Touch of Evil is Orson Welles's darkest, most disturbing film. Shot in Venice, California after years of exile from Hollywood studios, the film stars Welles as Hank Quinlan, an obese, autocratic cop who frames his victims to ensure that the guilty do not escape punishment. Quinlan represents Welles's moral vision at its most complex and contradictory: on the one hand, he is a repulsive figure--brutal, racist, eats candy bars the way most people smoke cigarettes--and employs illegal methods; but on the other, he cares deeply about people, unlike his self-righteous and priggish antagonist, the Mexican detective Vargas (Charlton Heston) and is always right in his intuitions of guilt. The other characters in the film are marvelous: Janet Leigh as Heston's hopelessly passive young wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor as the owner of a strip joint, Joseph Cotten as a detective, but best of all, Marlene Dietrich as madam, Welles's former lover.
Welles did not direct The Third Man, but the film's expressionist camerawork and jagged interplay of light and shadows betrays his influence. Set in post-war Vienna, split into four zones by the occupying powers, this film, written by Graham Greene, is without a doubt one of the best spy thrillers ever made. Tense, well-paced, and exciting, it features Welles as Harry Lime, a treacherous amoral operator around whose machiavellian vision the whole film revolves. Few films other than Hitchcock's pack so much anxiety into a single shot: a cat licking a man's shoe makes us jump in our seats.
Union Maids. A documentary about organizing women workers in the 1930s, this film employs interviews and newsreel footage to create a portrait of the rise of the CIO. We haven't seen this film, to be shown by the Haymarket People's Fund, but it sounds great.
Love Me Tonight. In the early thirties, when sound was new and unmanageable, and spoken words thumped dead on the ear, there were a few directors who saw the new dimension to pictures as something more than just a way to hear subtitles. The great pioneer who weaved sound and image together was the legendary Ernst Lubitsch. Not so legendary now, but quite the early virtuoso was Rouben Mamoulian. Mamoulian seemed to be experimenting constantly. His most accepted successes were on the stage (he directed the original stage version of "Porgy and Bess" for example) but his pictures exude a creative excitement that seems to say to the pedestrian studio craftsman, "Well boys, here's a little trick you might pick up on." The opening of Love Me Tonight, the slow rousing waking of a city from sleep, is one of the sunniest, most cheerful and nonchalant pieces of virtuousity you're likely to find anywhere. Mamoulian is witty too--his "Isn't It Romantic" sequence of mounting musical numbers mocks a cinematic tradition that was still in its infancy when Love Me Tonight was made. Rodgers and Hart, seemingly inexhaustibly prolific, wrote the marvelous score. You can see why Maurice Chevalier was so immensely popular; if anyone ever deserved the word 'infectious' to apply to their charm, it was he. Jeannette MacDonald's nightingale ambitions are only mildly offensive here, and there is a stretch in the picture when she's even sort of sexy--although she's nothing compared to the poutingly hungry, frustrated Myrna Loy who shows up like a surprise guest at a party.
Death Wish. Vigilante Man goes berserk, only he's Charles Bronson so he wins.
The Jazz Singer. The first talking picture with the biggest star in America, Al Jolson, on his knees for half the movie. This has the famous "You ain't heard nothin' yet" line and a few songs. In a strange way it is a fascinating movie, almost irresistible in its strange view of Lower East Side New York life. If you look, you'll see William Demerest, hardly a day younger than he seemed twenty, forty or fifty years later.
Notorious. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant locked in the longest kiss in movie history. A Hitchcock masterpiece, with Claude Rains as the Nazi operative who at least gets to sleep with Bergman before he kicks off. Roger Ebert, the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times writes to the Village Voice this week: "In an uninterrupted take showing a character climbing those stairs [in Rains's house] there appear to be exactly 22 steps, but that in the masterful final scene of the descent of those stairs, a count of the steps taken by the various characters indicates that they go down 37 or 38 steps. Hitchcock, of course, deceives us visually, stretching the stairs to prolong the complex emotional interplay of the scene." Nobody's arguing.
Union Maids, (documentary) Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30
SCIENCE CENTER A
Garm Hava (Indian film, Cannes film festival award-winner), Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10
SCIENCE CENTER B
Deathwish (Charles Bronson) Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10; Films about the Red Flag Canal in China, Sunday at 2 p.m.; experimental films: Family Portrait Sittings by Alfred Guzzetti, Sunday at 7:30.
SCIENCE CENTER C
A Mother's Heart (Soviet film about Lenin's mother), today at 7 and 9; Joe (with Peter Boyle) Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10