[Film Review] Play Misty for Me (1971)

Play Misty For Me poster

Title: Play Misty for Me
Year: 1971
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Thriller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers:
Jo Heims
Dean Riesner
Music: Dee Barton
Cinematography: Bruce Surtees
Cast:
Clint Eastwood
Jessica Walter
Donna Mills
John Larch
James McEachin
Clarice Taylor
Don Siegel
Jack Ging
Irene Hervey
Rating: 5.7/10

Play Misty For Me 1971

Mr. Eastwood’s director debut, a nocturnal thriller, viewed in retrospect, is approximate to an amalgam of FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) and MISERY (1990), a radio jockey Dave Garver (Eastwood) in Carmel, California, hooks up with a girl claims to be his groupie, Evelyn Draper (Walter), it is a no-strings-attached fling, at least, in Dave’s perspective, but she turns out to be his worst nightmare with her maniac obsession towards him, especially when Dave starts to patch up his romance with his ex-girlfriend Tobie (Mills), she will never let that happen as long as she is in the land of the living.

As a slasher with a twisted female psycho as the antagonist, the drawing power is predominantly contingent to Jessica Walter’s performance, Evelyn is an out-and-out lunatic on the loose, it takes time and someone’s shed blood for Dave to realise that, and obviously, Tobie is on the top of the list as her next victim, Dave has to confront his incubus face-to-face, and ends his peril once for all. Thankfully Walter is a fiery enforcer of chills and derangement, heightens the clinical symptoms of Evelyn’s mental disorder – self-absorbing in her own delusional frame, denying the real world with her passive-aggressive fixation, occasionally exploding with polarised mood swings, self-destructive and extremely bloodthirsty – to flesh out an utterly unsympathetic character, still, she is less scarier than Bates in MISERY and less vitriolic than Close in FATAL ATTRACTION.

Apart from that, there is really nothing special to cull from this low-budget work aiming for cheap thrill, it is a moderately engaging thriller, the diegesis is awfully predictable and the film itself is not pulpy enough to be worshiped as a cult classic. There are notable adjuncts, like the usage of live footages at the Monterey Jazz Festival and a music video treatment with Dave and Tobie’s romantic getaway in the picturesque landscape accompanied by Roberta Flack’s soulful THE FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE, which are wholly inconsistent with the film’s tenor and plot-wise, they are so irrelevant.

We know how Clint Eastwood loves jazz music, and the Erroll Garner’s jazz standard “Misty” plays a key role in the story, if only deducing from this movie, one might never guess what a major cinema virtuoso Mr. Eastwood would mature into along with time, alas, it is always helpful to have some trial run to get familiar with a new line of work.

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