Touch of Evil

1958 film by Orson Welles

Touch of Evil is a 1958 US film noir about a Mexican government investigator and his young American wife who must put their honeymoon on hold in an American border town when they become embroiled in a frame-up planned by the town's chief investigator.

Written and directed by Orson Welles, based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson.
The Strangest Vengeance Ever Planned!

Ramon Miguel 'Mike' Vargas

  • This isn't the real Mexico. You know that. All border towns bring out the worst in a country. I can just imagine your mother's face if she could see our honeymoon hotel.
  • There are all kinds of policemen, sir. I don't have to tell you that. A few take bribes... Most are honest, yes, but even some of the honest men abuse their power in other ways.
  • Listen, I'm no cop now. I'm a husband! What did you do with her? Where's my wife?
  • How can I leave here until my wife's name is clean? Clean!

Police Captain Hank Quinlan

  • There's an old lady on Main Street last night picked up a shoe. The shoe had a foot in it. We're going to make you pay for that mess.
  • Listen, I got a position in this town, a reputation...somebody's gonna be ruined.
  • [about his wife's killer] I followed around after him...ate my heart out trying to catch him but I never did. That was the last killer that ever got out of my hands.
  • 30 years of pounding beats and riding cars, 30 years of dirt and crummy pay. For 30 years, I gave my life to this department. And you allow this foreigner to accuse me. Answer, answer, why do I have to answer him? No sir! I won't take back that badge until the people of this county want me back.
  • [about Vargas] He's a drug addict. He's got that young wife of his hooked too, but good. If I hadn't seen that hypodermic myself...That's how come he happens to imagine all those crazy things. It's typical. What that wife of his was doing on that dive on skid row. Both a couple of junkies. Course he's using the job as a cover-up.
  • [to Menzies] Look out. Vargas'll turn you into one of these here starry-eyed idealists. They're the ones making all the real trouble in the world. Be careful, they're worse than crooks. You can always do something with a crook.
  • Don't you think I could have been rich? A cop in my position. What do I have...after thirty years, a little turkey ranch - that's all I got. A couple of acres.
  • [Quinlan fires a pistol at Vargas, not hitting him] That wasn't no miss, Vargas. That was just to turn you 'round, so I don't have to shoot you in the back. Unless you'd rather run for it.
  • [after being shot by Menzies] Pete. That's the second bullet I, I stopped for you.

Susan Vargas

  • I understand very well what he wants...Tell him I'm a married woman, and that my husband is a great big official in the government, ready and willing to knock out all those pretty front teeth of his.
  • Of course, even on his honeymoon, the chairman of the Pan-American Narcotics Commission has a sacred duty to perform.

Uncle Joe Grandi

  • Until he gets out, who's running this outfit?...Oh, what a set-up to work with! One brother in jail, two others dead, and nobody left to carry on the business for the bunch of nephews.
  • We're gonna get him where it really hurts and without laying a hand on him. He's got a reputation. He's got a young bride. He's gonna leave this town wishing he and that wife of his had never been born.
  • We are both after the same exact thing, Captain. If Vargas goes on like this, shooting his face off...Somebody's reputation has got to be ruined. Why shouldn't it be Vargas's?


  • Marcia Linnekar: I guess that's my father. I'm not acquainted with my father's girlfriends.
  • Pete Menzies: [to Vargas, about Quinlan's bad leg] He got it in a gun fight...He was wounded stopping a bullet that was meant for me.
  • Pete Menzies: [to Vargas, about Quinlan] Sure. You can smear him. Ruin his whole life's work. Vargas, I-I don't even know what he is. That's what you've done to him....He's on an important case and he's disappeared. Good and drunk probably.


Susan: Mike, do you realize this is the very first time we've been together in my country?
Vargas: Do you realize I haven't kissed you in over an hour?

Vargas: This could be very bad for us.
Susan: For us?
Vargas: For Mexico, I mean.

Adair: An hour ago, Rudi Linnekar had this town in his pocket.
Coroner: Now you can strain him through a sieve.

Vargas: Captain, you won't have any trouble with me.
Quinlan: You bet your sweet life, I won't.

Schwartz: I don't know what Quinlan thinks she's got to do with it.
Adair: Tana? Oh, maybe she'll cook chili for him, or, uh, bring out the crystal ball.

Tana: We're closed.
Quinlan: You've been cookin' at this hour?
Tana: Just cleanin' up.
Quinlan: Have you forgotten your old friend, hmm?
Tana: I told you we were closed.
Quinlan: I'm Hank Quinlan.
Tana: I didn't recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars.
Quinlan: It's either the candy or the hooch. I must say, I wish it was your chili I was gettin' fat on. Anyway, you're sure lookin' good.
Tana: You're a mess, honey.
Quinlan: Yeah. That pianola sure brings back memories.
Tana: The customers go for it - it's so old, it's new. We got the television too. We run movies. What can I offer you?

Quinlan: Well, when this case is over, I'll come around some night and sample some of your chili.
Tana: Better be careful. Maybe too hot for you.

Quinlan: I'm no lawyer. All a lawyer cares about is the law.
Vargas: Captain, you are a policeman, aren't you?
Quinlan: Mmm hmm. Aren't you? You don't seem very positive about the job.
Vargas: There are plenty of soldiers who don't like war. It's a dirty job, enforcing the law, but it's what we're supposed to be doing, isn't it?
Quinlan: I don't know about you, when a murderer's loose, I'm supposed to catch him.

Night Manager: That, that friend of yours, Mr. Grandi, he, he ain't gonna leave you here for long. [He winks]
Susan: He is not my friend.
Night Manager: He, he brought you here in that, that car, didn't he?
Susan: No, he didn't. As a matter of fact, he's under arrest.
Night Manager: Under arrest? Mr. Grandi? [He laughs and then quickly steps away]
Susan: Yes he is.

Quinlan: I don't speak Mexican...Let's keep it in English, Vargas.
Vargas: That's alright with me. I'm sure he's just as unpleasant in any language.
Sanchez: Unpleasant? Strange? I've been told I have a very winning personality. The very best shoe clerk the store ever had.
Quinlan: You weren't workin' as a shoe clerk out in that construction crew...

Vargas: That boy may be unpleasant, but he could even be innocent, you know.
Schwartz: Intuition?
Vargas: Why not? Quinlan doesn't have a monopoly on hunches.

Quinlan: Just because he speaks a little guilty, that don't make him innocent, you know.
Vargas: If you can show motive, yes, but don't you need a bit more than that?
Quinlan: Oh, we'll get it. Oh, there's my coffee. Didn't you bring me any donuts or sweet rolls?
Vargas: You'll have to put him on the scene of the crime.
Quinlan: We will.
Schwartz: You've got to have some evidence.
Quinlan: We'll get it.

Menzies: [to Vargas] Well, Hank has done it again. He's nailed his man.
Quinlan: Thanks to you, pardner.
Menzies: Me? If that dynamite had been a snake there in the bathroom, it would have bit me.
Quinlan: [to Vargas] ...This is it, we've broken the case. Rudi Linnekar was, uh, blown up with eight sticks of dynamite and, uh, Sanchez stole ten. That leaves two and we've found 'em both. You heard that boy. We found the dynamite.
Sanchez: That's impossible.
Quinlan: We found two sticks.
Sanchez: ...Where did you find this?
Quinlan: Right here in your love nest.
Sanchez: Where?
Menzies: Where you had it stashed, of course.
Sanchez: What are you trying to do?
Quinlan: We're trying to strap you to the electric chair, boy.
Menzies: We don't like it when innocent people are blown to jelly in our town.

Vargas: You framed that boy.
Quinlan: FRAMED him!

Grandi: Why don't we go somewhere nice and private, huh, where we can sit down and have a drink?
Quinlan: I don't drink.

Quinlan: Our friend Vargas has some very special ideas about police procedure. He seems to think it don't matter whether killers hang or not, so long as we obey the fine print.
Vargas: Captain, I don't think a policeman should work like a dog catcher in putting criminals behind bars. No! In any free country, a policeman is supposed to enforce the law, and the law protects the guilty as well as the innocent.
Quinlan: Our job is tough enough.
Vargas: It's supposed to be. It has to be tough. A policeman's job is only easy in a police state. That's the whole point, Captain - who's the boss, the cop or the law?

Quinlan: What's my fortune? You've been reading the cards, haven't ya?
Tana: I've been doing the accounts.
Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tana: You haven't got any.
Quinlan: What do you mean?
Tana: Your future is all used up. Why don't you go home?

Menzies: Grandi was strangled.
Quinlan: Grandi was a crook.
Menzies: You're a killer.
Quinlan: Partly. I'm a cop.
Menzies: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Drunk and crazy as you must have been when you strangled him. I guess you were somehow thinking of your wife, the way she was strangled.
Quinlan: I'm always thinking of her, drunk or sober. What else is there to think about, except my job, my dirty job?
Menzies: You didn't have to make it dirty.
Quinlan: I don't call it dirty. Look at the record, our record, partner. Huh?
Menzies: Sure, sure, sure.
Quinlan: Well? All those convictions.
Menzies: Convictions, sure. All these years, you've been playing me for a sucker. Faking evidence...
Quinlan: Aiding justice partner.
Menzies: How many did you frame?
Quinlan: Nobody.
Menzies: Come on, Hank. How many did you frame?
Quinlan: No one - nobody that wasn't guilty, guilty, guilty. Every last one of them - guilty.

Vargas: Well, Captain, I'm afraid this is finally something you can't talk your way out of.
Quinlan: killed him, Vargas.
Vargas: Come on, now. Give me my gun back.
Quinlan: killed Pete. The bullet is from your gun.
Vargas: You think anyone would believe that?
Quinlan: They always believe me. Anyway, they'll never believe I killed him.
Vargas: The gun?
Quinlan: You're resisting arrest.
Vargas: How could you arrest me here? This is my country.
Quinlan: This is where you're gonna die.

Tana: Isn't somebody gonna come and take him away?
Schwartz: Yeah, in just a few minutes. You really liked him didn't you?
Tana: The cop did... the one who killed him... he loved him.
Schwartz: Well, Hank was a great detective all right.
Tana: And a lousy cop.
Schwartz: Is that all you have to say for him?
Tana: He was some kind of a man... What does it matter what you say about people?
Schwartz: Goodbye Tana.
Tana: Adiós.


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