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Odd Little Story About A Disc Jockey

May 2nd, 2010 · 3 Comments

Play Misty For Me 1971 poster Play Misty For Me Italian poster

Play Misty For Me (1971)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Jo Heims and Dean Reisner, story by Jo Heims
Produced by Robert Daley
102 minutes

Clint Eastwood once referred to Play Misty For Me warmly as an “odd little story about a disc jockey”; Eastwood’s understated regard seems perfectly matched to this material, his debut film as director. It’s a disquieting B-side that seems filled with one too many digressions to qualify as a classic thriller, but on the other hand, it’s those digressions that make the picture so memorable. Unlike Fatal Attracton — the blockbuster that would brazenly and brainlessly borrow Misty’s hook — this flick seems more inspired by the rhythms of a real one-night stand gone bad as opposed to the junk plot generator of Hollywood. The result has verve, atmosphere and a big scare along the way to actually addressing discontent between men and women.

Play Misty For Me doesn’t amp up the suspense so much as it ambles in the direction of an intriguing psychodrama. Shot in Eastwood’s backyard of Monterey, where the star assured Universal he knew where he could grab locations without spending money building sets, both the candlepower cinematography by Bruce Surtees and the sound design by Universal capture the allure of coastal Big Sur better than any movie ever made. Jessica Walter is superb as the scorned wackadoo and even though Eastwood dilly dallies away from her and from what makes the movie tick for a meadow love scene set to Roberta Flack’s “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” or a visit to the Monterey Jazz Festival, at least it can be said no other stalker movie would have thought of that.

31 Days of Eastwood

Disc jockey Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) opens his show at jazz station KRML in Carmel by promising his listeners “a little verse, a little talk, and five hours of music to be very, very nice to each other by.” During his shift, one of Garver’s regular female caller phones in and purrs, “Play ‘Misty’ for me.” Winding down at his favorite watering hole, Dave attracts the attention of a brunette at the end of the bar. Introducing herself as Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter), she claims to have been stood up on a date. Dave gives Evelyn a ride home, but feels he knows this woman from somewhere. Evelyn reveals she’s his “Misty” caller. Dave claims that he doesn’t want to complicate his life, but neither one of them sees any reason why they shouldn’t sleep together.

Dave is actually more interested in patching things up with his artsy ex-girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills) when he discovers she’s moved back from Sausalito. Evelyn won’t take a hint, tracking Dave down and asking why he hasn’t taken her calls. He’s not amused. She continues to smother him – banging on his door in the middle of the night and professing her love – until he makes it clear he doesn’t feel the same way. Evelyn responds by slashing her wrists in his bathroom and drawing out her recovery at his place. When Dave finally leaves his house for a business meeting, Evelyn follows him to the restaurant and costs him a prized hosting gig. Dave breaks it off with his schizophrenic wackjob for the last time, unaware that Evelyn considers the affair far from over.

Play Misty For Me 1971 Clint Eastwood

Play Misty For Me 1971 Don Siegel Jessica Walter Clint Eastwood

Play Misty For Me 1971 Clint Eastwood Jessica Walter

Play Misty For Me 1971 Jessica Walter

Play Misty For Me 1971 Clint Eastwood

Play Misty For Me 1971 Jessica Walter Clint Eastwood

Play Misty For Me 1971 Donna Mills Clint Eastwood

Play Misty For Me 1971 Jessica Walter

Play Misty For Me 1971

Play Misty For Me 1971 Clint Eastwood

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 30 users: 83% for Play Misty For Me

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available

What do you think?

Tags: Concert · Femme fatale · Interrogation · Murder mystery · Psycho killer · Small town

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Colleen Wainwright // May 3, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    FINALLY. Finally, Joe Valdez does MISTY.

    As you know, I’ve seen this movie upwards of 300x. Well, the first two reels, anyway. As you so aptly put it, no other movie does as good a job at capturing that Central California Coast.

    Anyway, I can’t remember if it was in the extras that I heard him talk about it or if I read it elsewhere, but that bizarre interlude is there to get you to forget crazy Evelyn. And it works! So it wasn’t just gratuitous Eastwood jazz-love.

    Also, I think you’re right in about how subtly but aptly the film handles the great male-female divide. Evelyn is, indeed, wackadoo, but she’s an extreme example of what a lot of normal lady types go through, trying to navigate these troubled waters. Plus Jessica Walter just ROCKS.

    Thanks for this, Joe. Am very, very excited about Eastwood May!

  • 2 J.D. // May 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I love the understated yet atmospheric menacing vibe that permeates this film. Unlike, FATAL ATTRACTION which cranks everything to 11, Eastwood adopts his trademark laidback style and does a fantastic job of easing you into this world, letting you get to the characters before ratcheting up the tension. Such a good film.

  • 3 Joe Valdez // May 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Colleen: I’d heard said that Play Misty For Me was one of your favorite movies. I agree with everything you said, particularly how strong Jessica Walter is. Has Clint been more fucked with by anyone else in a movie, ever? This was remade with Idris Elba, Ali Larter and Beyoncé Knowles as Obsessed but remade terribly, without any style or point of view and none of Eastwood’s power and restraint. Thanks for commenting and please check back in over the next month!

    J.D.: I think Play Misty For Me is such a wonderful example of why some thrillers made 40 years ago are so much better than what is being cranked out of Platinum Dunes and consumed by the fanboys of today. Instead of entertainment product that is largely disposable — and I’d put Fatal Attraction in that group — Eastwood brings a little more depth, a little more realism and punctuates the stillness with something far more menacing. Rosemary’s Baby is another classic example and if either of these movies are remade I will personally butcher knife hack some shameless studio executive a la Evelyn Draper. Thanks for commenting!

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