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on April 3, 2004
Prior to his Oscar-winning role as lawyer Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird", Gregory Peck portrayed another attorney in 1962's "Cape Fear", a psychological thriller also starring Robert Mitchum in one of his most despicable roles.
No two actors were better suited than these two. Their characters are a definite study in contrast. Peck's Sam Bowden is a civilized intellectual forced to resort to some underhanded means to protect his family and himself from the treacherous taunts of Mitchum's crude, rude antagonist. Tension builds as the two men make a final confrontation at the location of the film's title.
Polly Bergen and Lorie Martin as Peck's respective wife and daughter are quite good a show a strength of character rare for women in the early 60's. They are not just "screaming Mimi's".
Martin Balsam, Jack Krushen and a pre-Kojak Telly Savalas round out a superlative cast; Barrie Chase is also quite memorable as a woman that runs afoul of the Mitchum's sadistic Max Cady.
Southern locations and crisp cinematography provide a picturesque yet menacing background and look.
To top off the film off is another remarkable score from Bernard Herrmann. Music by the late composer elevates this already superior thriller to a higher level.
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on January 28, 2004
J. Lee Thompson directs this sophisticated cat and mouse thriller starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck. Mitchum gives a marvelous performance as Max Cady, the calm yet menacing Max Cady, an ex-con who has been paroled from prison after serving eight years for rape (the word "rape" is never said throughout the entire movie, because back in the times, it wasn't allowed by the censors, but it is implied.) Cady wants revenge on the lawyer who sent him to prison, Sam Bowden, portrayed brilliantly with strong assurance, yet fearfulness by Gregory Peck. He is a man who loves his wife and daughter with all his heart, and soon, Cady begins implying threats involving them. Bowden tries taking matters into his own hands, but it goes awry, and the result is a suspenseful battle between good and evil on Cape Fear River. This film is an absolute classic, with plenty of suspense, witty one-liners, a classic score, and exquisite directing, writing, and performances. It's a movie that the whole family could basically watch, because it's not all that inappropriate for today's times, and not too scary, just a good movie! I don't see why, however, this movie and the remake must be compared so much! The remake is a remake, it is a totally separate thing. The remake, directed by Scorsese, was much more brutal in its depiction, but still a great film. I don't see why people can't just look at it as it's own movie. Anyway, this is a terrific movie that I highly recommend.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 2, 2011
Universal Pictures presents "CAPE FEAR" (12 April 1962) (105 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Small-town lawyer Sam Bowden's (Gregory Peck) life becomes torturous when Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) 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.

Riveting from the first frame to last --- Well shot, with excellent performances from the entire cast, and a great Bernard Herrmann score.

Under the production staff of:
J. Lee Thompson [Director]
John D. MacDonald [novel "The Executioners"]
James R. Webb [Screenwriter]
Sy Bartlett [Producer]
Bernard Herrmann [Film Score]
Sam Leavitt [Cinematographer]
George Tomasini [Film Editor]

1. J. Lee Thompson [Director]
Date of Birth: 1 August 1914 - Bristol, England, UK
Date of Death: 30 August 2002 - Sooke, British Columbia, Canada

2. Gregory Peck [aka: Eldred Gregory Peck]
Date of Birth: 5 April 1916 - La Jolla, California
Date of Death: 12 June 2003 - Los Angeles, California

3. Robert Mitchum [aka: Robert Charles Durman Mitchum]
Date of Birth: 6 August 1917 - Bridgeport, Connecticut
Date of Death: 1 July 1997 - Santa Barbara, California

4. Polly Bergen [aka: Nellie Paulina Burgin]
Date of Birth: 14 July 1930 - Knoxville, Tennessee
Date of Death: Still Living

the cast includes:
Gregory Peck - Sam Bowden
Robert Mitchum - Max Cady
Polly Bergen - Peggy Bowden
Lori Martin - Nancy Bowden
Martin Balsam - Police Chief Mark Dutton
Jack Kruschen - Attorney Dave Grafton
Telly Savalas - Private Detective Charles Sievers

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 105 min on DVD ~ Universal Pictures ~ (09/18/2001)
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Sometimes, the most terrifying monsters are the ones that look just like humans.

And one such monster is at the heart of "Cape Fear," one of the most harrowing movies from Hollywood's golden age. Rather than a straightforward thriller, this movie explores how sometimes both crime and justice can go outside the law -- and how far some people will go for revenge.

Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) sent Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) to prison for rape, eight years ago. Now Cady has been released, and is determined to settle the old score -- and Bowden's wife and teenage daughter are next. Bowden tries to get the police to help, but until Cady breaks a law, they can't do anything.

And so Cady begins his vendetta against Bowden -- he stalks Bowden's daughter and poisons the dog. He rapes a young woman, then frightens her into not telling. As Bowden's life becomes a living nightmare, he knows that he will have to go outside the law to deal with Cady -- and he'll have to set a trap.

Hitchcock would have been jealous. Not many movies -- even of his movies -- create the sense of pure evil that "Cape Fear" does. Stalking laws didn't exist back then, and so until a crime was committed and charges were pressed, the police literally could not do a thing.

And that conflict is the heart of "Cape Fear." As a lawyer, Bowden believes firmly in the justice of law at the beginning, but that is shattered when Cady uses the law for himself. J. Lee Thompson illustrates how law and justice aren't the same thing -- Cady is evil but works within the law, while Bowden must go vigilante to keep his innocent family safe.

And J. Lee Thompson does a great job creating this nightmare. Ominous music, shadowy sets, and taut, terrifying sequences that seem a little too real, such as when Cady relentlessly pursues little Nancy around the school. And the dialogue is as tight as the plot ("We're gonna nurse you back to health. And you're strong, Cady. You're gonna live a long life... in a cage!").

Peck and Mitchum are absolutely amazing in this movie. Few actors could pull off the cold, calculating evil of Mitchum's Cady. Rape, murder, pedophilia -- you name it, he'll do it. Peck is equally outstanding as the devoted father and husband, but he is at his best when Bowden is slowly being stretched to the breaking point.

"Cape Fear" is the sort of horror story that can happen in real life, and Peck and Mitchum's performances elevate it into a classic. Absolutely terrifying, amazingly made.
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on January 21, 2004
Gregory Peck... Robert Mitchum... Martin Balsam... Polly Bergen... Bernard Herrmann... J. Lee Thompson... John R. McDonald... Telly Savalas... Sam Leavitt... James R. Webb...
This list comprises all the pluses that go into making a thriller of lust, revenge, retribution and calculated rumblings of a volcano ready to blow, in Cape Fear. This is not the pale imitation that was directed by Martin Scorcese in 1991. That later production was an unmitigated conglomerate of overacting, blood and heavy violence galore, teamed with a hammed performance by Robert De Niro, although Mitchum and Peck provided small cameos in the film and were a much needed relief from all the pyrotechnics.
In the much better realized original version of Cape Fear, Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), a lawyer in a laidback Florida town, confronts his worst nightmare in the form of Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), a man he helped to incarcerate 8 1/2 years previously in Baltimore, Maryland. Cady has come to extract the vengeance that he feels is his due, by stalking Bowden, his wife Peggy (Polly Bergen) and young teenage daughter, Nancy (Lori Martin), and wreaking havoc in the process.
A game of psychological cat and mouse entails, with the police chief Mark Dutton (Martin Balsam) and private investigator, Charles Siever (Telly Savalas) being called into play as enforcers and blockers in the line of defense that is orchestrated to prevent Cady from advancing his desires and seeing them come to fruition. The story that develops runs the gamut from law-abiding citizens seeking to remedy the course of events through attrition, to seeing their machinations destroyed through the sly maneuverings of Cady and his knowledge of the very law that is attempting to lasso him in.
Robert Mitchum as Max Cady has a clear grasp of the situation that he has been called to perform. He has gotten into the skin of the beast and emits a persona of a cobra, laying in wait, ready to strike at the drop of a hat at the least bit of invitation, as he sees it. Mitchum has the look of a man who has been around the block more than a few times and in the process, has beaten his way to the top, and left broken bodies and psyches in his wake. He has not the slightest redeeming value to him and his vulgar and crass attitude towards others is noted with due process. He is a bad rash that is so hard to shake and he leaves the scars of an emotional rollercoaster ride in his wake. Mitchum is 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' and that's the way it should be. It can be said that Cady is the devil personified, and one would not be off the mark in its utterance.
Peck's portrayal as Sam Bowden is masterful in its deliberate pacing, as he strays from the upstanding citizen along the path of criminal intent as Cady draws him into the same mire he has called home these past years. Will Bowden become as animalistic as the man stalking his human prey or will upstanding virtues project a revenge that Cady never intended to have happen?
The supporting cast of players lend credence to the appointments they have undertaken. Martin Balsam and Telly Savalas etch memorable sequences, with Savalas taking top honours as the street wise private dick. His Judas goat leading Cady into the final nightmare has that little extra something that conveys a bit of film noir about it. If there is one small fly in the ointment, it is with Lori Martin. Her acting as the teenage daughter of Peck was a little too Lolita-ish, although it was not entirely the fault of the actress. The skimpy shorts outfits sent off the wrong message to the potential pedophile within Cady and to this reviewer. Virginal, they did not look!
The score by Bernard Herrmann was a huge plus, and he wears the moniker of 'master of his craft' with complete credibility. His music takes on the nuances of terror, southern hospitality, warmth, and typical Herrmann in a Hitchcock sort of way. In fact, almost everything about this production of Cape Fear seemed to scream, 'this is a Hitchcock film!' I almost expected to see Hitch make his way across the screen, in a comical cameo, as he is wont to do with his films. A film of this nature would not have been complete without the renderings of this consummate professional.
The black and white photography by Sam Leavitt paints pictures as only this medium can do. The lights and shadows, the sunny days, the dark of night, the portraits of evil and good are brushstroked with a tendency to reveal the true natures of the people they capture.
John D. McDonald's script, based on his novel, The Executioners, is taut and compact. His characters are drawn from everyday life and are set on a course guaranteed to equate the emotions of a small multitude, and to cast a feeling of care and concern from the audience as to what does or does not happen to them. McDonald's feel for the essence of the hatred of Cady and the potential fall from grace that Sam Bowden skirts with, are communicated front and centre.
Direction by J. Lee Thompson is standard fare. He simply holds his flock in minor check, allowing them freedom to let the tale spin itself into the web of terror and horror that we see unfold before us.
It must be reiterated again, that one must not accept 'any imitations.' Cape Fear, the original, is the one to bet your money on. Let the pretenders to the throne allow their death throes and sense of gotterdamerung to thrust itself across the screen. MY Cape Fear is the winner, hands down
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on December 8, 2003
This review refers to the "Cape Fear"(1962) Widescreen DVD edition by Universal.....
"Cape Fear" from 1962 is a terrific example of great film noir. Filmed in black and white, director J.Lee Thompson uses shadows and light, and the art of suggestion(the censors were pretty tough back in the 60's), to bring us this bone-chilling and suspenseful classic that over fourty years later, still, has not lost it's draw. Not unlike many of Hitchcock's films, Thompson has the audience on the edge of their seats,our hearts in our throats, and in fear for the hero.
It's good vs. evil, as Greogory Peck and Robert Mitchum, put their immense talents together for this spine tingler. Max Cady(Mitchum) has just been released from 8 long years in prison. From the moment we meet him, we KNOW this is one bad hombre. He is bent on revenge, and Sam Bowden(Peck) is the man who must pay. Sam's young daughter and beautiful wife are the targets of Max's obssession. He is slick and devious and will stop at nothing to get even. Sam does everything in his power legally to try and stop him, but must take matters into his own hands to protect his family.
Mitchum is simply powerful in his performance of this menacing threat, and Peck as always is perfect in his portrayal of the family man whose life has just turned into one big nightmare!
The film is also helped by the wonderful talents of Telly Savalas and Martin Balsam. Polly Bergen and Lori Martin are magnificent as the terrified wife and daughter.The talent doesn't end there though, the haunting music was scored by Bernard Hermann(who worked with Hitch on several films), and Sam Leavitt does a fabulous job with the black and white cinematography.
The transfer to DVD is crisp and sharp. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen(1.85:1)and barely shows it's age. The sound is in Dolby Dig 2.0 Mono. The dialouge as well as the music and background noises are all clear and distguishable.
There is a terrific featurette on the making of the film,production photos, a trailer, and DVD ROM. It may only be viewed in English, but has captions in English and subtitles in Spanish and French for those that may need them.
A thriller that stands the test of time. One that esteemed Director Martin Scorsese chose to pay homage to with a wonderful remake.
Get the popcorn ready and enjoy......Laurie
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on November 11, 2003
I remember watching this movie when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I was impressed by a variety of aspects of the movie. Most of all, I was impressed by how utterly evil Robert Mitchum's character was. I was led to believe this by a number of suggestuive scenes. There was one with a lady he picked up. The police later came to interview her to try and get her to testify against him because of what he did to her. She was so terrified that she wanted nothing to do with it. Exactly what he had done to her was left up to our imagination. There was another scene that I would never forget. Initially, I couldn't understand it. Years later, when I saw the movie as a young adult, I was amazed at the power of the symbolism. It was a scene in which Mitchum smears a raw egg over a scared Polly Bergen. I often think of that scene as the difference between movies made in the "old days" and the ones of today. In that scene we have the suggested image of rape that isn't cause to send the younger viewers out of the room.
The remake of "Cape Fear" is probably an enjoyable movie for those who hadn't seen the original one. However, it serves for me as an example of how movie making has lost its' art of suggestive imagery. The remake spells out things a lot more even to the point of obsurdity. As example of obsurdity, consider how Robert DeNiro managed to "follow" Nick Nolte's family to its' hideout. I won't spell it out for those who haven't seen the movie. However, if you think about it, it really isn't possible that it could have actually happened. He would have either been killed or severely burned.
Hollywood had a talent that enabled it to make movies for viewers on all levels. Sure, there were romantic movies that juveniles wouldn't enjoy, shoot-em-up westerns that teenage girls wouldn't enjoy, etc. etc.. However, picking out a pre-1970's movie for the family to watch isn't the moral dilemna that modern movies pose. We either get the simplicity of Disney or the depravity of the R rated with little in between. The original "Cape Fear" had all of the suspense and evil that its' remake had. It was a sort of interactive movie that allowed the viewer to see it on their own level. The remake, while fairly "tame" for a modern R rated movie, puts it all on the screen to see. I realize that it is the audience that fuels the trends. We seem to demand more and more special effects, gore and sex. The original "Cape Fear" is an example of artistic talent that is sacrificed in such a trend.
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on September 29, 2002
The late great classic acting talents of Robert Mitchum are showcased in this 1962 classic, reproving his ability to play the villain with unsurpassed expertise, as in the former 1955 classic "Night of The Hunter". ............... Here, Mitchum plays Max Cady, a menacing figure with a perpetual lit cigar and Panama Hat. He has come to town after being released from jail to visit and wreak revenge on the man who put him there, enter Sam, played by Gregory Peck. From their initial reunion in the town parking lot, Cady lets Peck have a peek at what's on his mind. From that moment on, there are grippingly suspenseful encounters between the two men and even worse, threats to his wife played by Polly Bergen, and his daughter, in a rather ineffectual role considering what she goes through when encountering Cady. Particularly amusing is a scene in the beginning of the film. Cady casually watches the family bowl, while harrassing a waitress and having a beer. The expression on Pecks face as his Sam character looks up, and spots those sinister leering eyes peering from a nearby table at his family, is classic. ................ What needs to be mentioned more than the great direction, pacing and script, is the believabilty of the sociopath depicted, that Mitchum brings to startling low-life on the screen. He is truly mesmerizing in his sleepy-eyed evil countenance. His gaze, cigar in mouth, hat pulled low, will raise your hair as you watch him. He moves toward his victims in a slow and deliberate manner, and speaks his lines with that commanding voice that he was so famous for. When picked up for questioning, he hilariously mocks Pecks' Sam, calling him casually by name, "Why, Say-im..." and then as "counselor" refering to his lawyer status. My favorite Mitchum line here?"You might want to look closer, I've got a few jolts of horse stashed under the collar." as he hands over his shirt to the police. The other great line is to Peck in a bar, as he lets him know that he can't be bought off. When speaking of his dear ex-wife, "Pumped a quart of whiskey in her, tore off her dress, threw away her shoes, and gave her a fair chance to work her way home..." Needless to say, pretty daring for it's time. You will have to find out the rest for yourself, like the scene with the drifter girl Mitchum picks up, and of course, the showdown. .............. Don't even think that Martin Scorcese's subsequent remake comes close to this classic. The excessively demented southern accent and preponderance of large tattoo's on DeNiro, don't make him more frightening than Mitchums' original take on the Max Cady character. Mitchum's subtle style of menacing, which seems paradoxical, but works, is far more effective at eliciting the viewers rapt attention. Besides, the Scorcese version got mired in outside subjects like infidelity from Nick Noltes version of Sam, what for? Let's face it, the original doesn't need any additional subplots to be entertaining. ................. "Cape Fear" is a strange title, refering to the very real location of the story, while it also serves as a perfect double entendre for the utter fright Robert Mitchum delivers within, in an unparalleled style. Don't miss this classic.
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on July 15, 2002
The late Robert Mitchum truly created one of the classic portrayals of evil as Max Cady. Instead of going for explicit violence and over the top craziness, as Scorsese and De Niro did in their remake, Mitchum creates a monster who is all the more fearsome for being calmly and icily sadistic and calculating. Moreover, Gregory Peck as the lawyer Sam Bowden provides a convincing contrast of goodness to Mitchum's evil in that he is portrayed at the outset as a truly virtuous man rather than as a morally compromised one (as Scorsese did with Nolte), who crosses the line (i.e. has toughs attempt to beat up Cady) soley in order to protect his family. There is also a tragic outcome to Peck's character in that even though he foiled Cady's attempt to destroy the innocence of his daughter by raping her, he is forever psychologically transformed by the hatred and vengeance Cady elicited from him (e.g. where after wounding Cady, he tells him that he will not shoot him to death, as Cady requests of him, because he wants Cady to suffer in prison for the rest of his days instead), thereby losing an innocence that he as a decent man had formerly possessed. Scorsese, in his preocupation with explicit violence and gore, never raises this issue.
Furthermore, the director does a masterful job in maintaining an atmosphere of stifling fear and tension throughout and Bergen, Balsam and Savalas are all fine in their supporting roles.
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on July 8, 2002
A terrific suspense thriller, Cape Fear is the tale of lawyer Sam Bowden, played by Gregory Peck, who's family is being stalked by vengeful ex-con Max Cady, played by Robert Mitchum. It seems that Cady is around every corner that Bowden's family turns, and Sam is terrified of what may happen to his far too pacifistic wife, Peggy, and gorgeous teen daughter, Nancy. The film provides suspenseful moment after suspenseful moment, though half the time you are wondering what the heck the Bowdens are thinking. They are repeatedly leaving Nancy in dangerous situations, knowing that a criminal psycho has his eyes on her and is always around waiting for any opportunity to do something horrible. The film is still strong and interesting though, a great watch. There's plenty of shock value when you consider it's made for an audience just coming out of the fifties, and Lori Martin (Nancy) is just too, too cute. A classic at any rate, and any film fan should at least see it, though I recommend buying it.
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