Cape Fear (1962)

Cape Fear
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by James R. Webb from a novel by John D. MacDonald
1962/USA
Melville Productions/Talbot Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Max Cady: Go ahead. I just don’t give a damn.

Mitchum’s Max Cady is scarier than any monster.

Max Cady has just been released from eight years in person for assaulting a woman. Attorney Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) was the eye witness at his trial. Max looks him up and begins a subtle but effective campaign of terror which he soon escalates.

Bowden is not about to take this lying down, especially since the main threat is to his wife (Polly Bergen) and teenage daughter.  But everything he tries makes things worse until he feels compelled to take drastic action.  With Martin Balsam as a police chief.

Robert Mitchum seems to have been born to play a villain – that is until you see him play a hero.  This performance may even surpass his bravura turn in Night of the Hunter for sheer evil.  Director Thompson ratchets up the suspense to eleven.  The tension is heightened by the fantastic Bernard Herrmann score.  I do get a bit frustrated with all the wrong-headed moves Peck’s character makes.  Highly recommended.