Play Misty for Me (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 17, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Play Misty for Me (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Clint Eastwood

Release Date(s)

1971 (November 10, 2020)

Studio(s)

The Malpaso Company/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Play Misty for Me (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

After working under a number of filmmakers in film and television and learning the trade, Clint Eastwood stepped behind the camera to direct his first film, Play Misty for Me. It was a project he had been aware of, but it took some time to finally get around to it, having been granted complete artistic control by Universal. It was also a change of pace as he had mostly been appearing in action-oriented stories. Play Misty for Me not only allowed him the chance to be more creative, but to also be a more sensitive and complicated leading character. The film’s crowning jewel is a breakthrough performance by Jessica Walter, who had been around but hadn’t had the chance yet to shine. Also in the cast was soap opera veteran Donna Mills as Eastwood’s love interest, and his friend and mentor, Don Siegel. Choosing to shoot the film mostly in and around Carmel-by-the-sea, it was a smooth experience for the cast and crew who recognized that Eastwood had a talent for directing. Making an effective and well-received psychological thriller on par with Hitchcock, Play Misty for Me was a big success upon release and remains a career highlight for those involved.

Jazz radio disc jockey Dave Garver (Eastwood) is a single guy leading a swinging lifestyle, bouncing from lady to lady, but “hung up” on one in particular, Tobie (Donna Mills). One night after a broadcast, he heads to a bar to chat with his bartender friend Murphy (Don Siegel). Alone at the bar is Evelyn (Jessica Walter), who reveals that she’s the one who calls into his radio show regularly with one request: “Play Misty for me.” They hit it off and decide to have a no-strings-attached sexual relationship, but after their initial tryst, Evelyn gets more and more involved in Dave’s life without his consent, displaying full-on schizophrenic behavior. After reconnecting with Tobie and attempting to keep a highly unstable, suicidal, and destructive Evelyn out of his life, Dave becomes concerned for his own safety and Tobie’s, ultimately leading to a deadly confrontation.

Previously only available in the US in a compilation release, Play Misty for Me comes to Region A Blu-ray for a second time from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, sporting a new 2K master of what appears to be an interpositive element. The previous Blu-ray release had a harsher, flatter, and oversharpened appearance. This release sports a softer and much more organic picture with plenty of detail on objects, faces, and structures. The color palette, particularly during the Monterey Jazz Festival and bar scenes, offers a variety of hues, including bold reds and yellows. Scenes that take place on the beach or in the forest offer gorgeous greens, blues, and browns. Skin tones are also improved. Black crush is apparent, which likely could have been improved, but it’s a minor issue. It’s also a stable presentation with mild speckling and occasional thin lines running through the frame. Otherwise, it’s a definite improvement.

The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English. It’s a fairly narrow track, though the music selection, including the title song by Erroll Garner and a rendition of The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack, offer the most depth. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, even whispers. Sound effects have a dated quality at times, but come through with relative ease. Dee Barton’s score has decent impact as well. There are also no major leftover instances of hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.

The following extras are also included:

  • Audio Commentary with Tim Lucas
  • Misty Memories with Donna Mills (HD – 11:31)
  • Split/Screen: Clint Eastwood, Play Misty for Me & the Feminine Abstraction (HD – 73:24)
  • Play It Again… A Look Back at Play Misty for Me (Upsampled SD – 49:22)
  • The Beguiled, Misty, Don & Clint (Upsampled SD – 6:13)
  • Trailers from Hell with Adam Rifkin (HD – 2:08)
  • Stills Montage (Upsampled SD – 46 in all – 3:54)
  • Clint Eastwood Directs and Acts Photo Montage (Upsampled SD – 24 in all – 2:03)
  • The Evolution of a Poster Photo Montage (Upsampled SD – 31 in all – 2:37)
  • TV Spots (HD – 2 in all – 1:03)
  • Teaser (HD – 0:53)
  • Trailer (HD – 1:53)
  • High Plains Drifter Trailer (HD – 2:31)
  • Breezy Trailer (HD – 2:27)
  • The Eiger Sanction Trailer (HD – 2:50)

In the audio commentary, film historian Tim Lucas exhaustively covers all aspects of the genesis and making of the film, as well as its various cast and crew members. He examines the film’s content, the titular song and how it relates to the film, and the film’s artistic visuals. In the Donna Mills interview Misty Memories, she talks about getting her part after a recommendation from Burt Reynolds, shooting on location, Don Siegel’s influence on Clint and his shooting style, her wardrobe, working with and later becoming friends with Jessica Walter, her unscripted love scene, the Monterey Jazz Festival scene, going to the premiere, and her final thoughts. In film historian Howard S. Berger’s video essay Split/Screen, he delves mightly into the content, themes, and connective tissues of Play Misty for Me. In Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary Play It Again, we hear retrospectively from Eastwood, producer Robert Daley, screenwriter Dean Riesner, actresses Jessica Walter and Donna Mills, and film historian and critic Richard Schickel about the making of the film. The Beguiled, Misty, Don & Clint is a short featurette showcasing film historian and critic Richard Schickel, Eastwood, and producer Robert Daley who speak about Eastwood’s work as an actor, as well as other characters he portrayed at that time. The three still galleries are carried over from the original DVD release and include a total of 101 stills of wardrobe test photos, promotional stills, behind-the-scenes photos, poster concepts, and posters. The rest of the extras consist of 2 TV spots, a teaser, and a trailer for the film, as well as other Clint Eastwood related trailers for other releases by Kino Lorber. The disc is housed in a standard amaray case with reversible artwork—the original US poster art on the front and the original UK poster art on the back—inside a slipcover featuring the original US poster art.

Not included from the original DVD release is a set of production notes and the short but dated featurette Clint Eastwood on DVD, in which he talks about how much he appreciates the format. Also worth noting is that the UK Blu-ray from Final Cut Entertainment included three recent interviews: Playing the Game: Clint Eastwood and His Early A-List Success with Marc Eliot, She's Behind You!: Play Misty for Me in Context with film critic Kim Newman, and Misty Memories: Revisiting a Clint Eastwood Classic with magazine editor Allan Bryce. None of these have been included here.

This new release of Play Misty for Me is a great upgrade over the previous Universal Blu-ray, offering a substantial amount of new bonus material to go with the old, as well as an excellent and superior presentation. One of the best Clint Eastwood-related discs that Kino Lorber Studio Classics has to offer thus far, it’s an essential purchase for longtime fans.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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