Stalkers in the Movies


As a crime topic in and of itself, we don’t hear much about stalking. It may be part of an intimate partner or family violence crime. Stalking was officially recognized as a separate crime in California in 1990. This crime can include a myriad of unwanted behaviors such as –writing, calling, accosting, harassing, threatening in person or via use of social media, following a person, spying, waiting at locations, leaving, sending unwanted flowers or other gifts. 

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics as of February 2016, 14 people in 1,000 are typically stalked within a 12 month period. Actual prosecution differs from state to state regarding the amount of emotional distress, fear or reasonable expectation of fear.  The range of prosecutable behaviors can range establishing the benchmark of emotional distress, establishing fear of death or severe bodily harm. BJS data indicates that those at highest risk of being stalked are those who are separated or divorced (34 in 1,000 people).  Those women ages 18 to 24 – 1 in 6 women are stalking victims while 1 in 19 men are stalked). 

This blog will discuss two examples taken from the big screen in different eras. Both films were billed as psychological thrillers.

  1. “Play Misty for Me”- Released November , 1971 ; Initial Budget – $950,000, Box Office Gross- $10.6 Million

   Starring: Client Eastwood, Jessica Walter and Donna Mills. 

Summary –A radio disc jockey, Dave Garver, broadcasting from a studio in Carmel by the Sea gets entangled with the wrong woman, Evelyn Draper, who wreaks havoc on every aspect of his life.  She begins her staking as a repeat caller, requesting the song ”Misty,” followed by a date, casual sex, after which she “just shows up” at his home,  restaurants with business associates,  she escalates her psycho demands,  there’s a suicide attempt, an invasion of Dave’s home and subsequent murder of his housekeeper.. more trouble, plot twists and turns.  (‘Don’t want to be a Spoiler!)

Trailer – for “Play Misty for Me”  “Get Off my Back…”

  1. “Notes on A Scandal” Released December, 2006; Initial Budget – $15 Million, Box Office Gross- $49,752,391 Million. Filmed in London.

Starring: Judi Dench,   (Barbara Covett), Cate Blanchett ( Sheba Hart,  and Bill Nighy (Richard Hart)

In my opinion, this movie is an intellectual treatment of a topic with many  sophisticated layers as compared  to “Play Misty for Me.” Examples of the layers include the cultural British realm, a bohemian family with a child with Downs Syndrome,  an affair featuring an older woman pairing  with young adolescent, (versus the usual older man meets girl adolescent)  and a spinster, manipulating, obsessive, lonely lesbian school teacher who “blackmails in the name of love” thus creating yet another fantasy relationship in her mind alone, a knock down drag out fight. And…there is also a history, a back story of Barbara’s prior  torrid want to be love affairs  before setting her sights on the new teacher in town, Shelby.

Barbara looks for the weakness, the most vulnerable in her prey, weaves her tangled deceitful  web, feigning friendship, she inappropriately inserts herself in other’s lives as all stalkers do, and uses a dangerous affair initiated by Sheba to seemingly get what she wants.  There is a very effective use of voiceover narrative throughout this movie by the character of Barbara,  self talk and extensive diary entries. 

I will not reveal more, as it is so effective to view this movie live and in person. 

Trailer- Notes on a Scandal-

Postscript-  Why, why, why do movie producers delight in always portraying lesbians as psychos? It’s so unfair!   The extraordinarily talented Judi Dench  is “family” although it is not clear whether she is L or Bi…and it clearly does not matter!  I’m waiting for that mainstream “normal lesbian movie” maybe  by the time I’m 90. 

As for stalking, it is not letting go turned criminal. Watch out for stalkers. They may say they are motivated by love, but the cause is rooted in mental health issues , the inability to move on and inability to form healthy relationships.

In the words of performer Bonnie Raitt –

 “…’Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t; You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t…” 


References –

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