'Mirage': A Hitchcock-Like Thriller Not Easily Forgotten

The Hitchcock-like thriller "Mirage" has so many twists and turns that it's uncertain whether all the loose ends in this tale of an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances will ever be resolved.

Don't worry, they are. And the thriller doesn't require a diagram to explain the resolutions.

Gregory Peck stars as David, a cost accountant who suffers from chronic amnesia. All he can remember is leaving work just as there is a Manhattan power blackout and as Charles Calvin--the leader of a world peace organization--falls to his death from David's office building.

David then heads home to his apartment, thinking that the strange happenings at work were all just coincidence. But later he discovers some strange inconsistencies in the day's events.

During the blackout, he had befriended a woman named Sheila (Diane Baker) on the sublevel of the office building. But, returning there, he finds that no such level exists. His boss (Kevin McCarthy) says that David is supposed to be on vacation in the Bahamas, but David doesn't remember requesting the time off. And most puzzling of all are the people trying to kidnap him, wanting him to fess up to "the Major." David has no idea what they are talking about.

The movie gives the viewer a sense of puzzlement and paranoia, as David confronts a host of characters, unsure of whether they are trying to help him regain his memory or are out to get him.

Gradually, bits of David's memory begin to return, and he begins piecing his past together. This is when the film takes off, as the viewer is clued in to the truth at the same pace as David. One could hardly have guessed that this seemingly generic white-collar executive actually plays a big part in the Cold War.

Peck is convincing as David, an ordinary man perplexed and anguished by both his attackers and the gaps in his memory. Unlike his counterparts in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" or "The Man Who Knew Too Much," this character's moral conscience, rather than his cunning, outsmarts the enemy.

Walter Matthau steals most of the humor as a down-on-his-luck private detective David hires to help him find out about his past. It was one of Matthau's first "gruff-but-lovable" roles.

Also amusing are George Kennedy and Jack Weston as two heavies. At times the two men are bumbling, and they seem to have no problem with shooting at people in crowded public places. Their scenes provide levity, unintentional or not.

This movie was remade several years later as "Jigsaw."

"Mirage" (1965), directed by Edward Dmytryk. 109 minutes. Not rated.

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