Play Misty for Me (1971) from Tuna

Play Misty for Me (1971) marked the directorial debut for Clint Eastwood. Universal agreed to let him direct only if he would work without pay. He finally settled for a percentage of the gross, which was a wise decision, considering a very large box office. The story was written by a friend, Jo Heims, who also collaborated on the screenplay. Eastwood shot the film for about $750,000 entirely on location in Carmel, California. There was little art direction, and he didn't use makeup for any of the cast. A lot of the budget went for acquiring two songs for the film, Errol Gardner's Misty, which Gardner re-recorded for the film, and Roberta Flack's recording of "The First Time, Ever I Saw Your Face."
Eastwood heard the Flack song on his way to work, and conceived of a love montage between his character and that of Donna Mills. It would require nudity from Mills, and she was reluctant, but agreed when Eastwood gave her veto power of the included footage. We see a breast including nipple from the side, but her face isn't clearly in the shot, then a very dark nipple with her face clearly in frame, and lastly a long-shot of her buns. Before I watched the excellent retrospective, I was suspecting body double.  


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For those not familiar with the story, it is the original female stalker film, made long before Fatal Attraction. The studios tried to make changes, but Eastwood held firm, and since he was working within a very small budget, the relented. Some criticized the love montage, saying that it was out of place in the middle of suspense, but it was a good decision, as it gave the audience a rest between the two acts, and is a beautiful scene. Eastwood also filmed the real Monterey Jazz Festival with minimum crew and no extras.

Eastwood plays a Carmel jazz DJ, a big fish in a small pond. Jessica Walter calls in to request Misty, then meets him at his favorite after work pub. She seems sweet as apple pie at first, but slowly shows herself to be unstable and dangerous. We see her breast in bed with Clint. If Eastwood had been an established director, the film would have done even better with critics. To my mind, it is the best of the female stalker films, in large part due to very good direction, and good casting choices. 

DVD info from Amazon.


Scoop's note:

This was one of the most impressive "first films" ever made.

Clint's subsequent directing career had some high points, some complete stinkers, and some mediocrity, so perhaps you can say that he never really lived up to his great early promise, despite his academy awards for "Unforgiven". 

Back in 1976, when he already had Play Misty, High Plains Drifter, and Josey Wales under his belt, it seemed to me that Clint might become one of the world's greatest directors. He did well, but not as well as he seemed to promise. After 30 years, Play Misty, his debut, is probably still his best non-Western. 

On the other hand, I guess you can say he did it his way.  Clint was already 41 when he began directing, so I guess that his post-40 output can be compared to almost anyone's. (Yes, it know it doesn't seem possible, but Eastwood is now 71 years old)

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.0 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-.

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