Things get very confusing for David Stillwell when a glitch in his memory seems to coincide with a building-wide power outage. Suddenly aware that he has lived the last two years in a mental fog, without friends or a concrete understanding of his job, Stillwell hires a private detective to find out what happened to him. Gregory Peck is a commanding lead in Mirage, a twisty 1960s thriller from director Edward Dmytryk that also stars Diane Baker and Walter Matthau.
Stillwell's sudden reawakening is made more confounding by those around him, many of whom greet him as a friend. Most intriguing is Shela (Baker), a woman with whom Stillwell may share a romantic past. Shela assures Stillwell he is only alive because he doesn't remember the past, and mentions that "the Major" wants something from him. After a thug tries to strong-arm him into going to Barbados to meet the Major, Stillwell hires rookie detective Ted Caselle (Matthau) to find some answers.
The opening scene in the darkened high-rise building is excellent, and sets a mood of paranoia and confusion. The faces that appear out of the dark are analogous to the fuzzy memories flying back at Stillwell. A man without a memory truly is in a tough spot. Stillwell tries to see a psychiatrist, but the doctor is convinced Stillwell is attempting to use him to craft some tricky criminal defense. But, Caselle is more astute than it first appears, and he spots a man tailing Stillwell. Caselle also wonders aloud how Stillwell could be a cost accountant when he has no idea of the job's responsibilities.
The twists and turns of Mirage are quite brilliant, at least during the first half. Director Dmytryk uses cuts of previous scenes to effectively emphasize Stillwell's mental confusion, which is heightened when a man who was purportedly his boss throws himself from a window. Mirage is most effective when it keeps the audience as confused as Stillwell, and only falters when it starts piling on the convoluted explanations in the latter half. When perception and reality collide, Mirage exposes several questionable plot holes that dull its impact slightly.
Finally available to purchase individually on DVD, Mirage admirably attempts to achieve the greatness of the 1960s Hitchcock thrillers but falls slightly short of this benchmark. Watching Peck try to solve the mystery is enjoyable, and Matthau is a treat as the likable, inexperienced detective. The payoff in Mirage doesn't match the buildup, but the mystery is intriguing while it lasts.
PICTURE AND SOUND:
Universal's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Mirage is largely free of print defects and artifacts. The black and white image displays strong contrast throughout, and detail is generally good. Only a few scenes appear excessively noisy, but it seems Universal has used some digital processing in spots. Those scenes appear much softer and slightly more digital, with faces that are scrubbed of detail. The 2.0 split mono soundtrack is adequate. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and I did not detect any popping or hissing. Quincy Jones's jazzy score sounds good, but could have benefited from a surround track. A Spanish mono track and English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles also are available.
Stylishly twisty and intriguing, Mirage only falters when saddled with providing an explanation for its madness. While it's not the most memorable 1960s thriller, Mirage features great performances by Gregory Peck, Diane Baker and Walter Matthau and enough intrigue to warrant a viewing. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.