Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 206: Play Misty for Me (1971) - Rank 3/5


Clint Eastwood's directorial debut, while not awful, does leave much to be desired. The story undoubtedly influenced both the creation of "Fatal Attraction" and the novel "Misery," but this is a rare instance where the "copycats" outshine the original. Clint Eastwood directs himself as popular disc jockey Dave Garver, a cool cat who spends his time spinning records of slow, smarmy music and taking advantage of the dames who are moved by his mellow rhythms. One habitual caller, a woman who nightly requests "Play 'Misty' for me," happens to "accidentally" meet Dave at a bar and the two quickly take to the sheets. Ah, but Evelyn (Jessica Walter) is determined to be more than just a one-night stand and once Dave's old flame shows up, Evelyn goes off the deep end, ruining Dave's career, trashing his home and trying to maim anyone remotely associated with him.

The problem is Evelyn goes a little too nuts a little too quick. While her character is no more implausible than Alex Forrest of "Fatal Attraction" (for the two are unmistakably similar), Forrest's progression into madness is more gradual and is sparked by a reasonable incident (she becomes pregnant). It was fun to see Jessica Walter early in her career, primarily because she ain't too bad looking. I always found her attractive in a "Hello, Mrs. Robinson" kind of way in "Arrested Development," despite her bitter ways. As much as I almost feel pained to say it, I think one of the film's problems is Eastwood's direction. The entire fourth act seems, well, sloppy as we're provided with a great "reveal" that, as best as I could recall, had no foreshadowing and therefore seemed illogical. There's no doubt that Eastwood is a fantastic director, whether it's an Oscar-recognized drama, such as "Million Dollar Baby," or a guilty pleasure picture for guys ("The Outlaw Josey Wales"). But where "Play Misty for Me" is concerned, I believe Clint hadn't hit his stride yet.

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