Thursday, October 11, 2012
MIRAGE (1965). Director:Edward Dmytryk.
"If we can lie, cheat, steal and kill in broad daylight, but have to wait until it's dark to make love ... what does that have to say about us as a society!"
"If you're not committed to anything, you're just taking up space."
In 1951 Howard Fast published the novel "Fallen Angel" [which was reissued years later in paperback under the title "Mirage"] under the pen name Walter Ericson. The book was well-written, but typical of post-WW2 fiction, in that it was grim and fatalistic and occasionally pretentious. "Fallen Angel" was the basis of two films, Mirage and Jigsaw. Mirage is by far the better of the two.
Although there are some changes made, Mirage is pretty faithful to the novel. David Stillwell (Gregory Peck) discovers that he has amnesia on the same day that a man plummets to his death in the same office building in which Stillwell works. Or so he thinks. The office has disappeared; a pretty young woman named Shela (Diane Baker) claims to know him although to him she's a complete stranger; and worse, people are trying to kill him and demanding he turn over something -- but he has no idea what it is or what they're talking about. Stillwell hires a first-time private eye named Ted Caselle (Walter Matthau) to help him, but the man uncovers more questions than answers.
Mirage is a first-rate suspense film (although it can be argued that it succeeds due to the acting and plot more than to Dmytryck's standard if more-than-competent direction). Peck gives a very good performance, and although Baker isn't quite the femme fatale type the attractive actress nevertheless acquits herself nicely. Matthau, in his pretty much comic turn as the private eye, doesn't really seem to fit into the movie. Of the supporting cast, Robert H. Harris makes the best impression as Dr. Broden, but there are also notable turns by Jack Weston, George Kennedy, Walter Abel, Leif Ericson, Kevin McCarthy, and Anne Seymour. There's an excellent use of New York City locations, and an exciting chase sequence in Central Park. Ann Doran has a bit part as the neighbor of a murdered man who wants to keep her nose clean. Peter Stone's screenplay intelligently adapts the novel, makes things a little clearer than they are in the sometimes murky book, and has some excellent dialogue as well (see above).
Verdict: Classy suspense film with a convoluted but fascinating storyline and very good performances. ***1/2.