I’m pretty sure that I’ve shared this scene before but, if I did, it was several years ago. Through the Shattered Lens has been around for nearly ten years now, after all. (TEN YEARS!)
Since today is Orson Welles’s birthday, I wanted to share at least one scene that I love from his films. Even though I didn’t want to go with the obvious choice of picking something from Citizen Kane, there was still a wealth of scenes to choose from. But, in the end, I really didn’t have any choice but to go with the tracking shot that opens 1958’s Touch of Evil.
This scene really does show why Welles was such an important director. It’s not just that the scene is a masterpiece of suspense, starting out with a close-up of a ticking time bomb and then leaving us to wonder just when exactly it’s going to explode. It’s also that the scene perfectly sets up the odd and sordid atmosphere of Touch of Evil. It’s a scene that begins in America, takes the viewer into Mexico, and then literally ends with a bang. And it does it all in just one shot!
Because of a throw-away joke in Ed Wood, there’s a widely-held but incorrect assumption that Welles was forced to cast Charlton Heston in the lead role in Touch of Evil or that Welles and Heston didn’t get along. Actually, Heston was the one who fought for Welles to be given a chance to direct Touch of Evil and, when the studios attempted to fire Welles from the project, Heston stopped them by announcing that he would quite if Welles wasn’t allowed to complete the picture. It may be tempting to make jokes about Heston playing a Mexican cop but, if not for him, this film probably wouldn’t exist right now. And that would be a tragedy.
With all that said and done, here’s a scene that I love: