Well, even the greats have to start somewhere. As a director, Clint Eastwood has a career that might be even more impressive than his achievements as an actor. He’s made some absolute belters, like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bird and Unforgiven. In recent years he’s still had strong (and award winning) outings like Million Dollar Baby and Grand Torino. And of course, for anyone who’s pumped out almost thirty movies, there’s gonna be the odd clunker. Things like J Edgar and Flags of Our Fathers spring to mind. But before all that, Eastwood made his directorial debut with Play Misty for Me.
The story is pretty stock standard relationship thriller stuff. Eastwood plays a night time DJ in a small town playing sappy jazz and the odd love song dedication. Often, to the same woman calling in with a request for him to, “Play Misty for me” (hey, that’s the name of the movie. I see what Clint did there). Soon, she’s tracked him down to his favourite bar and it turns out she’s played by Jassica Walter… AKA it’s only bloody Lucille Bluth from Arrested bloody Development!!! Lucille Bluth (the only name I will ever associate with Walter) takes him home for what Eastwood assumes is a bit of the old casual rumpy pumpy. But I guess he’s never seen a romantic thriller before, because it turns out she’s a little clingy, in a stabby kind of way.
While all this is going on, he’s also having a red hot crack at an ex who gave him the flick years ago for being too much of a player. But he’s changed, now he’s ready to settle down. He has no interest in one night stands with slappers anymore… Except that one last one night stand with slapper Lucille Bluth, which has now turned into her showing up unannounced at his house and following him to the pub. Her bat shit insanity steadily increases in all the ways you’d predict until the predictable climax ends predictably just the way you predicted.
As a director, you can see Eastwood’s inexperience all over Play Misty for Me. The opening credits are in this weird font and fluro green colour that in no way matches the tone of the rest of the movie. It is like he had access to this cool toy and couldn’t help himself from over using it, even though it looks like it comes from a 50s B-grade schlocky horror. The camera work is all over the shop, with unnecessary and shaky zooms, pans and other pointless movement that look like someone using a camera for the first time, unable to resist trying absolutely every trick at their disposal at all times. And this movie has some of the worst over dubbing you’ve ever seen or heard. It sounds like the vast majority of dialogue was recorded long after filming, with no regard to whether or not the two matched up.
I wouldn’t say Play Misty for Me is a bad movie. Maybe if I’d seen it before so many other Eastwood crackers, I might even think it was a better than good movie. But now, having seen what came after, it’s hard to be impressed by his directorial debut. But seriously, a young Lucille Bluth as an obsessive, stalker horn bag? Of course you want to see that.
9 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW | Play Misty for Me (1971)”
I first saw this film as a late late movie on TV 30 years ago and for what ever reason scenes and storyline have stuck with me. Could that be part of Eastwood’s genius even with his clunky debut?