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    Mirage (1965) – Movie Review

    By Robert L. Jones | November 4, 2008

    George Kennedy, Diane Baker, and Gregory Peck in "Mirage" George Kennedy, Diane Baker, and Gregory Peck in “Mirage”      

    Man On the Run with Nowhere to Go

    Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★½ 

    Mirage. Starring Gregory Peck, Diane Baker, Walter Matthau, Kevin McCarthy, Jack Weston, Leif Erickson, Walter Abel, George Kennedy, and Robert H. Harris. Music by Quincy Jones. Cinematography by Joseph MacDonald.  Art direction by Frank Arrigo and Alexander Golitzen. Costume design by Jean Louis. Makeup by Bud Westmore. Edited by Ted J. Kent, A.C.E.. Screenplay by Peter Stone. Based on a story by Walter Ericson (nom de plume for Howard Fast). Directed by Edward Dmytryk. (Universal Pictures, 1965, Black and white, 108 minutes. MPAA Rating: Approved.)

    Gregory Peck stars as David Stillwell, a man with a secret. The problem is: He doesn’t know he has a secret, because he is suffering from amnesia. Thus begins this psychological thriller in the Hitchcock tradition, set in New York City in the mid 1960s.

    Peck, feeling that he’s lost his grip on reality, and needing to actualize his existence, starts down the path of reconstructing his life. Because he has amnesia, he can’t remember having any friends. He visits a psychiatrist (played with passion and intelligence by Robert H. Harris) and hires an easy-going private eye (Walter Matthau) to investigate who he really is, and find out his identity. Early on, he runs into old flame, Sheila, played by the beautiful and underrated Diane Baker (fresh off of Hitchcock’s dark Marnie). She turns out to be even more of a cipher than Peck, refusing clues to his queries about his identity. “I want to remember who I am!” Peck rages at Baker. Her tortured reply singularly sums up his bizarre and paradoxical world: “Not remembering is the only thing keeping you alive!”

    So, as you can see, this is a neat twist on the amnesia flick, and I’m going to stop here, because I don’t want to give any more of the plot of away. The intelligent script by Peter Stone (Charade, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3) moves alternately fast-and-furious/slow-and-langorous. Mirage is chock full of great performances: George Kennedy and Jack Weston give two of the best portrayals of sociopathic, ruthless hired killers ever; Leif Erickson stars as “The Major,” an equally ruthless industrialist bent on prying the secret loose from Peck’s clouded mind; Kevin McCarthy is glib and smarmy as the sycophantic Josephson, and veteran actor Walter Abel is suave and conflicted as Peck’s mentor, Charles Calvin.

    Director Edward Dmytryk–best known for his masterwork The Caine Mutiny, and blacklisted during the McCarthy years–directed Mirage really tight: There are no dissolves–every cut is literally a cut, and the breakneck pace of the chase scenes further establishes Peck as a man alone, being kept on a long leash. Dmytryk broke with tradition by editing even the flashback scenes with straight cuts. There is also no cloudy, “dreamy,” like soft-focus, either–Gregory Peck’s recollections are in fact magnified with greater clarity than action in the present tense–and it works beautifully.

    Notching the tension up even further is Quincy Jones’ jazzy and urbane soundtrack, which draws on the “crime jazz” genre created by Elmer Bernstein and Henry Mancini and looks forward to Jones’ own soundtrack for In the Heat of the Night.

    This is a totally solid and taut thriller, which has just been released by Universal as part of its Gregory Peck collection. Included in this special box set are also To Kill a Mockingbird, Cape Fear, Arabesque, The World in His Arms, and Captain Newman, M.D.

    Robert L. Jones is a photojournalist living and working in Minnesota. His work has appeared in Black & White MagazineEntrepreneurHoy! New York, the New York PostRCA Victor (Japan)Scene in San AntonioSpirit Magazine (Canada), Top Producer,  and the Trenton Times. Mr. Jones is a past entertainment editor of The New Individualist.

    Topics: Classic Movies, Dramas, Movie Reviews, Suspense Movies | No Comments »