1971: Play Misty for Me

Straw Dogs and Two-Lane Blacktop were up there on the list, but I had issues accessing an instant copy to watch. No to Dirty Harry, so I decided to revisit Play Misty for Me. I forgot it was Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut. I was eight in 1971 and did not first see the film until the 1980s. I forgot the cast, and the plot–dare I say the film was a misty memory? Okay, I’ll stop.

Universal image of Jessica Walter as Evelyn

Clint Eastwood as director: He was like a boy in a candy shop choosing every kind of shot he had ever admired and stuffing them into his movie. This is evident from the opening sequence of shots of Carmel-by-the-Sea on the Monterey Peninsula. We are on vacation, cruising down the highway in his vintage convertible with the salty wind blowing through our hair and jazzy vibes on the radio. He’s a cool cat, and I want to be there.

By the way, how does a radio DJ afford to live in a house on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean? What does Dave do in his off time? He hangs out at the Sardine Factory (still a famous restaurant) in Monterey. He resurrects a relationship with Tobie (Donna Mills) who is “the foxiest chick on the peninsula” says his friend and fellow DJ, Al Monte (James McEachin). What a way to establish the character Dave as the most enviable bachelor alive. That is until an obsessed fan stalks him with dangerous consequences.

Jessica Walter as Evelyn: “Do you know your nostrils flare out into little wings when you’re mad?”

Kudos to Jessica Walter who brings the word “needy” to a heightened, disturbed level. Evelyn is everything at once: beautiful, mysterious, manipulative, and unrelenting. Evelyn can’t stop herself from trying to win his love. She verbalizes her delusional fantasies and insists they are in a relationship while Dave is stunned but reluctant to turn her away. She reminds me of that lost cat that won’t leave your yard after one feeding. Not Evelyn. Unrequited love stabs her sanity. I felt sad for her. After all, haven’t we all embarrassed ourselves with shameless wooing? But we take the hint. Not Evelyn. If Evelyn can’t have Dave the DJ, she made sure no one would.

It’s a psychological thriller, but I see it more as a mirror of Clint Eastwood’s favorite passions. Skinny blondes with blue eyes. Jazz music. Showing off the beauty of his town and the local secret spots. Waterfall sex. Cool bars and laid-back action. For example, the audience takes a break from the soul-sucking Evelyn by going to a Monterey Music Festival. His use of tight shots of instruments, toes tapping and the ins and outs of a shaky camera look inexperienced, but whatever, I loved the music. Again, Clint takes us on an escapade, and I want to be there. But then, what to do with Evelyn? How was it possible she was released from the asylum?

Is the movie good? Is Clint a good actor? What about his directorial efforts? I’m glad I’m not a professional film critic and have to list what’s wrong with the film. A criticism would be he tried too hard to tell a simple story. I got dizzy from his collage of close-ups, pans, and ins and outs with the camera.

Let’s meet for dinner at the Sardine Factory on Cannery Row. We can talk about the book.

Clint Eastwood. He is old-school macho with crazy experiences and dubious virtues, but you love him anyway because he shows you a good time. Clint is an endearing caricature of himself. I read recently he’s been MIA for over a year. At 92, I feel sad at the thought of cinema without the touch of Clint Eastwood. With all this nostalgic goo filling up my heart, I will say it was a good movie.

I’m humming to Roberta Flack’s voice in my head loving the Monterey Peninsula and the Hallmark Card love embraces. What a brave start at directing.

Winter Project: Richard Burton, Spy

richard burton

My choice for this winter’s project to educate myself on the films and story behind an actor whose filmography I know little about is Richard Burton. I am reading Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger’s novel Furious Love and watching a lot of Richard Burton films based on recommendations from my great blogging buddies.

I chose to group them by genre than by chronological order. Here’s the first pair to talk about.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Directed by Martin Ritt

Starring Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack

Won the BAFTA for Best British Film


At the height of the Cold War, British spy Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) is nearly ready to retire, but first, he has to take on one last dangerous assignment. Going deep undercover, he poses as a drunken, disgraced former MI5 agent in East Germany to gain information about colleagues who have been captured. When he is thrown in jail and interrogated, Leamas finds himself caught in a sinister labyrinth of plots and counter-plots unlike anything in his long career.

Image result for the spy who came in from the cold images of burton

The picture starts slowly but gains rapid momentum after the love interest and job assignment is established. When Leamas decides to infiltrate behind enemy lines to retrieve information, the movie became interesting. What did I like best about the film? The plot twists, the trial, the overall setting, and cinematography. I predicted Claire Bloom‘s character Nan Perry would show up at the fortress. When Nan entered the trial room, I felt her bewilderment.  The subtle emotion from Leamas as he realizes her life is in his hands was moving. It’s the ending that got to me. I was surprised at how sad and right his final decision was.  It was the perfect way to end the movie. 4/5

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Directed by Brian G. Hutton

Screenplay by Alistair MacLean

Starring Clint Eastwood and Mary Ure 


A crack team of Allied soldiers stages a daring rescue during World War II. A U.S. general is being held captive in an imposing castle fort, high in the Bavarian Alps. The plan calls for Lt. Schaffer (Clint Eastwood), Maj. Smith (Richard Burton) and other operatives to parachute down wearing Nazi disguises. They’ll penetrate the mountain outpost while undercover operatives aid them from within. But their mission changes when they discover that there’s a traitor in their midst.

There’s a lot to like and laugh about with this film. The best part is the commendable cinematography set in the winter landscape in Bavaria. I enjoyed Eastwood and Burton marching around the snow and the filming location in Werfen, Austria was breathtaking. I thought it unlikely that their secret plan was to invade Hohenwerfen Castle, and their special ops team march right into the hornet’s nest as the only soldiers in the entire town wearing white parkas. Can’t say I approved of the decision for all actors to speak English, as well as the other German officers, but then the low ranking soldiers speak German when they were on their smoke breaks and talking among themselves seemed like a mistake to me.

Burton and Eastwood steal a ride on top of a cable car as it ascends the castle. That was clever. No one notices them. This happens throughout the film. I thought Burton was miscast in the film. He looked dazed and puffy standing next to Clint Eastwood. Clint looked out of place with his angry stare. Burton lacked chemistry with his sex kitten partner in crime, Mary (Mary Ure) who lay down every time he barked at her to spread her legs. She had an interesting spot in the film as a female special forces soldier. She parachutes down from the plane. She shoots the gun and saves the dynamic duo with a rope strategically place for them to climb up a vertical wall. But her character lacked any personality. Too bad.

The escape scene was impractical and staged. There’s enough dynamite to blow up the Alps, so for those who like action and machine gun fights, there’s a lot here to like. I enjoyed the plot twist in the great chamber when Burton’s character changes it up and confuses the Gestapo and the German officers before Clint blows them away.  The film has a long running time of almost two and a half hours. I think director Hutton should have cut out a few scenes to keep it the narrative tighter. Despite the holes, I enjoyed the action overall. 3.5/5.

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