Play Misty For Me (1971)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Jo Heims and Dean Reisner, story by Jo Heims
Produced by Robert Daley
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.
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.
Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 30 users: 83% for Play Misty For Me
Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available
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