We watched Clint Eastwood’s early directorial effort, Play Misty For Me, last night. Roger Ebert claims it grips the audience even in the parts that don’t appear to be suspense-focused. Well, it might have done thirty-something years ago, and certainly there are several nasty shocks, but the quiet bits just seemed quiet, almost inconsequential, rather than undercut with suspense.
And in some scenes, where the characters carried on an ongoing conversation while seeming to flit from location to location reminded me of those old comics where the artists do the same thing with their characters. It’s just a little irritating.
There’s no doubt Eastwood is a good director; certain scenes in this film are excellently done, and the build-up of confrontation between the character Eastwood plays and his nemesis, played by Jessica Walter (far better known as a tv actress than a big screen one), is good and solid. Donna Mills, however, is weak in her role as the woman Eastwood really loves, and there are a couple of characters in the film who could have been excised without anyone missing them. This is more the fault of the script than of Eastwood’s directing.
Eastwood has gone on to direct much better movies than this, such as Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, so there’s no need to be too hard on this early effort. It’s a small-scale piece not quite up with the later Hitchcock style, but still worth watching.