Universal // 1965 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // April 5th, 2011
"You'd think I'd remember someone like you."
Actually, no one would expect David Stillwell to remember the mysterious woman he keeps running into. That would take away the mind-bending mystery -- and the fun -- from Mirage, a Gregory Peck thriller from 1965. It's not an Alfred Hitchcock movie, although director Edward Dmytryk probably would have been flattered if you made that mistake.
A blackout in a New York skyscraper means party time for many of the workers, but David Stillwell (Gregory Peck, Cape Fear) just wants to get out of there. In the darkened stairwell, he meets a mysterious beauty (Diane Baker, Marnie) who seems to know him. When he gets out of the building, police and ambulances are surrounding the body of a man who dropped from a window.
When Stillwell gets back to his apartment, he's greeted by a polite gunman who wants to watch pro wrestling on his set. The gunman invites Stillwell to a meeting in Barbados. From there, things get really weird, Stillwell meets a lot of people who have the same keychain, and Stillwell hires a neophyte private eye (Walter Matthau, The Odd Couple) to help him figure out what's going on.
Mirage is a cool, stylish '60s movie all the way, from the jazz score by Quincy Jones that stirs in touches of elegance and a Gershwin-style feeling of city bustle to the attitude of the office workers in the blackout to the sharp dialogue. In one of my favorite touches, the wrestling on the TV was on-screen while the hero grappled with a thug offscreen.
Gregory Peck's David Stillwell starts to unravel immediately; he's unable to remember his life details to fill out a police report on the gunman, and the typical '60s thriller things like the empty refrigerator in his apartment that suddenly fills up don't help. This leads to anger -- Stillwell lingers at a crime scene to make sure that the mysterious woman sees the corpse he blames her for -- but not so much that he can't think and work his way through the problem. When he's not angry, there's just enough seething to make Stillwell's frustration clear.
Walter Matthau's Cassale isn't perfect -- he lets Stillwell fight off a thug -- but he's alert enough to spot a tail and sharp enough to realize that Stillwell's in a real jam. He makes a good foil and partner for Stillwell in uncovering the mystery. You might get a little annoyed at the leading lady, since a few words from Diane Baker's character early on could have cleared up a lot. Baker's portrayal leaves it a tossup as to whether she's friend or foe until late in the picture, adding to the atmosphere.
Eventually, the movie boils down to a McGuffin chase. There's something Stillwell has that the bad guys want, and it's not a keychain; they already have plenty of those.
The black-and-white picture is sharp and clear, with plenty of contrast; the atmosphere that director Edward Dmytryk sought is preserved well in this transfer, as is that Quincy Jones score. There are no extras.
Mirage is an entertaining movie with a lot of neat scenes, but you might be left with a few questions at the end as the story quickly resolves and things jump back to normal. I can't think of any logical motivation for thugs to buy a fridge full of groceries for someone they intended to kidnap; it makes a good easy-to-show thriller scene, but it's kind of pointless. It's also a little unlikely that David Stillwell just happens to be a great brawler. It's best to just enjoy it and not think about it.
Also, the flashback scenes, in which Stillwell recalls an important piece of dialogue from earlier, are a little heavy handed.
I wouldn't call Mirage "one of the genre's most timeless classics," as the DVD cover blurb does. All those stylish touches will make you think "'60s" right away. However, the filming in the busy New York streets and the old-fashioned thriller plot are likely to be the main charm today.
Those of you who've enjoyed a few thrillers from the '60s (probably on something called The Million Dollar Movie, from when that was a big budget) will likely enjoy Mirage. If you haven't, but liked The Tourist, you might like this one, too.
Not guilty, although you might be afraid of wrestling fans after seeing
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated