Mirage (1965)

Thriller/60s/Classic Cinema

Was looking for something retro and exciting and found Mirage with Gregory Peck, Diane Baker and Walter Matthau. The opening has catchy music–before the story began I was making a mental note to hunt up the soundtrack. The film opens with Gregory Peck’s character, David Stillwell in a New York City office that’s had a sudden power outage. Lots of people milling about in the dark, confusion, what’s going on. I was hooked right in.

He finds his way to the stairs and meets an attractive woman who seems to know him. Inexplicably, at the bottom of the stairs when she sees his face in the street light, she looks frightened and runs away. Once outside Stillwell finds a crowd gathered around the body of a man who seems to have jumped from the top of the building. From here the story takes off in now familiar and unsettling territory of a main character suffering from memory problems compounded by the appearance of men with guns trying to kill him and a rising body count.

Stillwell seeks help from a psychiatrist who sends him away. A sign for a private detective gives him hope, maybe a detective can help him figure out who he really is. Unfortunately, the detective, played by Matthau has never worked a case before but with reluctance, takes on Stillwell’s peculiar case.

At this point, I was thoroughly intrigued and entertained. My thoughts ran from “I am loving this!” to “Why have I not seen or heard of this movie before?” But already the film has gone from a Hitchcockian feel to a comedic one. So far so good… I don’t want to give away much more of the story. I’ll say right here that it is worth a gander but



I soon found out why perhaps I’d not seen this before. Had I stopped here, I would have looked forward to a funny and thrilling story as the bumbling detective helped Stillwell figure out the big questions– it is clear that someone is going to great lengths to make him feel crazy. Why? Are they trying to kill him or scare him. Why? The woman from the stairwell returns and won’t say what she knows. Can he trust her?

I was so into the story…

You know how sometimes people will collaborate on a story — here, you write the beginning and without looking at what you wrote, I’ll pick up the story from the last line and go with it? Mirage hits a peak of entertaining expectation and takes a dark nosedive into the politics and dangers of nuclear energy. The body count goes up. The comedic element disappears completely. Is this even the same film we started with?

I can’t recall a film that has demonstrated this kind of personality disorder or disappointed me so much so fast. As a rule, I wouldn’t bother to review a book or film that just didn’t do anything for me. We all have different tastes and maybe it’ll float someone else’s boat. I won’t shoot down the balloon just for sport. But this one… I put it out there with a big hairy question mark. I’ll have to research what happened with this film– why is it so darned unbalanced? A truly bad movie has no redeeming qualities and is a waste of time. This one evokes too much and lingers far too much for me to dismiss it. Gregory Peck! Terrific actor and a fine performance. Matthau is hilarious! I just don’t get why this one went right off the road…

Thoughts? Comments? Did you like it?

Wanted to give it 5 at first:


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