After being shot in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, Captain Quinlan's last words before falling into the river are;

"That's the second bullet I stopped for you."

His words appear to be aimed at his partner, Menzies, who shot him from the bridge - however, I don't understand what this line means in the context of the film.

At first, I thought the implication was that in the struggle on the bridge between Menzies and Quinlan, it was actually Quinlan who had been shot (the actual shooting isn't shown on screen as we are focused on Vargas at the time), but we are shown a few seconds after these words that Menzies' hand is dripping blood from his wounds, meaning that it must have been he who was shot in the struggle and not Quinlan.

I then thought that the implication of this line was that Quinlan, who was previously admitting to planting evidence on tape, knew what was happening and covered for Menzies in an attempt to clear his partners name, who may have secretly been "in on" the planting of evidence the whole time - meaning that the bullet in question was a metaphorical one, not a literal one. However, if that is the case, why would Quinlan shoot and kill Menzies just minutes later?

I have since learned that there are multiple versions of Touch of Evil, and that the studio cut/reshot the film the way they wanted after Welles had finished filming - this studio version is the one that I watched. Is this an inconsistency generated from these cuts and reshoots? Or is there another explanation for this line?

1 Answer 1


Probably Captain Quinlan was recollecting the incident of how he saved his colleague Menzies by taking a bullet in his leg in some unknown point of time.

At the very outset of the introduction of the duo, we can see a game-legged Captain Hank Quinlan and his fellow companion Pete Menzies for whom the former was sort of revered figure.

He couldn't believe initially something is at odds with his public image of a detective of principles till he got his cane in the room where Susie was found unconscious.

For him, Quinlan was an idol and this pretty much hints at that Quinlan did some great feat like saving his life.

And also Quinlan had a damaged limb and this also sheds light on that he might got shot in his leg in the course of his career.

While researching a bit in favour of this hypothesis, Google took me to this site which sums up quite explicitly:

[...] Vargas tries to convince Menzies that his friend and partner Quinlan is a crooked cop. Menzies was saved by Quinlan long ago and now has a case of hero worship. Not until Menzies finds Quinlan’s cane in Susie’s hotel room with the strangled body of Grandi does he believe his partner is guilty.


The finale is more about Quinlan and Menzies than Vargas' justice or Susie’s name being cleared. Quinlan took a bullet in the leg long ago to save his friend Menzies, and that gesture, along with his prolific career has made him an idol.

So, (assuming the site to be true), in the end, we can conclude that Captain Quinlan took a bullet to save his comrade and this made him a worshipping figure for Menzies - and probably Quinlan was recalling this incident in his dying words.

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