Film: Mirage

An intriguing, Twilight-Zoney thriller, Mirage (1965) is definitely a product of its era, but it’s quirky and still quite watchable. Gregory Peck stars as David Stillwell, an accountant who works in a New York City office building. When the building’s power goes out, Stillwell attempts to leave and bumps into a mysterious woman (Diane Baker) as he’s descending a darkened staircase. She claims to remember him, but he’s never seen her before. This is baffling enough, but it gets worse when she races off into a sub-basement that he later learns doesn’t even exist. This is just the first of several reality-bending mysteries that begin to plague him, as he gradually comes to grips with a bizarre case of amnesia. Meanwhile, he finds himself increasingly entangled with nefarious strangers who seem to know exactly who he is, even when he doesn’t know himself.

Putting an interesting spin on the Cold War/nuclear era psychological thriller, Mirage is modest but clever, with a twisty, disorienting plot. Its sensibility and black-and-white photography reminds me a little of early John Frankenheimer. In the end, I’m not convinced it coheres structurally, and it’s inconsistent tonally. But I  idn’t mind; it’s still fun trying to make sense of Stillwell’s nightmarish dilemma, and anyway the thematic resolution is satisfying in spite of the plot’s loose ends. Meanwhile, it’s got a fun cast of familiar character actors from the era, including George Kennedy, Kevin McCarthy, Jack Weston, and the great Walter Matthau as a droopy gumshoe Stillwell hires to help him. An entertaining, old-fashioned mystery.

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