Thursday, March 2, 2017
Mirage (1965) Big Budget Bust
A 1965 Neo Noir thriller directed by Edward Dmytryk (Murder, My Sweet (1944), Cornered (1945), Crossfire (1947), The Sniper (1952)). Screenplay was by Peter Stone. Cinematography was by Joseph MacDonald (The Dark Corner (1946), Call Northside 777 (1948), The Street with No Name (1948), Panic in the Streets (1950), Fourteen Hours (1951), Niagara (1953), Pickup on South Street (1953), House of Bamboo (1955)). Music was by Quincy Jones (The Pawnbroker (1964), In Cold Blood (1967)).
The film stars Gregory Peck (Spellbound (1945), Cape Fear (1962)), Diane Baker, Walter Matthau (Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957), Charley Varrick (1973)), George Kennedy Leif Erickson, Walter Abel, and Kevin McCarthy.
A lower Manhattan skyscraper has a blackout. David Stillwell (Peck) an accountant decides to leave by the darkened stairs rather than wait for the lights to come back on. He meets a woman Shela (Diane Baker) on the landing, She seems to know him but he does not know her. Alarmed, she flees down from the street level into a sub-basement.
Splattered on the pavement outside is the body of peace activist Charles Calvin (Walter Abel) an apparent suicide. When Stillwell returns to the stairwell, there is no sub-basement. A man coveralls in the building's power plant, Willard (George Kennedy), tells him to leave.
At Stillwell's apartment, a stranger, Lester (Jack Weston), pulls a gun on him. He orders Stillwell to go meet "the Major" and to take his briefcase with his papers. Stillwell swings his briefcase at the gun man catching him off guard. He knocks him out and dumps him in a janitorial closet out in the hall.
Reporting this assault to NYPD he gets agitated by basic questions about his background information. He storms out and finds a psychiatrist, Dr. Broden (Robert H. Harris). He realizes he has no memory, Broden tells him that amnesia for two years without being aware of it is impossible.
Stillwell sitting by Columbus Circle spots a sign for the AAA Detective Agency. In the office is Ted Caselle (Walter Matthau). He tells Stillwell that he's his first case. With Caselle's and Shela's help Stillwell begins to remember and piece his life back together.
The film is a bit of a mess, it's never explained why Stillwell thinks he was an accountant, when he really was a research scientist, or why he thinks he has an office where there is none. It's almost as if the creators couldn't make up their minds which way to go, or they left some key parts of the novel that would have explained all this out. 1966's Mr. Buddwing also set in Manhattan with James Garner does the amnesia trope way better.
The whole love story with Shela has zero chemistry and feels both rushed and tacked on. There is some nice noir-ish cinematography that bookend the piece and good NYC location work but for a noir way too much in the middle seems to be either on Hollywood sets or shot in broad daylight. It's a film where nothing seems to gel. Screencaps are from the Universal DVD. Worth a watch if you can rent it 6/10.