In honor of one of the BEST upcoming blogathons that revisits upon us great deeds of malice and danger… The Great Villain Blogathon 2016 hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy, Ruth of Silver Screenings and Karen of Shadows and Satin coming up on May 15-20th, 2016.
I’ll be covering two notorious true life crimes involving folie a deux. First Truman Capote’s adapted story- Richard Brooks directs IN COLD BLOOD (1967) about the murder of the Clutters a Kansas family who were blitz attacked by psychopathic punks, two self-loathing homosexuals Perry & Dick portrayed phenomenally by Robert Blake and the remarkable character actor- Scott Wilson. Their embodiment of pure emotional sickness is burned into the screen like acid.
Then a more off the beaten path yet ruthlessly cruel and just as true and ghastly a tale about a couple- Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco as Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck who derive pleasure from luring wealthy, lonely older women to their deaths for money in director Leonard Kastle’s THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1969)
In the spirit of this upcoming event, featuring all sorts of criminals & evil types, I thought I’d briefly pull out Evelyn as a kind of amuse-bouche to the huge Blogathon coming up in May! I felt like tossing out a crumb to entice those of you who will be titillated by the fantastic submissions by bloggers paying tribute to the villains, villainesses and anti-heroes we love to hate/love… fear and cheer!
Play Misty For Me is scripted by Jo Heims (The Girl in Lover’s Lane 1960, The Devil’s Hand 1961, uncredited Dirty Harry 1971, You’ll Like My Mother 1972) Heims has a gift for extracting the perfect essence of mental instability on screen and constructing an atmosphere of unease in otherwise beautiful settings.
Ahhh…. The Enduring Derangement of Evelyn Draper:
Set in the cool quaint and laid back atmosphere of 70s coastal California living, Clint Eastwood who makes his directorial debut, plays the smooth talking late-nite Carmel Disc jockey, David ‘Dave’ Garver who winds up becoming the object of desire for a psychopathic stalker, the love-sick Evelyn Draper, brought to ‘too real’ life by extraordinary actress Jessica Walter.
Each night, she calls into the radio station to lure David, her sultry voice like dark amber honey dripping on the other end of the phone, mysterious with that hint of perilous in flavor and tone. Evelyn epitomizes the deranged & obsessive fan who becomes so fixated on David that she keeps calling, asking David to play the classic torch song “Misty” sung, composed and performed by Erroll Garner.
This iconic performance must be the catalyst for Glenn Close’s role as the demented stalker Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction (1987). Play Misty For Me set the tone, and sent the moralizing message, that it’s dangerous and amoral to folly with a random, casual one night stand, and that having only ‘respectable relationships’ and monogamous or marital sex will keep you safe from being butchered into a puddle of blood splatter evidence…
All snarkiness aside, Eastwood has offered a beautifully painted– groovy, easy world, filled with jazz and seascapes that underscore this moral tale about the backlash of the sexual revolution and it’s warnings to beware. And to be fair to this symbol of female rage, Evelyn is no more than a ‘sexual object’ to David. As much as Evelyn has fantasized a great romance with this very charismatic guy, that ‘love’ does not exist. David has used her to fulfill his own desires and need, yet he is not seen as predatory, and she is. The difference is, he uses his penis and she must wield the nearest symbol, something else that penetrates, a knife or a good old fashioned pair of large, sharp scissors.
David picks Evelyn up in a bar, has a one night roll in the sheets after she tells him that she’s his ‘Misty’ girl. David warns her that he’s involved with someone (artsy painter, Donna Mills), but she assures him that she just wants one night with him, no strings attached. Unfortunately those strings are like steel cables and they are tethered to David with a fierce homicidal grip. When he gets home the next night, Evelyn returns to his place with steaks and all the fixings for a romantic dinner. David definitely now senses somethings a bit ‘off’ with Evelyn, but what the hell, he sleeps with her again. Her inner machinations and jealous rage rears it’s ugly head when David’s neighbor responds to her rude and rowdy behavior while firmly (get lost already) escorting her to the car. She blasts the horn and opens up a mouth like a trucker after a six-pack of Schlitz, “Yeah, Get lost Asshole!” David squints, that classic Eastwood glance when he’s containing his ‘miffed’, and his look is forever delivered on screen.
Of course, the one woman David is truly in love with Tobie (Donna Mills) shows up soon after and they begin where they left off. Tobie had left for a while because of his womanizing. Evelyn starts shadowing David, following him to a bar where she gets belligerent, demanding he spend more time with her, after which she steals his car keys. She shows up at his house, fully naked under a smashing coat… but crazy, and of course David calls the police. No… David sleeps with her one more time. Naked trumps crazy with a smooth talking womanizing squinting louse! He promises her that he’ll call her. Sure Dave sure…
But David does not call her. He also misses a special dinner she has planned. She calls into KRML to chastise him about missing their date. He drives to her place to break off the three– one night stands with her. Evelyn reveals her primal rage once more, but calls David later on filled with regrets, but this time he is done with her. No really… No more naked trumps crazy.
Evelyn stalks David while he is busy rekindling his romance with Tobie. Evelyn shows up at his place once again, this time going into his bathroom and slicing her wrists. This suicide attempt prompts David’s sense of guilt, so he spends the night and following day sitting with her, breaking a date he has with Tobie. The shot of David panicked and befuddled state while he hand holds Evelyn now resting in bed after her suicide attempt looks like this…
Evelyn: Why didn’t you take my call?
David ‘Dave’ Garver: Where does it say that I gotta drop what I’m doing and answer the phone every time it rings?
Evelyn: Do you know your nostrils flare out into little wings when you’re mad? It’s kinda cute.
David ‘Dave’ Garver: I’m just trying to tell you something. I’m trying to tell you there’s a telephone. I pick it up and I dial it.
The film is a groovy and intense nail biter as Evelyn spiraling dangerously out of rational’s orbit, stalking, sneaking around and ultimately going in and out of homicidal fits.
She sabotages a business lunch with a potential radio station executive Madge (Irene Hervey), insulting her with foul mouthed accusations, trashes David’s house, takes a butcher knife and slashes to ribbons David’s maid Birdie (Clarice Taylor- Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), Such Good Friends (1971) and Five on the Black Hand Side (1973)).
The police come and take Evelyn away in the happy wagon, and David briefly gets a reprieve from the madness until he finds out that she has been released, when he gets that familiar yet chilling request over the phone to “Play Misty” Evelyn assures him that she has gotten straightened out and is leaving for a new job in Hawaii. Leaving him with a creepy clue as she quotes a passage from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Annabel Lee.’
Once again, Evelyn appears in David’s house, where she attacks him with a very large carving knife. Sgt. McCallum (John Larch) appears on the scene, tells David to change the locks, and wants to try and track Evelyn down, by luring her out with that memorable song Misty, by tracing the phone call.
Cleverly Evelyn manipulates Tobie into becoming her new roommate named of course, Annabel, thus abducting David’s sane and wholesome as pasteurized milk girlfriend Tobie, and ultimately tries to annihilate David’s cool world and himself her lover, who has spurned her affections. Evelyn as the ‘monstrous feminine’ power finally erupts into a climatic vengeful frenzy, as a vicious butcher who has a one track libido for a guy who it takes half the film to finally see how sick she really is. It only took three one night stands to get through to this smirking lothario. Don’t get me wrong, I would have swooned for Eastwood myself back in the day of bell bottoms, guys with enormous side burns, jazz festivals and free love!
The film also features one of the most memorable beautiful love songs sung by iconic songstress Roberta Flack (one of my all time idols as a songwriter), who delivers a quiver inducing The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which underscores a love making scene in the woods between the naked Eastwood and Donna Mills. Groovy just watch out for poison oak and briars.
Mills who plays David’s pretty girlfriend Tobie gets in the way Evelyn’s imagined love affair, and winds up–tied up at knife point while the immortal words are spoken out of that psychotically cold and emotionless voice saying… “God you’re dumb.”
Evelyn Draper is perhaps one of the most mystifying and intoxicating evil culprits of skin crawling obsessive love, setting the pace for future female monsters, personifying the ‘monstrous feminine’ a knife ( yoohoo–CASTRATING!!) wielding threat to both male and female alike.
The incredible transformation that Jessica Walters performs for us is nothing short of brilliant as this sophisticated lady creates an otherwise appealing attractive single seductress into a predatory huntress with no sense of right or wrong. Just an obsessive blood lust to dominate and possess David, the savvy cool as the center seed of a cucumber DJ who spins records and turns on the ladies with his velveteen voice. Her menacing, neurotic and unstable behavior builds perfectly creating unease as we watch her devolve into a disturbing feminine force (she uses many feminine social mechanisms to try and entrap David). Evelyn Draper is one powerful, memorable villainess, thanks to Jessica Walters’ incredibly believable manifestation of female rage, rage against a system of morals that aren’t the same for men!
Steve McQueen turned down the lead role, claiming that the female lead was stronger than the male.-IMDb tidbit
Universal Pictures originally wanted Lee Remick cast in the role of Evelyn, but director Clint Eastwood had been impressed with Jessica Walter‘s performance in Sidney Lumet‘s film The Group (1966), and cast her instead.-IMDb tidbit
At the end of the movie, when Evelyn is seen floating in the sea, that is actually Jessica Walter, not a stand-in or a body double.-IMDb tidbit
Dave has a brief fling with a sexy fan who calls his radio program and asks him to “Play Misty For Me” Unfortunately this one night stand between savvy playboy disc jockey and an obsessed female fan turns into a nightmarish game of cat and mouse.
Spirally toward a deadly climax once another woman enters the picture.
The story is by Jo Heims, (You’ll Like My Mother 1972, Nightmare in Badham County 1976 and uncredited for Dirty Harry 1971)
Also starring John Larch as Sgt. McCallum.
Original soundtrack by Dee Barton and great use of Roberta Flack’s timeless song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Predating Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction, Walter’s portrayal of an obsessive psychopath is absolutely stunning. Truly one of the most memorable thriller’s in film history!
Happy Trailers – MonsterGirl