Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


"Play Misty for me," says the lady on the phone
PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971). Director: Clint Eastwood.

Radio DJ Dave (Clint Eastwood) plays easy listening on the night shift, and he consistently gets calls from a woman who says "Play Misty for me." One night Dave meets a woman named Evelyn (Jessica Walter) at a bar and has a one-night stand with her. She not only turns out to be the lady who requests Misty, but she seems to think this one encounter means that she and Dave are in a "relationship." Things get worse when Dave sleeps with her a second time, and she acts as if they're engaged, showing up uninvited, expecting him to act like a significant other when all he wants to do is get away from her. In spite of this, Dave shows compassion after Evelyn's suicide attempt [a doctor friend risks his license by not reporting the incident, even though it would have forced Evelyn to get help], after which Evelyn is even more deeply "attached" to the man. If anything her behavior gets worse ... Play Misty for Me is an entertaining visualization of one man's Casual Sex Nightmare, and features a striking performance from Jessica Walter with an okay Eastwood pretty much along for the ride. Eastwood also directed the film, which is well-shot by Bruce Surtees. There's an exciting, if too brief, climax wherein Evelyn tries to butcher Dave; a sequence where she stabs repeatedly at his poor maid, Birdie (an amusing and sassy Clarice Taylor) is acceptable but hardly has the "Psycho-like editing" one critic attributed to it. Eastwood, as usual, whispers all of his lines [the way a woman would if she wants to sound slinky] in a way he assumes sounds masculine and sexy. Donna Mills [Curse of the Black Widow] plays his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Tobie. In this she is sweet and fresh-scrubbed; she later successfully reinvented herself as a devious sexpot for the show Knot's Landing. John Larch ["It's a Good Life" on Twilight Zone] and Irene Hervey [Honey West] have notable bits as, respectively, a cop who comes afoul of Evelyn, and a radio producer who wants to sign Dave to a great new contract until Evelyn interferes. Duke Everts plays Tobie's gay friend Jay Jay like a stereotype, and Don Siegel has his first acting part as a bartender. A romantic sequence to the strains of Roberta  Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is effective, but a long sequence at a jazz festival just stops the picture dead. Although I haven't seen Fatal Attraction in a long time, I think this is a better picture.

Verdict: A zesty Walter makes this a pleasure. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi William - recently rediscovered this one too and it's surprisingly good. You're right, there would be no Fatal Attraction without Play Misty first creating the "Casual Sex Nightmare" impressive directorial debut for Eastwood, and Jessica Walter is fantastic! The views of Carmel, CA are spectacular...Eastwood's real home, and he was actually elected mayor there in the 80s or 90s...

William said...

I forgot about his being mayor. Some people felt Walter should have received an Oscar nomination. I don't know if I'd go that far [although people have won who were less impressive] but I really think she was very dynamic in getting across that certain manic, unrequited madness. I'll have to look again at "Fatal Attraction" and see how Glenn close compares.

angelman66 said...

Glenn is great (and DID receive an Oscar nod in 1987), but Walter is even more bipolar and unpredictable in Misty...she is an underrated actress; I love her as Lucille on Arrested Development.