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Play Misty For Me (1971)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres:
Crime Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Thriller
Director:
Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood
Starring:
Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood
Jessica Walter Jessica Walter
Donna Mills Donna Mills
John Larch John Larch
Jack Ging Jack Ging

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: September 23, 2007
Setting the stage for dozens of imposters over the years, Play Misty for Me is still as effective today as it was over thirty years ago. This film would mark the beginning of Clint Eastwood's long career as a director, and I have to say that it was a hell of a way to begin for the man who was at one time known only as a great actor. It would also give men across the country second thoughts about picking up women at bars for one night stands, and who could blame them? After all, no serial killer or monster could ever hope to be as scary as a pissed off woman, and this film shows us exactly why that is the case.

It all begins when disc jockey Dave (Clint Eastwood) starts getting numerous requests from a woman to "play Misty for me." A simple request, and it's one that Dave fulfills on a nightly basis. Then, one night he decides to make a stop at the local tavern for a couple of drinks after work, and it's there that he meets Evelyn (Jessica Walter), the woman who will eventually reveal herself to be the fan who has been repeatedly requesting that he play "Misty" for her. One thing leads to another, they wind up back at her place, and she starts putting the moves on him... to which he replies to her that he's currently seeing someone and that - if anything were to happen here - it would happen with no strings attached. Evelyn agrees, they hit the bed for some adult fun, and that should be that... right?

Wrong. You see, it turns out that Evelyn isn't exactly chugging along with all of her cylinders at full power, and she also happens to be obsessed with Dave and everything that he does. It starts out simple enough; dropping by unannounced to cook dinner for him, showing up naked on his doorstep, and buying him lavish presents in an attempt to win his heart. However, when Evelyn realizes that he wasn't joking about being with someone and when she meets said someone (Donna Mills), she goes off the deep end and sets out to win "her" man over - no matter what it takes.

What makes this particular tale of obsession stand out amongst a sea of films with similar plots? Simple: the direction, the atmosphere, and the amazing acting abilities of one Jessica Walter. Whereas other leading ladies have played convincing scorned lovers on the screen since the release of this film, nobody quite lives up to the standard that Mrs. Walter set here, and the result is one hell of an effective film that easily puts the imitators to shame. Of course, Clint Eastwood isn't exactly a novice in the acting department either and he more than pulls his own weight in the film, but it's obvious from her first appearance that the leading lady is the real star of the movie.

Save for one chunk of the film (more on that in a moment), Eastwood's direction is spot-on in this release. The man knew how to capture a scene perfectly even at the very beginning of his career, and he also knew how to tell the story in a way that would seriously raise the tension levels and have audiences on the edge of their seats awaiting the next plot development. This is a relatively simple plot device, granted, but Eastwood made it work and his leading lady made it a classic. They just don't make 'em like this anymore, and I have to give the man major credit for making a film that turned out to be so damned unnerving.

Now, the one thing that I didn't enjoy about the film comes to us towards the end of the running time. It begins with a lengthy scene involving Dave and his true love spending some time together after they believe that the threat to their safety is gone: they walk on the beach, gaze lovingly into one another's eyes, make love, and all of the other mushy things that couples in love do. This scene went on for entirely too long, and although I can appreciate Eastwood enjoying the song that played throughout this scene (which was the sole reason for said scene running so long), I have to say that a couple of minutes could have been trimmed out of here.

I could have overlooked this scene, however, as it does add to the storyline and develops the characters a little more, but this leads right into the next scene, a scene which really should have been cut out altogether. You see, the Monterey Jazz Festival was in town during filming, and Eastwood decided to incorporate this into his film by sending his main characters out there and filming it. This results in another lengthy scene that basically goes nowhere and does nothing but show us jazz performers doing their thing. When you consider that these two scenes played out back to back, I think that it goes without saying that the mood was killed a little bit, and I have to wonder how much more effective the ending could have been had these scenes either wound up on the cutting room floor or had they been heavily edited.

However, those are two minor blemishes with all things considered, as the film as a whole is truly a classic in the thriller genre and - unlike a fair number of films from the era - is still as effective today as it was when it opened in theaters. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 09/24/2007, 06:15 PM
This one's a classic and is the perfect starter for Eastwood's brilliant career as a director. At the rate he's going, he'll probably wind up being remembered more as a director than an actor, though I think he handles both equally and admirably. Next up for him is "The Changeling", which I am excited about.
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