How well do you remember the 1958 film, Touch of Evil?

ENTERTAINMENT

Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: TMDB

About This Quiz

Orson Welles created a masterpiece in this shadowy black-and-white film noir from 1958! Now, return to the unsafe streets of Los Robles with our quiz!

On which side of the U.S.-Mexican border does Touch of Evil take place?

Los Robles is a border town. Characters go back and forth, and the viewer needs to pay close attention to remember where the action is taking place.

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What violent event begins the movie?

The bombing kills Rudy Linnekar and his companion. She's only identified as "a strip-teaser" and later as "Zita."

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Who played Ramon Miguel Vargas?

Heston doesn't speak with a Mexican accent, which a character in the movie comments on. Another character calls him, "Some kind of Mexican," which about sums it up.

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What is Vargas' job title?

Ramon is "kind of important," as one of the American police tells the corrupt detective Quinlan. Generally, the U.S. cops treat him with a grudging respect -- except for Hank Quinlan, who doesn't show respect for anybody.

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What is the name of Vargas' new wife?

Her name is Susie. The film opens with the newly-married Vargases heading toward the U.S. border. They're in search of "a chocolate soda for my wife," Vargas says. Ah, new love!

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Who played Susie?

Leigh's agent didn't even show the script to her, because the pay was so low. When Leigh found out, from Welles himself, she gave the agent a piece of her mind.

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Who played the corrupt detective, Hank Quinlan?

Originally, Welles was only supposed to act in the film. But Charlton Heston, whom the studio badly wanted for the lead, wanted Welles to direct -- and the studio rushed to make the change.

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What rank does Quinlan hold?

Quinlan is a captain. It makes sense, then, that Quinlan has a lot of pull in the town of Los Robles. However, there's also a pervasive sense that everyone knows he's corrupt -- everyone except the faithful Sgt. Menzies, who only catches on late in the film.

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What does Susie call the Mexican boy who has a message for her husband?

When the crime boss Grandi asks her why she calls him Pancho, Susie says, negligently, "For laughs." Though generally a likable character, Susie is shown as casually disrespectful of Mexicans. The movie didn't shy away from portraying unpleasant racial attitudes of its time.

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Why does Susie follow "Pancho" on the street?

Susie might be plucky, but her actions don't really make sense. She agrees to follow a total stranger because he has a message for her husband (which he does). But then Susie doesn't even relay the message.

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Who does Pancho take Susie to see?

The overweight, pencil-mustached Joe Grandi was played by Akim Tamiroff. After a bit of grandstanding, and bickering with the defiant Susie, he relays a very simple message for Vargas: "lay off my brother."

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What was Rudy Linnekar's official line of work?

Linnekar, as builders often do in crime stories, has his fingers in a lot of pies. The car bombing is a clear indication a lot of those business interests aren't exactly aboveboard.

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Who played the brothel owner, Tanya?

Dietrich's role is small but powerful. Dark-haired, dryly soft-spoken, and fatalistic, she provides a counterpoint to Janet Leigh's strong-willed, talkative American character.

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What is the musical instrument whose sound draws Quinlan to Tanya's place?

Quinlan is investigating the car bombing when he hears the self-playing piano. He then goes over to Tanya's to flirt with her, mostly unsuccessfully. She tells him to "lay off those candy bars."

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What is the food Quinlan likes at Tanya's place?

Though it's thought of as Tex-Mex food, chili is American and has roots in Cinncinnati, Ohio. At any rate, we're pretty sure Quinlan isn't being literal when he tells Tanya he'll come back around and "sample some of your chili."

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Why, according to Hank Quinlan, does he eat so many sweets?

It's either "candy or hooch," Quinlan explains to Tanya. His ex-lover is unsympathetic, telling him he needs to "lay off the candy bars."

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What does Risto throw at Vargas in the alley?

Vargas gives chase but can't catch his attacker. Later, Risto is slapped around by Grandi, who demands, "Who told you to throw acid at Vargas?"

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Why is Manolo Sanchez a suspect in the car bombing?

The scene in which the police interrogate Sanchez is well-known to film students. It had about eight actors in a fairly small set, usually a nightmare for blocking and lighting.

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Where does Manolo Sanchez live?

Sanchez and Marcia are secretly married, Sanchez says. But he also admits to marrying her for her money, so maybe a divorce is in the cards.

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How did Sanchez meet Marcia Linnaker?

Sanchez has a way with a snappy line. When Quinlan asks him if he met Marcia at the shoe store, Sanchez says yes, he sold her shoes. "I've been at her feet ever since," he adds.

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Where at Marcia's place does Pete find two sticks of dynamite?

Ten sticks disappeared from a Linnekar construction site. Eight were used in the car bombing, and two are in the bathroom. It all seems to work out -- a bit too perfectly.

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Who had a small but memorable role as the twitchy night manager of a motel?

Weaver played the "night man" like Norman Bates only dialed up to 11, goggling at the beautiful Susie, being too nervous to help make up her bed linens, and running from Vargas's questioning. Like Norman Bates, he even eats a sandwich in the motel office!

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Why is it a bad idea that Susie moves into an American motel?

Grandi sends his right hand, Pancho, to replace the day manager and carry out his plot to frame Susie as a hard-partying addict. We're never told if the absence of the real day manager is a coincidence, or if that was arranged by Grandi as well.

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In the motel, was Susie raped?

The plan seems to be to drug Susie and set her up to look like an addict. However, some viewers read more into the sinister way that several men crowd into Susie's hotel room and hold her down -- at which point the action cuts back to Vargas.

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What was Susie actually drugged with?

Grandi's people only wanted it to look like she was using marijuana and heroin -- and there was evidence for both of those left at the hotel room. However, injectable sodium pentothal was the best way to simply knock her out for a good long time.

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What does Quinlan believe is the ideal method of murder?

Modern viewers will immediately think that strangulation, happening up close, leaves a lot of DNA evidence on the victim. Remember, though, that in 1958 they were nearly 30 years away from the DNA testing method that revolutionized criminal investigation.

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How did Quinlan's wife die?

Quinlan explains to Menzies that she was killed while working in a packing plant, so the killer had the cord "right to hand." Quinlan further says he tried hard to get evidence on his prime suspect, but in the end, the suspect died in WWI.

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How does Joe Grandi die?

Grandi and Quinlan have entered into a pact to frame Susie. For this reason, Grandi goes to Susie's hotel room at the Ritz with Quinlan. He stays there, despite Quinlan acting increasingly suspicious -- and then, it's too late.

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What does Tanya say when Quinlan asks her to read his fortune?

For our money, it's one of the best movie lines ever!

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How does Menzies come to realize that Quinlan killed Grandi?

This is maybe the film's least-convincing plot point. Anyone with a leg injury bad enough to need a cane is very unlikely not to notice they've walked away without it. Quinlan was drunk, which is supposed to justify it. Or you could theorize that he secretly wants to be caught.

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Where does Menzies take Quinlan to get incriminating information from him?

Vargas is there too -- skulking behind framework and under bridges. He tapes the conversation that's being transmitted by the wire Menzies is wearing.

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In the end, Tanya calls Quinlan "a lousy cop," but also what?

The expression "a person of parts" didn't really take off until the 2000s, nearly a half-century after Touch of Evil. Tanya's expression, "some kind of a man," gets the same idea across, in a more world-weary style.

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What is unusual about Tanya's name in the film?

Though she's listed as "Tanya" on reliable sources like IMDb and Wikipedia, you can clearly hear the actors saying "Tana" instead. Did a clerical worker at the studio make a mistake as the promotional materials were prepared and sent out? It's a mystery.

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Which of the actors did their scenes while injured?

Leigh had a broken arm. Her cast was hidden from view in many shots, but when she was scantlly dressed, the cast had to be removed and replaced later.

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For which moment is Touch of Evil arguably most famous?

The opening is one of the most famous lengthy tracking shots in film. The camera follows both Linnekar's car and the newlywed Vargases, who are on foot, as they head for the border. The scene has been imitated in films by Brian DePalma and Paul Thomas Anderson.

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