• Play Misty For Me (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: November 10th, 2020.
    Director: Clint Eastwood
    Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills
    Year: 1971
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    Play Misty For Me – Movie Review:

    1971’s Play Misty For Me, the directorial debut of Clint Eastwood, stars the man himself as a Carmel, California disc jockey named Dave, a popular DJ who works the nightshift at KRML, picking up where DJ "Sweet" Al Monte (James McEachin) leaves off. Right off the bat, Dave gets a request from a woman to play ‘Misty,’ something that Al tells happens on a pretty regular basis. Dave obliges, and gets on with his shift. When he finishes for the night, he stops off at his favorite watering hole where bartender Murphy (played by filmmaker Don Siegel) hands him a beer. Here he can’t help but notice the pretty lady sitting on the other end of the bar. Though Murphy tells him that she’s been waiting for someone all night, Dave is smooth and eventually learns that her name is Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter, who would later steal a whole lot of scenes in Arrested Development!). They hit it off, and after she admits to being stood up by her date, they wind up at her place and Dave figures out she’s the woman who called into the station earlier in the evening. They sleep together, and figuring it was just a onetime thing, the next morning, Dave splits.

    The next day, Evelyn shows up at his place with a whole bunch of groceries. Dave isn’t impressed that she’s just shown up and made herself at home, but he eventually settles down and lets her cook him a meal. She spends the night, but the next morning when a neighbor asks them to keep it down, Evelyn loses her temper and yells at him. They go their separate ways and later that day, Dave reconnects with Tobie Williams (Donna Mills), the girl he’s been carrying a torch for who has been avoiding him for a while. They had a relationship once, but Dave liked the play the field too much and she broke it off and left town. Now that she’s back, he tells her he wants to change his ways and make things work between them – but Evelyn isn’t about to let Dave off that easily…

    Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Bruce Surtees (a frequent Eastwood collaborator) pretty much entirely on location in the seaside California town of Carmel, Play Misty For Me is a pretty assured debut. You can see Siegel’s influence here as well as Hitchcock’s, but Eastwood puts his own stamp on the material and directs with style and a controlled pacing. He also handles things in front of the camera very well, delivering a pretty solid performance that, if it doesn’t ask him to stretch too much as an actor, at least plays to his strengths. His effortlessly cool persona suits the character of Dave quite nicely, and Eastwood’s smooth speaking style makes him a good choice to play a disc jockey.

    Jessica Walter is also great here, her performance becoming increasingly, and appropriately, manic as both the audience and Dave himself realize what he’s gotten himself into. She’s damaged goods to be sure, but at the same time, Dave is, in a sense, reaping what he’s sewn to a certain degree. He doesn’t deserve what happens to him in the film, that much is for certain, but then, maybe he should have thought more about what he was doing when he slept with Evelyn. Either way, Walter handles this material really well and delivers some great work. Donna Mills is also great as Dave’s former flame/would be lady friend, also turning in a perfectly believable performance, while supporting effort from the aforementioned Don Siegel as well as bit part players John Larch (as a cop), Jack Ging (as Tobie's friend) and Irene Hervey as a woman named Madge is also worth mentioning.

    Production values are good across the board, Universal Studios clearly gave Eastwood the financing he needed to pull this off. Aside from the great location photography already mentioned, the film also benefits from a very effective and evocative score courtesy of Dee Barton (another frequent Eastwood collaborator) that does a great job of heightening both the drama and the suspense that the movie delivers so effectively.

    Play Misty For Me – Blu-ray Review:

    Play Misty For Me arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber taken from a new 2k scan in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 32.2GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Overall, this is a really strong picture. Colors are handled very nicely, looking as they should, quite accurate and never boosted or too faded looking. Skin tones also look really good and we get strong black levels too. Detail is typically quite strong, and frequently very impressive. There is very little print damage here at all, the transfer is pretty much immaculate, while the natural film grain inherent in the source material is preserved. No issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts to gripe about – Kino’s done a great job here.

    Audio for the feature is handled by an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix. Optional subtitles are offered in English only. No problems to note here at all, the audio quality is very good. Dialogue is clean, clear and always easy to understand while the mix is nicely balanced throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The score sounds excellent here, demonstrating more depth than you might expect it to.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas that does an excellent job of detailing the history of the film. We get plenty of info about Eastwood and his career up to this point, but so too do we get all the details on the different cast members that he worked with on the picture as well as a lot of the different crew members as well. He covers the influence of Alfred Hitchcock's style of filmmaking on this picture as well as the involvement of Don Siegel (and Eastwood's relationship with the elder filmmaker) in addition to the locations, the score, the cinematography, the budget, the use of music in the picture and lots more. It's as detailed and thorough as you'd expect from Lucas.

    The disc also includes a new twelve-minute interview with Co-Star Donna Mills that talks about how she landed the role in the picture, her thoughts on the character, what it was like working with Eastwood, how he was as a director and what it was like on set. Also exclusive to this release is a seventy-three-minute video essay by Film Historian Howard S. Berger titled Split Screen: Clint Eastwood, Play Misty For Me And The Feminine Abstraction. This cover starts off by talking about Eastwood's 'versatility' as an actor before then giving a quick overview of his career, the importance of the success of Dirty Harry, the influence of Don Siegel and Sergio Leone on Eastwood's own directing and then, of course, Play Misty For Me. There's a lot of analysis here of the different characters that populate the film as well as a lot of insight into the performers that play them, the clever use of audio in the film, the interesting dissolve used during a key sex scene in the movie, the way that jazz is elevated in the narrative, little details like the use of the word 'split' in the beach scene, the way that relationships are portrayed in the movie, how the studio almost doubles as a confessional booth and lots, lots more. There are times where the connections that Berger makes may seem like a stretch, and there are others where he’s spot on, but regardless, it’s a very interesting listen that offers a lot of welcome food for thought and interesting background information on the picture.

    Kino also includes a few archival featurettes, staring with Play It Again... A Look Back at "Play Misty For Me" which runs just over forty-nine-minutes in length. Directed by Laurent Bouzereau in 2001 with Eastwood’s blessing and involvement, it contains some interesting interview footage with him as well as with Robert Daley, Dean Riesner, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills and film historian Richard Schickel, which makes it quite invaluable to fans of the picture. The Beguiled, Misty, Don and Clint is a six-minute vintage piece, also made by Bouzereau, that looks back at his career and compares the film to The Beguiled.

    Rounding out the extra on the disc are a Trailers From Hell entry with Adam Rifkin, a theatrical trailer and a teaser trailer for the feature, two TV spots, a still gallery of Eastwood directing, a stills montage, an interesting ‘evolution of a poster’ montage, menus and chapter selection options. The disc also includes bonus trailers for High Plains Drifter, Breezy and The Eiger Sanction.

    This release also comes packaged with a slipcover and some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    Play Misty For Me – The Final Word:

    Play Misty For Me holds up very well, it’s a great thriller with some moments of very strong tension and suspense that benefits from excellent production values and some great performances. Kino’s Blu-ray reissue looks and sounds excellent and is loaded with plenty of interesting and informative extra features. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Play Misty For Me Blu-ray screen caps!