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Touch of Evil opening commentary

by Sean Cobb

This famous opening to Orson Welles classic film noir Touch of Evil (1958) employs a long tracking shot of Mexican police detective Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his new bride Susie Vargas (Janet Leigh) as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States.  Instead of using cuts, the camera moves and tracks multiple scenes of action -- the planting of the bomb, Mike and Susie walking the bustling streets of the border town, the couple in the car who are also stopped at the border.  The camera's mobility and fluidity contrasts with the border itself, where people must stop to be processed before entering.  The viewer learns some important parts of the backstory when Mike and Susie talk to the border patrol agents: Mike and Susie are recently married, and Mike has recently solved a case involving the Grandi crime family, which he claims isn't quite finished yet.  Once Mike and Susie cross the border, the white car explodes and we see the first cut of the film: a reaction shot to the explosion.

Touch of Evil opening commentary

by Sean Cobb

This famous opening to Orson Welles' classic film noir Touch of Evil (1958) employs a long tracking shot of Mexican police detective Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his new bride Susie Vargas (Janet Leigh) as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States.  Instead of using cuts, the camera moves and tracks multiple scenes of action -- the planting of the bomb, Mike and Susie walking the bustling streets of the border town, the couple in the car who are also stopped at the border.  The camera's mobility and fluidity contrasts with the border itself, where people must stop to be processed before entering.  The viewer learns some important parts of the back-story when Mike and Susie talk to the border patrol agents: Mike and Susie are recently married, and Mike has recently solved a case involving the Grandi crime family, which he claims isn't quite finished yet.  Once Mike and Susie cross the border, the white car explodes and we see the first cut of the film: a reaction shot to the explosion.

Touch of Evil opening commentary

by Sean Cobb

This famous opening to Orson Welles' classic film noir Touch of Evil (1958) employs a long tracking shot of Mexican police detective Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his new American bride Susie Vargas (Janet Leigh) as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States.  Instead of using cuts, the camera moves and tracks multiple scenes of action -- the planting of the bomb, Mike and Susie walking the bustling streets of the border town, the couple in the car who are also stopped at the border.  The camera's mobility and fluidity contrasts with the border itself, where people must stop to be processed before entering.  The viewer learns some important parts of the back-story when Mike and Susie talk to the border patrol agents: Mike and Susie are recently married, and Mike has recently solved a case involving the Grandi crime family, which he claims isn't quite finished yet.  Once Mike and Susie cross the border, the white car explodes and we see the first cut of the film: a reaction shot to the explosion.

The Bomb explodes whether you solve the puzzle or not

by Omer Levin Menekse

Going off of Sean Cobb`s commentary on the opening sequence of Touch of Evil, I would like to explore how the very cinematic quality of this sequence invites us to watch it in the context of a game.

As Cobb`s puts it; ` Instead of using cuts, the camera moves and tracks multiple scenes of action -- the planting of the bomb, Mike and Susie walking the bustling streets of the border town, the couple in the car who are also stopped at the border. The camera's mobility and fluidity contrast with the border itself, where people must stop to be processed before entering. `

In this position, free of close-ups or any other camera trick to guide our eyes, we as the audience are left to fend for ourselves. This, in turn, creates a situation where we are almost interacting with the movie. ( Another good example of this phenomenon is Jacques Tati`s playground or Gehr`s Eureka. ) While we are aware of the fact that we cannot change what will happen; our agency is heightened in a way that we are solving puzzles all the way through. The result is the pleasure of puzzle-solving; the very term Janet Murray uses in her article ` Hamlet on Holodeck ` as pertaining to games.

The set-up feels like we are almost handed an interface. The most important piece of the puzzle is obvious; the car with the bomb. This element is signified by the loud music. There are the protagonists, Mike and Susie, who are constantly mobile and always near the proximity of the car. Something is obviously going to happen, but we are invited to find when and where. And then when the bomb explodes, we realize our insignificance and our lack of agency as an audience.

Touch of Evil opening commentary

by Sean Cobb

This famous opening to Orson Welles' classic film noir Touch of Evil (1958) employs a long tracking shot of Mexican police detective Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his new American bride Susie Vargas (Janet Leigh) as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States.  Instead of using cuts, the camera moves and tracks multiple scenes of action -- the planting of the bomb, Mike and Susie walking the bustling streets of the border town, the couple in the car who are also stopped at the border.  The camera's mobility and fluidity contrast with the border itself, where people must stop to be processed before entering.  The viewer learns some important parts of the back-story when Mike and Susie talk to the border patrol agents: Mike and Susie are recently married, and Mike has recently solved a case involving the Grandi crime family, which he claims isn't quite finished yet.  Once Mike and Susie cross the border, the white car explodes and we see the first cut of the film: a reaction shot to the explosion.

Touch of Evil opening commentary

by Sean Cobb

This famous opening to Orson Welles' classic film noir Touch of Evil (1958) employs a long tracking shot of Mexican police detective Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his new American bride Susie Vargas (Janet Leigh) as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States.  Instead of using cuts, the camera moves and tracks multiple scenes of action -- the planting of the bomb, Mike and Susie walking the bustling streets of the border town, the couple in the car who are also stopped at the border.  The camera's mobility and fluidity contrast with the border itself, where people must stop to be processed before entering.  The viewer learns some important parts of the back-story when Mike and Susie talk to the border patrol agents: Mike and Susie are recently married, and Mike has recently solved a case involving the Grandi crime family, which he claims isn't quite finished yet.  Once Mike and Susie cross the border, the white car explodes and we see the first cut of the film: a reaction shot to the explosion.

Touch of Evil Opening

This is the famous opening tracking shot from Orson Welles 1958 Touch of Evil.

from Touch of Evil (1958)
Creator: Orson Welles
Posted by Sean Cobb
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