Wednesday, 16 June 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 274

109 - Touch Of Evil - 5 stars
It took a long time for Orson Welles's true vision of Touch Of Evil to reach the silver screen, in fact Welles died before he could see it, but it was well worth the wait.
After being taken out of his hands and edited by the studio, Welles wrote a detailed 58 page memo outlining all the changes that should be made and this was finally completed in 1998.
The result is one of the best crime noirs ever made. Definitely up there with Chinatown. And it has an excellent musical score by Henry Mancini.
You can have nothing but admiration for a film that begins with tracking/crane shot like this one that follows the path of a bomb through the US/Mexico border whilst also introducing us to our two main characters.
"Are you a mexican or a mexi-can't?". Sure the casting of Heston as a Mexican raises some eyebrows but he has a commanding presence that cancels out any doubts.
Orson Welles also has a terrific screen presence which is much more literal as he is huge in this film. Hard to believe he was only in his forties when this was made. It is arguably his best acting role as well, as Quinlan the "great detective but a lousy cop".
The main thing that struck me when watching it this time is the huge influence that it seems to have had on Psycho.
Both films feature scenes of Janet Leigh being terrorised in a motel, feature a theme of exposing the dark underbelly of American society, they share a similar visual and audio aesthetic and Mort Mills who plays Al Schwartz in this film turns up as the Highway Traffic Cop in Psycho. There is an interesting essay comparing the two films here.

190 - Ed Wood - 5 stars
The crowning achievement of the partnership between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
Depp fills his Edward D. Wood Jr with such boyish enthusiasm that it is easy to get swept up in his belief that he is actually making great movies.
The production design and black and white cinematography give an authentice 50's feel to this touching tribute to the "worst director of all time" which chronicles his first film Glen or Glenda, his friendship with Bela Legosi and the making of his "masterpiece" Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Is it a coincidence that Burton's best film is the only won that Danny Elfman didn't do the music for? Instead it was Howard Shore.
Despite having many regulars in the cast like Jeffrey Jones, Lisa Marie, etc it is one of the least Burton-onian Tim Burton films. An with he draws a sweet, sympathetic portrayal of Legosi from Martin Landau (although the Oscar should have gone to Samuel L. Jackson and he had evey reason to swear at the Oscars), Bill Murray being awesome as usual and even a decent role for SJP who at one point reads a review about herself in the paper and asks "Do I really look like a horse?". I'd forgotten about that and burst out laughing whilst all alone at home.
The reason I chose to watch this film today is because of the lovely scene where Ed Wood meets Orson Welles and they chat about how people keep interfering in their movies, "I'm about to do a film with Universal and they want Charlton Heston to play a Mexican". I wonder what film they were talking about?

Days remaining - 91 Films remaining - 94

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