rather obvious that Welles directed, other than because it is a great film, with the extremely memorable entrance Quinlan gets in the film. The scene is being investigated by the other officials with a car driving up with a dramatic close up to reveal the larger than life Hank Quinlan as he emerges from the car instantly inquiring about the case. Welles instantly takes hold of the screen which he will for every other scene in the film as well pretty much every scene he is not in as well. Hank Quinlan is a great character and Welles obviously will not waste this opportunity.

Orson Welles's performance is great in making Quinlan extremely memorable in every regard starting with the physical portrayal. Welles is absolutely spent in the part, and it is something to behold to be sure. His makeup is terrific to being with but Welles goes far past that with the way he plays the part. Welles gives Quinlan a lumbering walk due to Quinlan's limp as well as his size. Welles truly wears the weight the weight in this performance as he shows that Quinlan really even has some trouble breathing due to his condition as a man. Quinlan been through a lot and you can see that right in Welles's face as he suggests that type of damage that Quinlan has taken through his life. Welles is terrific in giving us the history of the man without needing to say at all as we see that Quinlan has been through some bad things. Welles's whole creation is an amazing depiction of a man who is basically decaying.

Hank Quinlan is a very early example of the sort of character later played by the likes of Woody Harrelson, Denzel Washington, Ray Liotta an many others which is the lawman who perhaps has become too good at his job. Welles is terrific because the fact that Quinlan seems like a walking corpse at times is in no way reflected in his portrayal of Quinlan as he proceeds as a detective. Welles commands without question in these scenes as in his eyes and his way about the investigation scenes it is clear that Quinlan is quickly deciphering the clues of the case. The whole dynamic is a difficult one as Welles shows without question that Quinlan is a man of so many vices physically, but Welles brings such a honest and earned confidence in his portrayal of Quinlan as a detective. Welles makes what seems like an inconsistency in Quinlan completely believable as realizes both sides of the complicated man.

One of the most important aspects of Welles's performance is that he wears the past of Quinlan just as well as he wears the present state of the man. Welles's has a particularly wonderful scene when Quinlan goes and visits an old friend/fortune teller Tanya (Marlene Dietrich). Welles is great in this scene as there is such a sense of nostalgia in the joyous expression seen upon Quinlan face as he seems to remembering the good old times in the moment. Welles is great by suggesting in this moment the better man that Quinlan once was, and actually does try to remind himself of this. Welles makes Quinlan incredibly interesting as character because he honestly creates a sense of tragedy within the man. His Quinlan's is not just a standard corrupt cop by any means at all. No Welles makes Quinlan a far more fascinating character, by showing us a man who was once a good man capable of greatness but has lost his way.

Quinlan is forced to only become worse though after Vargas catches Quinlan planting evidence in the house of the man he believes has committed the bombing that opens the film. Welles's is very effective in the last act of the film by believably moving Quinlan to an even darker place once Vargas threatens basically his entire career as an officer of the law. Quinlan starts drinking again, one vice he had given up, and plots to try to frame Vargas's wife in a crime to escape Vargas's inquiries. Welles makes these scenes absolutely convincing by showing the way Quinlan's basically losing himself all the more as he slowly becomes more drunk, and gives in to his negative qualities all the more. Quinlan seemed spent physically from the beginning, but Welles moves on to make Quinlan spent mentally as well as he creates a sense of desperation and even despair that allows Quinlan to do some truly unforgivable things. 

Welles's gives such a fantastic performance here. Hank Quinlan in lesser hands may have just been a one note crummy villain, that we simply applauded at his demise at the end of the film. That is not the case through Welles's work here. Welles certainly brings the needed menace to the part, and as a villain his Quinlan is an extremely memorable one. He's not just a villain though because of how well Welles realizes a modicum of goodness in the man. The final scenes of the film actually are quite moving and Welles brings a certain poignancy to them despite Quinlan getting his comeuppance for his evil. The reason being that Welles is able to make the tale of Quinlan demise of a man who slowly wastes away all of his once great potential both physically, mentally and morally. Welles's performance is a brilliant and powerful piece of work that matches his equally exceptional direction of the film.

24 comments:

luke higham said...

Louis: In your opinion, what are Orson Welles's five best performances.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar & Michael Patison: Your thoughts on the Spain-Netherlands match tonight.

RatedRStar said...

@Louis: What are your thoughts on Marlene Dietrich in general.


@Luke: I loved it, about damn time those ageing Spanish were destroyed by The Netherlands, revenge is sweet.

luke higham said...

Van Persie's header was magnificent.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I'm glad they redeemed themselves after their despicable display against Spain Four years ago & nearly destroyed their own reputation as the nation who modernized attacking football.

RatedRStar said...

I would love to see Brazil face Spain in the next round, that would be great.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Daniel Day-Lewis has been given a knighthood.

RatedRStar said...

It isn't a surprise that Day Lewis is getting a knighthood, he deserves it most certainly =D

Michael McCarthy said...

Happy to hear about DDL, and I love this performance. I hope there's a chance that the next time Louis watches Citizen Kane he'll raise Welles's rating, I think there's a lot of hidden genius in that performance.

Michael Patison said...

Luke: First of all, the "tonight" bit caught me off guard for a moment because I'm working in Washington, DC for the summer, and the match started at 3pm here.

Anyway, I don't I'm saying anything groundbreaking that the commentators haven't already said, but I'll say something anyway. Obviously it was a tale of two halves. Spain controlled the first despite their only goal coming from a borderline call (I think it was warranted, though). Van Persie's equalizer was the difference in the game, I think. Its timing couldn't have been better as I think it moved the momentum (theretofore about in the middle) slightly into the Netherlands' favor. Robben's go-ahead in the 53rd moved it definitively in their favor, and the team never looked back, even as the Spanish seemed to fall apart. A lot of teams concede when they get behind because they get so anxious to score that they get sloppy. Spain conceded so much late because they just gave up. van Persie, Robben, and Sneijder were getting through far more often than before, the defenders began giving away dumb fouls, and Casillas flat out gave up. It was the most embarrassing way they could have lost. If they had played their best and still been beaten 5-1, then they'd at least have had some pride, but increasingly they looked scared like a dog with its tail between its legs.

It'll be interesting to see how much del Bosque changes and what exactly those changes will entail. It's hard to see Diego Costa playing another minute no matter how far La Furia Roja go. His inability to finish (or even get close, really) seemed really to wear down the morale of the rest of the Spanish team.

On a personal level, I'm super-excited the Dutch won. I'm not as anti-Spain as Daniel, but I did think beforehand that their age made all the talk of another deep run unwarranted. I'm a van Persie fan (I also like Rooney, but am indifferent to ManU on the whole), and his double was magnificent, as was Robben's. Each of their first goals was brilliant. The header, obviously, and then that brilliant left-footed finish after brilliantly withholding his ball roll until Pique was in just the right position not to get a touch on it. Brilliant stuff. Anyway that header should go down in history as one of the most beautiful and perfect deliveries and finishes in history. I thought people were grossly underrating Netherlands going into the Cup as a whole (I expected a draw today, whereas most expected a loss).

luke higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on episodes 2, 6, 8 & 9 of Game of Thrones Season 4.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

1. Touch of Evil
2. The Third Man
3. Othello
4. Citizen Kane
5. A Man For All Seasons

The Lion and the Rose - (In terms of the shorter stories I thought it had a great moments for Alfie Allen in his surprisingly heartbreaking reaction when Theon hears about the fate of Robb Stark. The wedding scene was incredibly well done by having some great reactions between the characters, and a particularly satisfying conclusion that never felt cheap.)

The Law of God and Men - (Loved the great moment for Thrones's most underrated character Ser Devos, and I was happy to see Daenerys, one of my least favorite character, get cut down to size a bit. Coster-Waldau and Dance were both terrific in their scenes in around the trial, but Dinklage did steal the show making the most out of Tyrion's "confession")

The Mountain and The Viper - ( The Missandei/Grey Worm love story was truly lame and seemed from a far lesser series. The episode also contained perhaps Emilia Clarke's worst scene in the series which was especially noticeable since she did so opposite Ian Glen giving his best performance in the series. Luckily the other stories made up for it. Sophie Turner brought her A-game and completely earned her transition in Sansa Stark. Also one of the great things about the series is giving depth to despicable character and I really loved how they managed to realize the Boltons as three dimensional characters despite their nature. The final fight was terrific though and that ending was of course particularly memorable. I loved Dinklage's final reaction as it mirrored my own reaction)

The Watchers on the Wall - (I seem to like Jon/The Night's Watch more than most so I did not mind seeing a whole episode devoted to them. I find they earned though through the great staging of the battle that contained plenty awesome moments, but along with a real emotional punch as well. I particularly liked how even the most minor Night's Watchmen got their time to shine)

RatedRStar: I'm not really crazy about her whole persona and I usually find her performances a bit overdone. Although I do have to give her credit for tricking me with the cockney woman in Witness for the Prosecution.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Were you as impressed by Pedro Pascal as I was?

Louis Morgan said...

He really grew on me as the season proceeded and I thought he was great in both the fight and especially in his scene with Tyrion.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, who would you say would be more deserving of the Emmy, Matthew McConaughey or Bryan Cranston?

luke higham said...

Louis: Your rating & thoughts on Charlie Chaplin in Limelight & The Kid

Michael Patison said...

Just out of curiosity, what TV shows y'all people watch? I know we talk about TV pretty regularly, but I'd be curious to know what y'all watch/have watched outside of the standard Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad (True Detective, too, though I've still yet to watch any of it).

I watch those two (watch for BB, of course) plus Downton Abbey and Doctor Who, among others. Downton was originally brilliantly written and was incredibly captivating, but last season's writing was rather stale, with a potentially excellent storyline ruined by unimaginative writing that did nothing but rehash previously explored ground.

For those in the UK, have any of y'all seen Broadchurch and/or The Fall? If so, what'd you think of them? I thought The Fall was excellent, but I've yet to see Broadchurch, though I really want to.

I'd also love to hear about what older shows y'all watch and like. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Battlestar Galactica, The West Wing (my favorite), Twin Peaks, St. Elsewhere, 30 Rock (best comedy ever imo), Damages, the original Upstairs Downstairs, and Magnum P.I. I know there are some others, but they're not coming to mind just right now.

I've also seen a decent amount of Lost and The X-Files among several others, but not enough to know exactly how much I like them.

So, yeah, what do/have y'all watched and what'd you think of them?

Michael McCarthy said...

Obviously I'm a huge fan of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, but here are the rest of my shows:

Homeland: The first two seasons were brilliant, the characters were incredibly well-written, the pacing was excellent, and it always kept me on my toes. The third season got really sloppy unfortunately, I give it credit for taking risks but I don't think they all paid off.

Downton Abbey: Pretty much what Michael said, the only reason I'm staying with it now is because I just can't stop caring about the incredibly charming characters.

House of Cards: Thus far it's been consistently very good, it's kind of like a contemporary Game of Thrones. The writing is always sharp and no plot line ever becomes stagnant.

Mad Men: Very well-written characters, but can occasionally become quite slow. A lot of people say it's the best written show on TV, but I can't get over its tendency to awkwardly write off promising characters because it doesn't know what to do with them. I say the show's MVP was Jared Harris, who was in seasons 3-5, which were the best seasons of the show IMO. I also think the finale looks like it could be great.

The Walking Dead: First season was interesting, second was well-told storywise but slow, third was exciting but illogical, first half of the fourth was excellent, but the second half was mostly a letdown. MVP is Melissa McBride.

Sherlock: I still have one episode to go but it's awesome. The portrayals of Holmes, Watson and Moriarty are superior to any I've seen recently, and the writing and editing are magnificent.

Lost: It has it's detractors but I gotta give it a lot of credit. It had a shitload of characters but it managed to make each of them unique from each other and the relationships between any given two characters felt special. That show had so much going on and the fact that it managed to tie everything together in the end is a true testament to the writers.

South Park: Best satire show of the 21st century IMO (I know it started in 1997 but I think it peaked in the 2000s). Recent episodes haven't been as good. But there have been so many amazingly funny episodes that I still love it, the Imaginationland Trilogy is an absolute gem of creativity.

Archer: Deceptively well-written. Even though it's an animated adult comedy it never has a single continuity slip-up. It's hilarious and the characters actually develop and have their own arcs.

Scrubs: (I don't include the ninth season because I'm convinced it was just a bad dream) I know it's a comedy, but it does just as well at being emotionally resonant in the more dramatic scenes. It balanced the humorous and more serious aspects incredibly well without ever having tonal inconsistency. It also had the best finale of any comedy show I know of.

SNL: Because it's SNL. Sometimes it's not that great, but when it is it's worth it.

RatedRStar said...

I am afraid I don't watch that much television unless its something really acclaimed like True Detective or Breaking Bad,it is safe to say I am more of a gamer or Movie type.


Also Louis, even though I really like Touch Of Evil and Orson Welles in it, there's something about 1958 where I go, it was Burl Ives year, in both Cat and The Big Country, I also should say, is it normal to say that I pretend that Burl Ives shot Bickford and never think that the 3rd gunshot was Ives being shot but Bickford getting shot again lol.

RatedRStar said...

And that Burl Ives got the land he wanted and lived happily ever after the end, oh and he shot Gregory Peck as well since he was shit lol.

Mark said...

Louis: ratings and thoughts on the cast of the 1966 Batman movie.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Cranston I think for the wide sweep, but perhaps I'd say McConaughey for best individual moment.

RatedRStar:

Well Ives win certainly was well deserved since it worked as both a recognition of his output for the year as well as his individual performance in The Big Country. Ahh I also would have preferred that ending since Ives owned that movie.


Luke:

Chaplin - Limelight - 4.5(A rather moving requiem for the Tramp character. He was great by bringing the old charm and heart with the character but as well as kinda showing what had become lost in the translation)

Mark:

West - 4(The whole film I see often understood as being serious but dumb where in fact it is a brilliant comedy intentionally so. If anyone questions that please note that there is a Benedict Arnold memorial named in the film. West is great fun by playing the role so extremely seriously that he is instead very funny)

Young - 3(Everything is one note of enthusiastic passion which certainly works for this particular Robin)

Gorshin - 4(Such an uncontrollable energy he has in the role and I love how he has both his moments of manic insanity balanced with that of the quieter mad "genius". I think with only minor adjustments he actually could have played a great Riddler in a more serious Batman story)

Meredith - 4(The same goes with Meredith though who has such an intensity in his performance that becomes comic though since he inserts his penguin mannerisms right along with that intensity)

Romero - 3.5(I do feel Gorshin kinda of covers the manic energy villain a bit better than Romero. Romero, although not the most memorable, still is quite entertaining as the Joker)

Merriwether - 2.5(She not bad in playing Catwoman in the over the top way of the movie, but she does not really have the comedic timing the men do)

Anonymous said...

Louis, I see for Leading Actor 1958 you've pushed Niven down to a 4, and placed Poitier and Curtis ahead of him. Was it a re-watch of The Defiant Ones or Separate Tables that decided this?

Louis Morgan said...

Re-watch of Separate Tables.