Sunday, December 11, 2022

Play Misty for Me

Another of the box sets I've got is a seven-film set of Clint Eastwood movies that's apparently two sets in one: one of westerns, and the other of dramas. I've blogged about most of the films in this set, but hadn't done Play Misty for Me before, so I recently watched it to do a review here.

Clint Eastwood plays Dave Garver, a disk jockey at a small station in Carmel, CA, who has a nightly show taking requests from listeners and who apparently can afford a nice place on the Monterey peninsula thanks to this job. Well, actually, he does other work as a promoter, getting involved with the Monterey Jazz Festival and trying to get a gig financed by an older woman up in San Francisco.

Pretty much every night, Dave gets a call from some woman who wants him to play the old jazz standard "Misty", hence the title of the movie. One night after Dave's show, he goes to a bar where he knows the bartender well, and who shows up but that woman who keeps requesting "Misty", a woman named Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter). The two decide to go back to Dave's place and have a night of hot, steamy sex.

Little does Dave know that Evelyn is on the crazy side of the hot/crazy matrix, as she eventually starts doing things that anybody who's seen a movie like Fatal Attraction would recognize as giant screaming warning sirens. Unfortunately for Dave, it was still a good 15 years before Fatal Attraction, and crazy female stalkers must not have been quite the trope, so Dave doesn't get what's going on. (And to be fair, he has no idea Evelyn "borrows" his house key to make a duplicate.) The behavior gets worse and worse until Evelyn decides to slash her wrists in response to Dave's attempt to dump her.

Evelyn gets sent off to a mental hospital, and while she's in the hospital, Dave runs into a former girlfriend, Tobie Williams (Donna Mills). The two pick up their relationship where they left off, which is fine until Evelyn gets out of the mental hospital. It's obvious there's going to be hell to pay when Evelyn finds out that Dave is now involved with another woman. Hell, Evelyn even thinks Dave's maid is a threat to her and stabs the poor maid.

Dave is understandably worried for Tobie, not knowing just how much danger she's in. Tobie, you see, inherited her parents' house, and this being the Monterey peninsual, she can't afford the sort of house that Dave somehow can. Tobie has to take in roommates to help cover the expenses, and little does she know that her new roommate "Annabel" is actually Evelyn. Will Dave figure things out in time?

Play Misty for Me was Clint Eastwood's first movie as a director, and he already shows that he's a capable director, having learned how to do things by paying attention from all the movies he was on earlier in his career. The story is good, and original for its time, although it might seem a bit slow and dated with the intervening 50 years having turned up the heat on the genre. Walter in particular is enjoyable as crazy Evelyn.

While I said the movie is a bit slow, it might not just be because the stalker movie was a relatively new thing. In fact, there are a couple of sequences which pad out the running time and don't quite fit in with the rest of the movie. One is the sex scene played out over the Robert Flack song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". I knew that the song had become a huge hit thanks to its use in the movie, but I didn't realize how it got used -- and misused, since the scene doesn't really fit in.

The other sequence is one that would have been great for its own movie. Eastwood was apparently able to get footage of the previous year's Monterey Jazz Festival, and inserts that into the movie with some cutting away to Dave as a music promoter. The jazz sequences would probably be great on their own as part of a documentary like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Here, however, they don't fit in either.

On the whole, however, Play Misty for Me is a fairly good movie, and one that definitely shows Eastwood's promise. I'm glad it made its way to a box set.

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