Flixchatter takes a look at Mirage
Ruth from Flixchatter.net
To preface off today and tomorrow’s post, I must inform you that, I asked a couple of friends of mine (including today’s guest author) to spotlight a film that is set in the city that I am currently running around in: The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, The Metropolis, The City of Skyscrapers, a.k.a. New York City! Which they did! 🙂
Today’s NYC film (1 of 2) is from Ruth, and her flick-pick just so happens to be a film I enjoyed watching: Mirage, starring the ever classy Gregory Peck. Enjoy. -T
As one of my Christmas presents to myself, last December I purchased The Gregory Peck Film Collection which features six of his films – four of which are brand-new to DVD at the time of at the time of its release in 2008. All of them are films he made for Universal Studios in the 1950s and 1960s, and one of them is this Hitchcockian mystery thriller from 1965, co-starring Diane Baker and Walter Matthau, MIRAGE.
The film opens in the midst of a blackout in a high-rise office of Unidyne in New York City. Whilst everyone in the building is making the most of the power outage by going to a ‘Braille’ party in the boardroom, David Stillwell (Peck) refuses to participate, instead opting to leave the building using the stair case. There she meets a beautiful young brunette Shela (Baker) who immediately recognizes him, but David swears he doesn’t remember who she is. As the woman storms off down more flight of stairs, David tries to chase her down four flight of stairs to the building sub-basement. Once outside, David finds a crowd has gathered around a body that’s fallen out of the top story of his building in what seems to be an apparent suicide.
Before long, we realize that everything that is going are not simply random circumstances. The identity of the deceased, Charles Calvin, plays a key role to the whole mystery, but we are left as much in the dark as the protagonist as he is suffering from acute amnesia. Though he claims to be a cost accountant at Unidyne, David actually has no idea what he does for a living, nor does he remember where he’s been in the past two years. All the while he is being pursued, threatened at gun point, and even finds his friends’ life in danger. The woman on the stairwell Shela offers little clues even after David prodded, saying that it’s best that David doesn’t remember anything and the reason he’s kept alive is because he has something his pursuers need. All this prompts David to hire a detective, Ted Casell (Matthau), and the two team up to uncover the mystery as body counts start mounting.
This is the second time Peck stars as an amnesiac, the first one being Spellbound of course, and though Mirage has a Hitchcock-ian sensibility about it, the similarity ends there. There’s no Freudian psychoanalysis stuff (or as Peck’s character in Spellbound says ‘a lot of hooey’) in this one, though David does visit a psychiatrist author of the book The Dark Side of the Mind he saw from a bookstore window, trying to get insight into his amnesia. I think this is an underrated gem of a murder mystery/conspiracy thriller that more people should check out.
Here are some of the things I love about this film:
• The cast, of course. Peck is dependable as always, believably portraying the bewildered and frustrated man trying to figure out his identity and pulls himself out of this mystifying predicament. He gets to show his emotional range here in several key scenes, when he found his friend’s dead body in a bathtub, he shoves Diane Baker’s face forcefully to see the body, yelling “Look, LOOK! To know the artist, you have to know his work!” Another memorable scene takes place at Matthau’s office when David starts throwing furniture all over the place in rage after discovering what happens to the detective… Baker and Matthau are both really effective in their roles, especially the latter. This is Matthau’s earlier roles before he won an Oscar for The Fortune Cookie and starring in the hit comedy The Odd Couple. Baker couldn’t look more beautiful with her 60s outfits, and her character is quite mysterious in that we have no clue which side she’s really on.
• The intrigue. The script by Peter Stone (Charade, Arabesque, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) keeps us guessing as the protagonist encounter one riddle after another in quick succession. Small clues such as a keychain with the creepy words ‘The Future is Here’ is peppered throughout. It’s reminiscent of Bourne and Memento where the protagonist is struggling to piece together the puzzle of his identity as well what it is that people want from him. The pace is just right, it doesn’t feel too slow nor too fast and there’s a brisk energy to the film.
Director Edward Dmytryk employed plenty of action in this film as the hero is led through a series of chases throughout the city. The on-location filming in New York City adds a layer of realism and excitement to the thriller. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I am to see Gregory acting in the actual environment instead of a film set like in a lot of his films. No matter how good the set pieces are, they are just no substitute for the real thing!
• The Cinematography. The deep, dark shadows of the black and white cinematography by Joseph MacDonald is exquisite, as well as adds the perfect ambience to the story. The various New York spots, especially Central Park and the park zoo are beautifully-shot. I especially love the chase scenes through Park and seeing the characters blending in with the NYC crowd on the street, bus, etc.
• The right mix of suspense with humor. Though the story is a serious one, the script is peppered with wit and drollness. The conversations between Peck and Matthau, especially the first time they meet, is a hoot. Here’s the scene when David visits Ted’s office:
I feel that when Peck is paired with a talented comic actor, such as in Captain Newman MD with Tony Curtis, the result is always amusing. Peck’s reliable stolidness somehow mixes well with the comical side of the comic actor, and in turn brings out Peck’s playfulness. …
• The denouement. I like the fact that the unanswered questions that have been piling up from the beginning are finally paid off in the last 15 minutes. Peck gets all banged up towards the end, courtesy of the villain’s bespectacled henchman, and a game of Russian Roulette threatens to blow his brains out.
The shock and terror help restore David’s memory and a sudden stream of exposition is suddenly unleashed in a series of flashback. No doubt he’s been the lynchpin to this whole conspiracy theory all along.
Overall this is an enjoyable thriller and one I wouldn’t mind watching over and over again. Unlike today’s thriller that gets violent and gory fast, Mirage is a cerebral thriller that makes you think and is also beautiful to look at. Quincy Jones supplied the jazzy score that fits the hustle and bustle of the city nicely. I think out of all the Gregory Peck’s films I’ve seen so far, this noir-ish thriller is perhaps the most modern and can be easily enjoyed by thriller movie fans who are not used to classic cinemas.
|4.5 out of 5 reels|
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments.
up next: “Time to Vote Tuesday!”