Entertainment · Film · Movies

Casual Sex on Your Mind? … Watch Play Misty for Me.

play-misty-for-me-1971

Casual sex on your mind, you might want to think it over … Before Fatal Attraction, Misery and Swimfan, there was 1971’s vastly underrated yet clearly memorable and well-crafted classic …it’s a gripping, psychological suspense-thriller Play Misty for Me. For every action there is a subsequent reaction …. Perhaps we all should consider showing this to our children when the right time comes. One night stands never work, we can all thank Clint for showing us the terrifying consequences that could result in a seemingly harmless fling going pear shape. This is 100 minutes of pure movie magic! In addition, it was quite influential, creating a whole new stalker/love obsession film genre. Play Misty for Me is the original and still far superior to the others. Don’t forget to turn the lights off …

 

 

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This was Clint Eastwood’s first foray on the director’s chair, it is top-notch and what an impressive directorial debut it was! It gives his fans a glimpse into the true brilliance of a man who would enjoy a long and distinguished career on both sides of the camera. It was ahead of its time and one of the best suspense films of the 1970’s, certainly one of the best ever, and is definitely in my Top 10.

 

 

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Who doesn’t like to chill with Clint Eastwood? He was the epitome of coolness, from A Fistful of Dollars, to Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Harry and The Eiger Sanction, Clint was at the top of his game, his films box office gold.

 

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After years of learning from master directors Don Siegel and Sergio Leone, it was not surprising that this initial effort went as well as it did! What was surprising was that he was interested in working from the other side of the camera and even made the bold decision to cast himself in the lead role.

 

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Groovin’ with Clint and Donna

Forty-three years later, the clothes and hairstyles might seem dated but it has stood the test of time and current film-goers who might be more familiar with today’s current crop of horror films with all their gore, are in for a ride. In this day and age this film is too frighteningly real with the online information just about any person can access about anything or anyone.

 

Wonderful character actor James McEachin in Play Misty for Me

Wonderful character actor James McEachin in Play Misty for Me.

Clint loves jazz, often featuring performances by musicians he enjoys in his films. The musical interlude at the Monterey Jazz Festival is a treat for jazz fans, listen for The Johnny Otis Show, Cannonball Adderley Quintet, and Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul. The sensual score by Roberta Flack of her song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face that Clint chose for the montage is a gem though others might disagree. It may seem a little out of place, it’s there to lull us into relaxing, don’t be fooled and hold on tight.

 

Clint Eastwood as radio DJ Dave Garver in Play Misty for Me

Clint Eastwood as radio DJ Dave Garver in Play Misty for Me

In the city of Carmel, CA, we see a regular (Is it possible Clint can be just like the rest of us?) and more human, albeit mysogenistic Clint who is utterly convincing as David Garver, a dashing and womanising, popular jazz and R&B radio disc-jockey who takes all-night requests and has himself an obsessive female fan.

 

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The lovers Dave and Tobie in a scene from the film.

I find it not so much a gore-horror film as much as it is a character study of the two lead characters. Here is a man who wants to turn over a new leaf with his girlfriend only to find himself having committed the terrible act of sleeping with the wrong person. Of course no one deserves to be terrorized in this manner but one might wonder if his life of promiscuity might have lead him down this path. His lack of sensitivity toward women does not make him the most sympathetic character either though of course I side with him when the other choice is a creepy psycho.

 

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DJ Dave with his new fan Evelyn.

The premise is alarmingly realistic, ask any man who’s ever seen the more widely known Fatal Attraction. My brother I’m sure made a mental note of the film and its lessons after we saw the film on one of those late night showings 😉

 

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Jessica gives us a powerhouse performance as the unhinged Evelyn.

You never know who’s watching or listening out there. This film proves another thumbs down for the judicial system that would release a troubled individual like this to an unsuspecting public. Evelyn is a tragic lonely figure, the avid fan turned multi-personality psycho-female headcase and every man’s nightmare.

This character was played with such gusto by wonderfully talented scene-stealer, actress Jessica Walter. I love great acting and great actors, they’re not easy to come by, Ms. Walters is simply divine. She had by then starred in a few big screen flicks but none with the richness as this character. She did one heck of a job!

Her spot-on powerhouse performance is absolutely superb and she is unforgettable in the role. I can’t use enough adjectives for her work in this film. The range of emotions she exhibits with this character is incredible. It is chilling how a beautiful, nice enough looking woman like this can be so sweet one moment and crazy scary the next!

This character started it all, followed by the likes of Alex Forrest and Annie Wilkes (Fatal Attraction’s and Misery’s date and fan from hell). Although I have huge respect for the works of Glenn Close and Kathy Bates, Jessica Walters’ performance is still heads and shoulders above the others. Evelyn almost makes Alex and Annie look like they’re just suffering a bad week with PMS, almost. This was Oscar-worthy to say the least, she was however not even nominated, though she was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress.

 

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Don, Jessica and Clint in a wonderful scene from the film.

There is a wonderfully amusing cameo of Don Siegel in a dear role as the friendly local bartender. Director Don Siegel was one of Clint’s closest friends and also his mentor who had a huge influence on the actor’s career as a director. Siegel directed five of his films, all commercially and critically successful. Just in case you’re interested, the five films were Dirty Harry, Coogan’s Bluff, The Beguiled, Two Mules for Sister Sara and Escape from Alcatraz. I can only imagine Siegel watching and advising his young protégé. Don Siegel is excellent in the film too, by the way! Oh, before I forget, the game Cry Bastion, they played in the bar in one of the scenes, it was made up, there is no such game. Brilliant!

 

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Donna Mills plays Clint’s lady-love in this gem Play Misty for Me.

Donna Mills is excellent and clearly beautiful and so lovable as Clint’s girlfriend. I wish there had been more for her to do in the role. My brother “dug” her in the film and still does! This is the same actress who played Abby Ewing in Knots Landing! Clint does use Donna’s gorgeous eyes to great effectiveness, but I won’t tell you where in the film, don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

 

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Some of the members of the superb cast of actors in Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me.

Amazing character actors John Larch, Clarice Taylor, Jack Ging, Irene Hervey and the wonderful James McEachin round out this superbly talented cast.

 

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Clint as the dashing womanising Dave Barber in Play Misty for Me.

Clint Eastwood was interested in directing a film of his own, the opportunity came along with Play Misty for Me. This role was a huge departure from the action man roles we were used to seeing him in. This was apparently a deliberate attempt to avoid being type-casted. Play Misty for Me proved once and for all that Clint had more in him than the spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harry. He did it for free by the way.

 

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It was made with a small budget of about $900,000.00. Does it take away from the quality of the film, definitely not. In my humble opinion, it only adds to its authenticity.

No need for expensive sets or today’s computer generated special effects. Frighteningly realistic in every way, these are real homes and could be real people, like your new next-door neighbour or the stranger you invited to your home for dinner the other evening. I have to question why this film wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award.

With a solid script, by Joe Heims and Dean Reisner and the brilliant direction of the Clint himself, Play Misty for Me gives as much as any Hitchcock film I’ve seen and I’ve seen them all. It’s obvious even at this primary stage that Clint’s work demonstrates a thorough understanding of the importance of the camera and mise-en-scene in creating suspense, pulling the viewer in ever so slowly. The power of the darkened light and the inspired handheld camerawork of Bruce Surtees really puts us where the action is, not to mention the inspiring photography of the Northern California coastline.

 

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It took Clint Eastwood 21 days to film, he finished it ahead of schedule and under budget. It’s no wonder Clint chose Carmel over L.A. where it was originally supposed to be filmed on location. Clint had other plans. Quaint and charming Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA with its wind-tossed beaches, quiet coves and sea and spray beauty is a dreamy location. For those who don’t remember, Clint was Mayor of Carmel from 1986-1988.

 

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