For the first time Hitchcock was decisively beaten at his own game. This is one of the tensest films ever made, and also one of the most perfectly crafted. There are so many things right about it I can afford to concentrate on just two: 1 Sam Bowden is a firm believer in the sanctity of civil liberties until Cady starts to stalk his family - and he remains a believer even then. He is asked if he really wants the police to have the power to arrest citizens on suspicion alone; and, although his family is in danger, he cannot honestly answer yes. `Cape Fear' is clearly the product of a less <more>
bloodthirsty age. But it is the better for it: a clash between deeply held principles and deeply held desires isn't at all interesting unless it really IS a clash - unless the principles are strong enough not to give way at the first breath of wind. And damn it, Bowden is right. The police do NOT have the right to arrest Cady. The potential tragedy is genuine: not something that could be cleaned up if only so-and-so would drop a few pointless scruples. 2 Robert Mitchum really alarms us. I think it's because his motivations are a little, but not entirely, opaque. When we first see him eyeing Bowden's teen-aged daughter, we don't know exactly what he's thinking any more than Sam does. Is he sexually attracted to her? Does he want to kill her? Rape her? Is he indifferent but just trying to get a rise out of Sam? Indeed: what, exactly, does he want to do to Sam himself? We don't know: and this uncertainty is worse than any precise knowledge.I doubt I've said enough. `Cape Fear' is riveting from first frame to last. It's well shot, the acting is excellent, and Bernard Herrmann gives us his usual fitting score. It appeals to the intellect as much as to the pit of the stomach. Great stuff.
As Nasty A Creature As Had Ever Been Shown (by bkoganbing)
So acclaimed was Robert Mitchum's performance as the amoral, animalistic Max Cady it probably escapes most people's attention that Cape Fear was produced by co-star Gregory Peck.One film before was the one that united star Gregory Peck with director J. Lee Thompson. That would be The Guns of Navarone which was both a critical and box office success. Thompson and Peck enjoyed working with each other and decided the next film would be light years from The Guns of Navarone.Both Peck and Thompson agreed that this story about a homicidal ex-convict terrorizing a man who was a witness <more>
against him and his family needed a star of equal stature for the part of the convict as well as the good citizen who Peck was playing. Mitchum was contacted and agreed.I've always felt that it always showed what a class act Gregory Peck was in that even though it was his film and Mitchum got the acclaim for the film, Peck never betrayed one hint of jealousy about the plaudits Mitchum got. Max Cady was about as nasty a creature as had ever been shown on screen up to that time. The Production Code was breaking down and Thompson and Peck took great advantage of that. Today it would be nothing, but when Cady smeared that egg matter over Polly Bergen's chest it was considered risqué at the time. Polly Bergen was Gregory Peck's wife and Lori Martin his daughter in the film. Other performances of note are of Telly Savalas as a private detective, Martin Balsam as the town police chief, and Jack Kruschen as Cady's lawyer, one bottom feeding shyster. In the remake of Cape Fear which had Nick Nolte as Sam Bowen, Peck's part, and Robert DeNiro as Cady, Both Mitchum and Peck agreed to play some of the minor parts. This time Mitchum was in Balsam's old part as the police chief and Gregory Peck whose most famous role was as Atticus Finch, played the bottom feeder. After that remake you could definitely say Peck played the legal profession at both ends.The story of Cape Fear is about an upright moral man, not unlike Atticus Finch who has to get down and dirty in order to deal with a totally amoral man who lives by no rules. Kind of like what the western world has to do in dealing with terrorists of all shapes and sizes. Their confrontation on the Cape Fear River where Peck has to catch Mitchum red handed in order to bring him to justice or kill him is one for cinema history.
The original Cape Fear has always been one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. Mitchum's sociopathic creepiness is a real powerhouse performance. I was amazed to read under the trivia section here on IMDb that it was a financial failure at the time it was released and caused Gregory Peck's production company to fold. Without any of the tricks used in today's horror films this movie truly frightens. Every time I see it I have a moment where I feel so horribly for anyone who has had to deal with a criminal who they testified against being released from prison. To this day I <more>
cannot see Mitchum in any other role without thinking of Max Cady. At one point he silently slips into water and immediately you think of a slithering snake and every fear that comes with imagines associated with snakes floods your mind. His entire character is laid out like an open book in a brilliantly designed opening shot by an extremely simple but utterly effective movement by Mitchum. He is walking up a set of stairs and passes a woman with an armload of books and ever so slightly brushes against her as he passes causing her to spill some books to the floor. Without a glance or a blink or a flinch of any kind he continues up the stairs without breaking a stride. Made even more creepy considering the time the film was made when men would always have stopped to help a lady pick them up. That simple scene brings a sense of foreboding for what is to come. This is a movie I would not watch for the first time alone at night if you are a woman. Absolutely in my top 20 films list.
Effective and somewhat ahead of it's time (by SmileysWorld)
There's nothing worse than a con who knows his way around the law,and exploits that knowledge to the hilt.Robert Mitchum does this very expertly in the original and best version of Cape Fear.You want to reach out and strangle him,but he is within the law,so you can't.This is the appeal of this film.It's the fuel that keeps it going from start to finish.Along with Mitchum,we have Gregory Peck as the tormented lawyer who sent Mitchum's character,Max Cady to jail for rape years earlier. Having studied law while behind bars,Cady's only intent with his gathering of this <more>
knowledge,is to torment Sam Bowden Peck and his family.It all leads to a classic finish.I truly believe that this film was a precursor to the thriller films of today.It was a sign of things to come in the cinematic world.It was way ahead of it's time.Worthy of note here is Robert Mitchum's ability to improvise almost to the point of becoming his character.The scene where he cracks the egg with his bare hand was not scripted,and the look of surprise on Polly Bergen's face was indeed real.Outstanding film.
An Original - If It Ain't Broken, Don't Fix It (by Noirdame79)
When I first saw J. Lee Thompson's film I was on the edge of my seat. It is a scary thriller without showing buckets of blood, graphic violence, monster make-up, or even using the word "rape".A bitter, amoral, psychopathic ex-con, Max Cady the incomparable Robert Mitchum , recently released from an eight-year prison term, is out for revenge against the man who testified against him at his trial, lawyer Sam Bowden the late, great, Gregory Peck . He infiltrates into Sam's life, stalking his lovely wife, Peggy Polly Bergen, no shrinking violet , and his pretty, innocent <more>
teenage daughter, Nancy the appropriately sweet Lori Martin . Sam does everything legally possible for the time, before anti-stalking laws came into place to protect his family, but he finds he is powerless under the law, and Cady is very intelligent in his planning. It all ends in a showdown on the river Cape Fear.Let me just say that this movie has an advantage over the 1991 remake. Cady doesn't have to be covered in tattoos or act like Freddy Krueger to be terrifying. The word "rape" doesn't have to be mentioned nor does the offense have to be shown to us graphically since the censors of the time forbade it for the viewer to understand and comprehend what is going on. The performances are all right on, and even when Barrie Chase's Diane Taylor is assaulted, we don't have to be told that she was raped, because it's implied and it's written all over her bruised, traumatized face. Her portrayal of this victimized and frightened young woman is impeccable - why didn't she have a longer career?Gregory Peck is compelling, and the scenes where Nancy is pursued by Cady outside her school and she escapes inside, only to fear that he has also followed her in and she is mistaken is absolutely nail-biting, as is the final showdown. Cady's devious plan to accost Peggy on the boat in order to "trade" her for Nancy is gut-wrenching and extremely watchable. We now have a names for guys like that - rapist, stalker, pedophile, murderer - but the first three were either not used or hadn't been made a term yet. A classic, don't accept any substitutions. As I usually give so much away in my comments, I'll leave the plot details at that. Bernard Hermann's score for the film is perfect, and ranks right along with his score for Alfred Hitchcock's "PSYCHO" - a masterpiece. And so is the movie. Don't watch it alone or in a dark room! 10/10.
Max Cady isn't a man who makes idle threats. (by Spikeopath)
Max Cady is fresh out of prison and down in Florida looking for someone in particular. That person is lawyer Sam Bowden, the man who Cady holds responsible for his years of incarceration. Once Bowden realises that Cady is out for revenge, and that his family are in serious danger, he turns to the police for help, but unable to get help from them, he goes outside of the law, and all parties are heading for the foreboding place known as Cape Fear.Brilliant villainy, unnerving story and suspense pouring from every frame, Cape Fear is an abject lesson in how to produce a quality thriller <more>
that's borderline horror. Based on a novel called "The Executioners" written by John D. MacDonald, the piece is bolstered by some perfect casting decisions and by having a director able to pace with precision, thus it stands tall and proud as a highlight in a tough old genre. Robert Mitchum is Cady, a big hulking man with an immoral face, he terrifies purely by his undaunted objectives, with Mitchum clearly revelling in such a role. As Bowden we have Gregory Peck, playing it right as the uptight and stiff lawyer forced to find toughness from within. Backed up by excellent cameos from Martin Balsam, Telly Savalas and Polly Bergen, Cape Fear also features one of Bernard Herrmann's finest scores, a complete and utter nerve shredder with psychotic strings and brooding brass, it hangs in the ears long after the film has finished.What lifts this above many of its thriller peers is that the dialogue is firmly accentuated by the character portrayals, watch as Cady calmly digresses about how he learnt the law in prison, or how he seeps with deviant sexual aggression when confronting the Bowden women, it's badness personified and literally a force of evil, so much so that the breaking of an egg is metaphorically a portent of pain unbound. Director J. Lee Thompson's career shows him to have been a steady if unspectacular director at times, but he directs this with no amount of zip and he deftly reins it in for a stifling last quarter at the Cape Fear bayou his interview on the disc releases is full of love and insights . Along with his cinematographer, Sam Leavitt, Thompson expertly uses shadow and light to consistently keep the feeling of dread looming as much of a hostile presence as Bobby Mitchum is throughout the play.By the time the finale reveals the denouement, it's hoped that you are as living on your nerves as this particular viewer always is when viewing this clinically sharp piece of thriller cinema. 9/10
Stick With This One: The Original (by ccthemovieman-1)
Boy, this shows that you can still make a scary movie without a lot of blood, profanity and whatever. Hollywood didn't learn that, however, featuring all of it less than a decade after this was made. The Martin Scorcese re-make of this movie is exactly what I'm talking about.This original Cape Fear was legitimately scary, thanks to the performance of Robert Mitchum, who doesn't need to resort to the f-word to be a tough, sick and really an evil character as he stalks Gregory Peck and his wife Polly Bergen and daughter Lori Martin . Bergan and Martin are two women I don't <more>
see too much in films which is too bad. They did a lot more TV work than movies. Another thing you don't see much anymore - a nice, sympathetic policeman - was also portrayed in here nicely by Martin Balsam.The ending has some holes in it, to be sure, but overall it offers a good 106- minute suspense story.
Martin Scorsese's version of "Cape Fear" had its moments, but overall was something of a chaotic picture. Its "satire" or lack thereof didn't really have a point, and its over-the-top visuals seemed to be compensating for a lack of content. It seemed less like Scorsese and more like DePalma.Thompson's original is better - more scary, more thrilling, more diabolical and realistic. Whereas De Niro's scenery-chewing performance in the remake was almost laughable, Robert Mitchum's spine-tingling turn here as Max Cady is one of the great human movie <more>
monsters - he's a demon at spirit, no in physicality.He seeks revenge on Gregory Peck and his family after Peck puts him away in jail for a few years.Scorsese's version was more updated and in that sense its general themes were more believable - Cady's psyche was more exposed, his violence exploitative - and the romance between Cady and Sam Bowden's daughter in the original is nonexistent. In fact, the extent of his harm towards her is when he chases her around an empty school.Still, this is a better version of the movie because it has more strengths than the remake. Visually it's not as impressive but it makes more of an impact as a thriller.
Mitchum was powerful in Thompson's suspenseful thriller... (by Nazi_Fighter_David)
Mitchum was, if anything, even more powerful in "Cape Fear," possibly because his antagonist this time was the perfectly contrasting Gregory Peck Mitchum played a sex criminal, freed after eight years in prison, who returned to a sleepy little town to terrorize the witness Gregory Peck whom he blamed for his conviction The ex-con uttered no threats, used no violence, broke no laws and the police were therefore helpless But his very presence, the tone of his voice, the look in his eyes as he turned them lazily on Peck's attractive wife and adolescent daughter showed <more>
with unmistakable and cumulative menace that he would surely take his revenge Peck planted his wife and daughter on a safely moored houseboat to tempt Mitchum into a trap...