Cape Fear (1962)

The Original Masterpiece Of Revenge, Confrontation And Murder!

Original Title : Cape Fear
Director : J. Lee Thompson
Writer : John D. MacDonald
James R. Webb
Genre : Crime
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : Sy Bartlett
Music : Bernard Herrmann
Photography : Sam Leavitt
Distributor : Columbia TriStar [br]
IMDB ID : 0055824
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poster for "Cape Fear" by J. Lee Thompson (1962)
Cape Fear (1962) - J. Lee Thompson


ÂGregory Peck Sam Bowden
ÂRobert Mitchum Max Cady
ÂRobert Mitchum Max Cady


Small-town lawyer Sam Bowden's life becomes torturous when Max Cady re-enters his life. Cady went to jail for 8 years after Bowden testified that Cady attacked a young woman. Now that Cady has been released, he begins to terrorize Bowden and his family, particularly targeting Bowden's daughter, Nancy. Initially, Cady uses his newfound knowledge of the law (learned in prison) to annoy the Bowdens, then poisons the family dog... Who's next ? Max Cady just got out of jail. He then threatens the lawyer (Sam Bowden) who defended him, arguing that he ruined Max's life sending him to prison. The threats become intelligent actions that make Bowden and his family fall in fear.


Shocking Degeneracy Well, I just love it.I have it on tape and watched it routinely with my young kid, which gives you some idea of the range of its appeal.No thinking allowed in this one!Thinking is not exactly against the law here, but it's against your best interests. The world, you see -- are you taking notes?The world is divided into good and evil, just as our elected officials keep telling us.On the one side we have "evil empires" and "evil doers" and on the other side we have "freedom" and "democracy" and nobody wears a garter belt under his trousers.The good and the evil in "Cape Fear" belong to this digital universe. Nobody is better than Gregory Peck and his bourgeois family, which is composed of Polly Bergen (who comes from "tough pioneer stock") and daughter Lori Martin (who is too "good" to be true).He's Sam Bowdin here, Citizens, an upright small-townish lawyer and loving family man who works on his boat during weekends.The evil is represented by Mitchum, a slimy hoarse-voiced cunning muscular reptilian presence who absolutely makes the movie.What a job he does!And it's not a reprise of his "preacher" in "Night of the Hunter" either.He's equally rotten here but gives his filthiness quite a different spin.Mitchum may have been an instinctive actor, but when his instincts were right, as they were in this case, nobody did a better job. Peck and his family are stumped.Mitchum comes to haunt them because Peck was instrumental in sending him to "the bucket" eight years ago for "assaulting" a woman in a parking lot.Mitchum has anticipated and is now able to block every legal move that Peck makes to protect himself and his brood.Peck's friend, Martin Balsam as the sheriff, helps as much as he can, even operating in what our current president referred to in his comments on modern accounting procedures as "a kind of gray area."There's nothing more I can do, says the sheriff.I can't arrest a man before he does something wrong."Now would you want it any other way, Sam?"(Mitchum has already killed the family dog which, in movies like this, is worse than killing another human being, but there isn't enough evidence.)Sam evidently thinks this problem over and decides, well, yes, I think I would want it another way.He hires a private investigator (Telly Savalis) who doesn't help much, but who suggests yet a farther step away from moral rectitude -- hire some bullies to beat Mitchum's eyeballs in.That doesn't work either. All of this leads, by means I won't bother to go into, to a final confrontation in a swamp on the Cape Fear River involving murder, rape, beatings, breaking and entering, pedophilia, ping pong, and first-degree bad manners. This original version is a lot better than Scorcese's remake, despite the borrowing of Bernard Hermann's effictively ominous score.In the remake, good and evil are not nearly so cut and dried.That prompts the viewer to think about the plot.Why is Juliet Lewis attracted enough to Robert DeNiro's bad guy to let him finger her mouth?What in the Gol Danged world is going on here?Why take such a simple-minded fairy tale and infuse it with such complexity?It's like turning Hansel and Gretl into incestuous siblings. The movie is extremely well laid out and well acted.The right-wing propaganda hurts my ears sometimes, though.Mitchum gets an ACLU-type lawyer on his team -- Jack Kruschen, a great character actor."You know the type, Sam" says Balsam -- "Slap a cigarette out of some hoodlum's mouth and he's down here hollering about police brutality."In my opinion, Kruschen's character belongs down there when cops start slapping guys around.As far as that goes, Kruschen is the only character in the movie who plays it strictly legal and who is up front about everything -- no lying, no traps, no selfish motives, no dirty pool at all.Towards the climax he makes moves against Peck to see if he can't be disbarred or whatever it is that is supposed to happen to you when you hire a bunch of street rats to clobber someone who is legally innocent.It's never clear exactly how Ol' Sam gets out of that.The issue is swept aside, as it should be in a movie designed to stifle thought. But if you can get past the fact that this movie is some kind of fascist's wet dream, you may like it as much as I do.It has one marvelously tense scene after another.My favorite is when Peck and Mitchum are sitting in a bar and Mitchum lays out his reasons for wanting revenge as well as his plans for how he's going to go about getting it -- "You evah heah of the death of a thousand cuts, Counselor?"Interrupting the byplay to ask the waiter, "You got any of them peanuts still in the shell, without the salt?"If you haven't seen this yet, you really ought to.Watch it with your children, those too young to understand that there is some sort of middle ground between good and evil that all of us occupy.
poster for "Cape Fear"
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Cape Fear (1962) - J. Lee Thompson
poster for "Cape Fear"
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Cape Fear (1962) - J. Lee Thompson