Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut ages surprisingly well. Working on both sides of the camera for the first time, he was able to craft a Hitchcockian thriller with the sexual tension and intensity that Hitchcock always wanted to include in his films, but was not allowed to by censors until nearly the end of his career. Today the romantic montages in Play Misty for Me seem a bit dated and out of place, but women’s lib, gay lib, and the sexual revolution were all in recent memory at the time, and all of these social changes find their way into the script, with various levels of success. The gay art dealer seems offensive and one-dimensional today, and was probably included as a way to show that Clint’s character was down with his gay friend as well as his black maid, but at least there was a clearly gay character in a Hollywood film, something that would not have been possible even five years earlier.
The famous scene shot at the Monterey Jazz Festival was clearly a homage to Eastwood’s love of music, but is also a clever way to make a crucial plot point less obvious. In other words, the directorial decisions were artistic and well thought out, rather than amateurish.