• U.S.

Cinema: To the Hilt

2 minute read
Jay Cocks

On an informal Richter scale of movie terror, Play Misty for Me registers a few gasps, some frissons and at least one spleen-shaking shudder. A good little scare show, in other words, despite various gaps in logic and probability.

The premise, at least, is intriguingly feasible. Dave Garland (Clint Eastwood) is a late-night California disk jockey who coos cut-rate Oriental wisdom be tween sides of soft jazz. One of his female listeners is in the habit of calling in and requesting, in alluring tones, “Play Misty for me.” Garland complies. Lat er, by no accident, they meet.

Her name is Evelyn (Jessica Walter); she is an eager, edgy girl who casually offers herself to Garland. Just finished with one affair, he accepts. Evelyn turns out to be pathologically possessive and intent on having her own way. No sooner does she get into Garland’s bed than she wants to move into his house. Halfheartedly he lets her into his life. Then his former lover (Donna Mills) comes back to town, and they resume their affair. Evelyn does not take her rejection easily. She does not, in fact, take it at all. Her revenge is the source of all the shivers in Play Misty for Me.

As frightening as she is sexy, Walter plays her part to the hilt, which in one case is at the end of a 10-in. blade. Eastwood, making his first directorial outing, has to chart a course through the holes in the plot. There are a couple of hackneyed moments (notably a nude love scene), but Eastwood displays a vigorous talent for sequences of violence and tension. He has obviously seen Psycho and Repulsion more than once, but those are excellent texts and he has learned his lessons passing well.

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