9/27/08

Dirty Attraction a.k.a Fatal Harry a.k.a A Fist Full of Crazy Bitch


The seventies were Clint Eastwood's time. From the The Outlaw Josey Wales to Escape from Alcatraz, Clint was riding high. In 1971, Clint starred in his most ubiquitous role with his hard as nails cop in Dirty Harry, but '71 also got his first chance at directing. Forgoing his acting fee, the studio heads agreed to give the actor a chance behind the camera. Since then Clint has directed 31 other films including some classics like Unforgiven and one of my favorites Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but back in his first feature, he was a director still trying to get his footing and learn his craft.


Play Misty for Me (1971) starring Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walker, and Donna Mills. Directed by Clint Eastwood.


David "Dave" Garver (Eastwood) is the cool nighttime DJ at KRML in Carmel, California (Where Eastwood would someday become mayor.) He drives a fancy car, gets all the chicks he can handle, and is hopelessly, hopelessly cool. We know this because of the swinging "jazz" tracks he spins and the poetry he reads on air; this guy is hip. His fans know it too. Including one female fan that calls up every night asking, you guessed it, "Play Misty for me." After one particular night on the air, he meets a chick named Evelyn (Walker) in a bar and goes back to her place. Only once he's there does he recognize her voice as that of his nightly caller. Naturally, since he's the cool, cool DJ, he sleeps with her on a "no stings attached" basis, and oh, does that work out well for him. The next day Evelyn shows up at his house uninvited to make him dinner, and already seems crazy clingy. At this point, anyone with any kind of sense can tell that this girl is trouble, but not Dave. You see apart from being supercool, Dave is pretty retarded.

Maybe it's that Dave has other things on his mind. His ex-girlfriend Tobie (Mills) has just come back into the picture and Dave wants to go on the straight and narrow with her. Done are his days of messing about with his womanizing (except we're just seem him do just that). Evelyn doesn't want to hear about that. She calls him from the phone booth across from his favorite bar, and Dave has the bartender, played by Don Seigel the director of Dirty Harry and later 1976's excellent John Wayne swan song The Shootist, tell her he's not there. She instead waits in his car outside and throws a fit when he doesn't have time for her. David goes by her house later to break it off, but she's less than understanding.  She shows up at his house the next night and attempts suicide in the bathroom. (Why he let her in I'll never understand. Is there a rule that if a crazy bitch shows up you have to let her in. Don't they have to be invited like Vampires?)

Evelyn recuperates at Dave's house and begins her campaign to really mess with his life. She causes him to miss a date with Tobie and ruins a job offer in a scene of spectacular crazy. After she stalks Dave and sees him back with Tobie, she takes the key to his place she has made and wrecks the place. She even goes so far as to take a knife to his housekeeper Berdie (Clarice Taylor better known as Cousin Emma on Sanford and Son). Evelyn is carted off in the custody of the police, but how long will she remain there and what might she do if she gets free?

Overall this movie is an exercise in two things. The first is the question "How dumb can you be?", and it's a good question indeed. I'm not sure I know many guys who would let things get so bad that knives become involved. Her crazy seems telegraphed from way far off, and how Dave missed it is beyond me. Perhaps he can only receive radio waves and no telegraphs. The second question is "How cool is Clint Eastwood?", and a lot of the movie seems to be hammering home this point. From the gratuitous footage taken at the Monterey Pop festival to the super cool sports car, and the slick seventies hipster outfits, it seems Clint wanted to make sure you knew he was awesome. I suppose he didn't take a good critical look at the shots of him in his droopy tidy whities. It makes a whole new case for why boxer shorts are where it's at.

At almost 2 hours the film seems to run a bit long at times. The aforementioned concert footage coupled with a scene set to the entirely of the Roberta Flack song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" run back to back making for about fifteen minutes with basically no action and the story being put on hold. There are several other nonsensical editing mistakes such as when Dave and Tobie are walking around town talking then are suddenly with the next sentence on a beach. Turns out they are at her house which is stated as being far outside of town. I suppose teleportation is another way Clint is supercool. There's also some real problems with the sound editing. A few scenes are obviously looped dialog that looks pretty silly set against moments where no one is visibly talking.

The main problem I had with the film though is the level of suspense. In my opinion for a thriller, this is absolutely crucial. There's never any palpable tension in the air even as the story reaches it climax, and for all the artistic warbles and self serving grandiosity of the film, this is what really brings it down in my book. The theme of this movie is of course done with better bunny boiling effect in Fatal Attraction, but it's a fine first effort from a director that will be making a classic film in High Plains Drifter only two years later. It's worth checking out if you're really into Clint, but unless you feel lucky, punk, then stick to the other tried and true 1971 Eastwood classic.

Bug Rating










2 comments:

  1. Great review - I love your development of your thoughts. I must say tho, you love for the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil leaves me questioning your sanity. Of course, I have an unjustifiable love for zombies, so what do I know.

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  2. I suppose Midnight is a guilty pleasure of mine. Thanks for leaving the comment, and as to you loving the development of my thoughts, well it seems fitting from an unjustified zombie lover. You have a thing for mindless prattling.

    Justify That Zombie Love!....just don't go all Madonna freaky on it.

    Thanks again,
    The LB

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