When looking back on any movie directed by Orson Welles, one's thoughts are almost always overpowered by a fascination for his meticulous and almost suave directing style. Touch of Evil is no different and if anything, this one of his films boasts probably the single most famous piece of camerawork in Welles’ career and the history of film. As memorable as that swooping tracking shot maybe, it holds no further discussion here as it fits all too well into another category. And as I look back, I am happy things worked out this way because had it not, the following topic would have been ignored completely.
Coming in at a close second to Welles' fine camerawork in my after thoughts of Touch of Evil would be the delightfully pomp original soundtrack composed by Henry Mancini. Often considered the last true noir film, Touch of Evil defined itself by how it differed from the great noirs before it, felt clearly through its score. Bent on an unsolved crime filled with seedy villains, corruption, and cops smoking cigarettes, Touch of Evil is a true and timeless noir. But what sets this one apart from all the others is its location. Touch of Evil is one of the few noir films to not take place in Los Angeles, instead departing south from the incumbent high rises and dark alleyways of the big city in favor of a small border town known as Los Robles.
The bird's eye view given to us by that wonderful opening crane shot shows us that this lively little town marches to a different beat than old L.A. This fact is no less clear through what Mancini lends to our ears. Apt on its geographic locale, Mancini's infecting score mixes Latin American jazz and tango with the some of the big band sound of the 1930s America. The result is nothing short of a genuine toe-tapper, for ourselves and the audience alike. Much of Mancini's songs are diagetic and come blaring out of a pair speakers from any one of the countless strip joints that muster the grounds of Los Robles. Curing the melancholy often felt through noir films, Mancini's soundtrack is quite delightful and superb in its sound. Naturally overlooked in the discussion of Touch of Evil, competing against the outstanding camerawork and direction of Orson Welles, there is no fault there. But when the movie is discussed for what it isn't, a femme fatale Los Angeles-based noir, Mancini's name should be heard more often, or at least that bopping score of his.