Pros: A good thriller that holds up well
Cons: A bit of a Hitchcock ripoff, violence might put some off
Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) is trying to simplify his life. A popular late night jazz disc jockey, Garver is content doing his show one night when his request line rings; a woman on the other end asks him to “play Misty for me.” After the show, Dave hits his local bar, where the same woman, named Evelyn (Jessica Walter,) picks him up and takes him home. Evelyn falls in love with Dave and begins stalking him in Eastwood’s 1971 film Play Misty for Me.
For a guy trying to simplify his life, Dave’s life is actually quite hectic. He’s become involved in a relationship with a crazy woman (Evelyn,) which he wants no part of but feels trapped. His artistic ex-girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills) is back in town and Dave wants badly to resume the relationship, while Tobie wants to take it slowly. And he’s also trying to land a new radio gig in San Francisco and is trying to put together a great show to use as an audition tape.
Play Misty for Me is a thriller that’s held up fairly well over the years. It marked Eastwood’s directorial debut, and was very well done considering that the new director was on a limited budget. Eastwood shot the movie in his hometown of Carmel, California (mostly so that he could work from home,) resulting in lots of cool coastal scenery. It was also where Eastwood gained his reputation as a fast worker (the movie’s scenes were all shot in one, two, or three takes, tops.) There was no makeup, and the actors were given limited wardrobe budgets (Walter said that her total budget was $300 for the entire move.)
The result? More than one critic accused Eastwood of ripping off Alfred Hitchcock in their reviews, and that feeling wasn’t limited to critics. At a screening, actor/director John Cassavetes stated that he liked it, but the name Hitchcock was missing from the bill. Even so, Play Misty for Me remains as entertaining as it was when I saw it at the drive in at the tender age of seven.
Play Misty for Me was a bit of a departure for Eastwood, who was used to mainly playing tough guys with guns. Here, he’s a mild mannered disc jockey who gets in over his head (it doesn’t help matters that even though he isn’t interested in a relationship with Evelyn, he keeps sleeping with her,) and he manages to pull it off. Walter is fantastic as Evelyn, who gets more and more psychotic as the film moves along, and Donna Mills is convincing as the innocent Tobie. And special mention goes to James McEachin, who plays Garver’s jiving fellow DJ Al, who manages to steal the couple scenes that he’s in.
This widescreen format Collector’s Edition DVD has a few Special Features that make it worth owning. Play it Again: A Look Back at Play Misty for Me is a 48-minute documentary that is fairly interesting. Eastwood claims that he first developed an interest in directing back when he was working on the TV series Rawhide. He had just signed a three picture deal with Universal, so he asked them if he could do Play Misty for Me, and could he direct. Universal agreed, but said they wouldn’t pay him to direct, so he directed for nothing (Eastwood’s agent managed to get him a percentage of the films profits.) Eastwood also gave director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry, Two Mules for Sister Sara) a role as Murphy the bartender—if Eastwood faltered, Siegel was there to help out and take over if needed. You’ll also get The Beguiled, Misty, Don, and Clint, which explores the professional relationship between Eastwood and Siegel.
Despite the fact that you might just be thinking you’re watching a Hitchcock film, Play Misty for Me is an entertaining thriller that’s worth a watch if you enjoy the genre and have an hour and 48 minutes to kill.