Play Misty For Me (1971)

Play Misty For Me (1971)A few years ago I attempted to watch Play Misty for Me (1971) I was really off, it didn’t last more than a few scenes. It had really aged, the titles, the music, the look of the whole thing was cheesy, a relic to be forgotten from the 1970’s. A decade that would go on to see Clint Eastwood flourish and grow as a director and other like him have incredible freedom with their work. I just put this film to the back of my mind like a bad night in town, messy and nothing you want to dwell on.

Then over the following years I began to read and hear more about this film, maybe I should give this “horror” a second look and even that took sometime to squeeze into my busy viewing schedule. Until recently I took the bull by the horns and got it ready to revisit and sit myself down for the entirety of the film. So here I am now, what are my thoughts on this I must admit dated thriller that does precursor the “bunny boiler” genre which got its name thanks to Glenn Close‘s culinary skills in Fatal Attraction (1987). The stalker sub-genre was born…kind off. You have to admit for Eastwood a man of action this is quite a departure, there’s not a gun in sight which is another brave move by the director who also stars, something he has been able to juggle on countless films since.

Ok with the history of the film in place, lets turn to the plot which is pretty strong on the whole, radio d.j. Dave (who has been getting the regular calls from a fan, requesting Misty be played, just a regular fan who knows what she wants to be played, sounds innocent enough…right? It’s after he meets Evelyn (Jessica Walter) by coincidence at a bar, which turns into a long night with no strings attached. We have a slight idea of who she could be from the caller at the station. There’s no way of knowing until we see her a few days later just turn up out of the blue. Trouble is definitely afoot for Dave who is having problems with his girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills) who is trying to sort her head out.

The focus is on Evelyn who builds up this fantasy relationship between her and Dave which we can see is clearly not right. Becoming intrusive, overly caring, just walking in whenever she wants. Evelyn is very much today a caricature of the obsessive woman turning into comedy at times today. Still the effect she has on Dave is enough for the film to hold up, the fear that she inflicts upon him is enough for me to want to see what she does next which shows the film works on some level. The scenes of violence also lean towards comedy today which also shows how much this film has dated. It’s the moments of tension that hold this film together. There’s even a homage to Psycho (1960) which Eastwood just about pulls off. The role of the possessed is reversed here. It’s a brave move which almost pays off, the villainous role of the male is given to a female which is even today rarely seen in main-stream film.

On reflection its a half decent film by then first-time director Eastwood showing what he can do both behind and in front of the camera. So you have to give him his dues there. The film struggles to hold up completely, but can be seen as a landmark in his career at least. You could say it was a trail-blazer; allowing other actresses  to play the part of the villain and better too.I can see what he is capable of even at this stage of his career. I am well aware of his later work which has seen him become a much respected director today. We all have to start somewhere I guess.

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