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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 211: Play Misty For Me

Play Misty For Me
But you didn't say "Please".

I have been a radio DJ on and off since college. I really enjoy bringing new music to people and helping out lesser-known bands reach an audience. It's always nice to get requests as it's a confirmation that people are listening and I'm not just shouting into the darkness of radio. Thankfully, I've never had to deal with angry listeners. I did receive mail from a prisoner, but it was all positive. Being in any form of entertainment opens you up to a wide variety of people, some good and some not so good. All it takes is one person off the medication or off their rocker to become obsessed and fixated.

Play Misty For Me is a 1971 thriller horror movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby) as radio DJ Dave Garver. Dave broadcasts on KRML in California, playing a mix of music and poetry. One night at a bar, he meets a woman named Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development, PCU). She reveals that their meeting is not a coincidence as she is a fan of his radio show and has requested him to play the song “Misty” for her on several occasions. Dave is slightly uncomfortable, but Evelyn coerces him into sleeping with her with the agreement of no strings attached. The next day, Evelyn shows up at Dave's home to his surprise. He is a little taken aback, but does not object too much. She begins to show up unannounced and uninvited to places where Dave shows up. She alternates between saying she loves him and claiming to hate him and Dave tries to break it off gently numerous times. His ex-girlfriend Tobie Williams (Donna Mills, Knots Landing, Melrose Place) has come back to town and Dave tries to rekindle their relationship. Evelyn continues to follow him, even ruining a business meeting and a potential job for Dave. She attempts to kill herself, but manages to survive. She breaks into Dave's house, destroying his things and attacking his house keeper. She is committed to an institution and Dave begins a relationship with Tobie. Time passes, and Evelyn calls Dave, saying she has been released and is going to work in Hawaii. That night, she attacked Dave in his sleep, but was unsuccessful and escaped. How will Dave stop Evelyn and will he be able to protect Tobie? 

Who could say no to those sideburns?

We all know Clint Eastwood as the quiet, tough cowboy or the older, gruff father figure later in his career. Play Misty For Me takes Eastwood out of his comfort zone and makes him a sort-of heartthrob, complete with feathery hair. Eastwood's Dave has his flaws and tries to make things right with Evelyn, but by then it is too late and the audience is cheering for him. All this is helped along thanks to the phenomenal Jessica Walter. She is incredibly convincing, going from calm and loving, to manically dangerous. The audience knows pretty quickly that something is wrong, but Dave doesn't catch on and we watch in horror as things go from bad to worse. The movie has some good scares and thrills, culminating in a harrowing final scene made all the scarier thanks to a lack of music. Sometimes scenes are far scarier with real sounds instead of orchestras and music telling us how we should feel. There are some good scenes of violence, though they are tame compared to movies today.

The movie is a strong, simple thriller that is perfect for Eastwood's directorial debut. Things play out as you expect, but that's good because Play Misty For Me is the type of movie that does not require tricks or twists. The movie paved the way for other stalker movies like Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The only real problems from the movie are due to it being a victim of it's time. The 70's weren't exactly a great time and the movie is steeped in the era, from the clothes to the hair. Despite the aesthetic issues, there are scenes that reflect filmmaking at the time, like an extended music festival scene or the long reconnection of Dave and Tobie complete with cheesy love music playing while the walk along a beach and kiss during sunset. These scenes take away from the flow of movie and certainly don't appeal to modern audiences.

Wow! I can hear the ocean in your ear!

Play Misty For Me is a by-the-numbers stalker movie and there is nothing wrong with that. The movie is carried by the great performance of Jessica Walter and the good performance of Clint Eastwood. Eastwood does a fine job directing, especially so since it was his first time in the director's chair. The movie has good thrills and suspense with some decent action. It tends to be a little slow in parts and the style of the movie is steeped in the 70's which doesn't translate well to the 2010's. Play Misty For Me is a fun movie that can be watched by a wide audience.


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