I may not be saying it first, but I'll still say it: Get your hands off him, you damned dirty apes. I don't care how vigorously he courted the Right, nor how effectively he became a whipping boy of the Left. When I see him in my head, he is not holding high a long-bore hunting rifle but a Technicolor Decalogue, final warning to sinners in the hands of an angry God. And more: his whip held high, the chariots plummeting. And in a quieter mood, an Omega Man watching Woodstock over and over--or most of all, the clenched-jaw cynics, munching on Soylent Green or cursing on the beach, goddamming us all to hell--Moses once more at the end, seeing creation and concluding it is not all that good.
And these images last because, as an adult, I saw on video the strange statue Orson Welles had carved back in 1958, the Mexican Heston, stooping beneath low border-town apartment-dive ceilings like John Wayne in The Quiet Man, both of them out of their elements, and transformed. He was exactly what Touch of Evil needed: a slab of marble among all those sweaty double-crossers, with his wife, Janet Leigh, packed into her foundation garments--un-dress rehearsal for Anthony Perkins just a little down that black and white road. And Heston plugged along, wading in the oily water, a practical Ahab after the Great White Orson, the double-est crosser of them all. That single late glimpse of Charlton Heston clears up everything between us, and allows us at last to set down that shootin iron and lift a toast to Apocalypse, whether pillar of fire or busted-up Statue of Liberty, car-bomb or plague-psychos. Now those are moments you're going to have to pry from my cold, dead--ah, you get it.
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