By Judy Berman
What if everything you thought was true turned out to be a lie?
You didn’t know who to turn to or who to trust. Some times, life feels like that. But we emerge from the shadows and are warmed by the light and reality.
That is not what David Stillwell (Gregory Peck) finds when he is confronted by a past he wants to forget in the 1965 film noir “Mirage.”
After a power outage in a skyscraper, Stillwell winds his way down 27 flights of stairs. He’s joined by a woman, Shela (Diane Baker). They are unable to see one another, but she says she knows him.
Stillwell has no idea who she is.
At street level, Shela realizes it is Stillwell. She is angry with him for deceiving her and runs off. He chases after her down four flights of sub-basement stairs. But she’s gone.
Back on the street, he learns that a man had jumped or was pushed out the window to his death.
That man, Charles Calvin, was the head of Unidyne, a humanitarian organization that works for world peace. His name means nothing to Stillwell, and he moves on.
When Stillwell returns to the building he works in, he heads down the stairs in search of the sub-basement levels.
There are none.
Perplexed, he returns to his apartment. A man (Jack Weston) riding with him in the elevator orders Stillwell at gunpoint to let him in his apartment. Weston tells Stillwell that “the Major wants to see you.”
Another name that means nothing to Stillwell. He manages to get the upper hand on Weston and gets rid of him. Then, he begins his search to discover why he has no recollection of events over the past two years.
At the same time, he has flashbacks to a time, place and people he can’t remember.
A visit to a psychiatrist was frustrating. The shrink does not buy that Stillwell is a “cost accountant” as Stillwell says or that he has had amnesia for the past two years. He tells Stillwell that “unconscious amnesia” lasts – at most – two days.
Stillwell hires a detective, Ted Caselle, (Walter Matthau) to find out who “David Stillwell” is and why someone is trying to kill him. Caselle confesses that this is his first case.
Nothing adds up. They go to Stillwell’s office – down the hall from where Charles Calvin’s office was – only to find it doesn’t exist.
When the detective asks Stillwell what he did as a “cost accountant,” Stillwell doesn’t know. Caselle also can’t see Stillwell in that line of work but he believes Stillwell’s story.
The convincer? He spotted a man (George Kennedy) following them. He turns out to be one of the menacing men who is trying to kill Stillwell.
“I’m kind of curious about Charles Calvin and why he went thru that window.”
Stillwell is puzzled why as he didn’t know Calvin.
“Your nightmare began at almost the exact moment his ended,” Caselle says.
Everything leads to a dead end … as do some of the people closest to Stillwell.
Bit by nightmarish bit, Stillwell discovers who Shela is and what role she played in his life. Each flashback fills in more of the memory gaps, Stillwell realizes who he really was and what he is trying to forget.
This film noir, psychological drama is one of my favorites. Please share one of yours in the comments below.
Music Video: Film Noir and Jazz – Nicholas Payton’s cover of “Chinatown” set to classic film noir images. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyEV0OHlgaE
Photo: Mirage – movie poster
Photo: Mirage – Walter Matthau and Gregory Peck – http://fr.web.img3.acsta.net/r_640_600/b_1_d6d6d6/medias/nmedia/18/65/56/07/18870217.jpg