User Reviews (178)

Add a Review

  • When Cady (Mitchum) slips into the water, it's like an alligator sneaking up on its prey. Except this is a houseboat with two vulnerable women in his sights. With those sleepy eyes, it's hard to know just what sadistic acts he's got in mind, but we know it's too grisly for the screen. Remember what he did to poor Diane (Chase), and he wasn't even mad at her. Cape Fear should have been named Cape Fear, Shudder and Sweat.

    This is about the last word in stalker movies. More importantly, it shows how using less often produces more. Mitchum underplays the stalker role, but he also knows how to imply unspeakable evil, which is really more effective than blood splatter. It's what's in your imagination that's really scary. Ditto Peck, (Sam) whose on-screen reserve speaks volumes in grim determination-- he's got to protect his family. Only Bergen as the terrified wife gets to really cut loose. What a first-rate cast, plus expert pacing from director Thompson.

    I guess the movie's moral is that if the law can't protect you, you've got to do it yourself. At that primitive level, there's no holds barred. So the tension really mounts as we discover Cady's animal cunning is too much for the law or even for hired thugs. In the end, then, it's going to have to be Cady vs. Sam, mano y mano. It's sort of like a modern morality tale of the nuclear family vs. a swamp beast. No doubt about it, the movie's a real nail-biter the whole way.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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 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.
  • Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) is a happily married lawyer with a teenage daughter, a quiet life and little worries to care for until released convict Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) moves near by seeking for revenge against him. Cady blames Bowden for his 8 years imprisonment because the lawyer failed to get him an innocent verdict in Court for a serious crime he was accused of (and he had committed). The man starts by stalking Bowden and his family while he waits for the appropriate moment to make his move. In the meantime, Cady does not hide his intentions and Bowden knows perfectly well they are in big trouble.

    The film is tense all along and interest doesn't fall at any moment. There is a correct direction by J. Lee Thompson, a slightly more than average director who probably did here one of his best jobs (the other one "The Guns of Navarone" (1962) a very entertaining World War II adventure). Black and white shooting was a good idea and helps to create some sort of sordid and dark atmosphere when required as well as the musical score.

    Casting is very good too. Gregory Peck is correct in one of his many common good guy roles. Polly Bergen is believable as the frightened wife and there is also good acting by Martin Balsam (as Bowden's chief of police friend) and Telly Savalas (as a private detective hired to help the family). But the major credit in this issue goes without doubt to Robert Michum's performance as the dangerous avenger. He looks calm and quiet -with few exceptions- all the way to the final climax sequences but you know perfectly the man is real mean and deadly. This surely was one of Mitchum's best appearances in his long film carrier.

    The 1991 Cape Fear version with Robert de Niro -although a watchable movie- is not as good and thrilling as this one where evil doesn't appear clearly till the end but menace is always there.

    A very good thriller indeed!
  • Sam Bowden is a lawyer who, eight years ago, acted as a witness against Max Cady to put him behind bars. Released from prison, Cady has studied the law and is set on terrorising the Bowdens without actually overstepping his legal rights. As Cady toes the line with increasingly worrying results, Browden begins to cross the line to deal with him and protect his family.

    Having seen the remake first I wanted to go back and see it done originally. My first impression was that the remake had done some elements better than this. For example Nolte's lawyer is a lot less clean-cut than Pecks'. Also the sexual threat to the daughter is a lot more played out in the remake. Getting past this I saw how this was actually a better film in many ways. As a drama it moves along at a good pace – not jumping from one thrill to the next but not dragging either.

    The film can only hint at the deeds of Cady because of the censors but it is clear even to the blind that Cady is a monster. This ups the tension as everything is slowly build to and we don't get a bloody or sexually shocking scene as a pay-off, no, here the tension is build on top of other tension. The direction is good, giving a dark feel to the look of the film as well as hinting constantly. Even if some of the thrills are signposted it still works well.

    However, without Mitchum's performance this would be a very different film. With the help of De Niro's sneer or menacing tattoos, he is still a better Cady. He is on top form – where De Niro wore his threat large, Mitchum hints at it under a veneer of casual disinterest, making the threat seem bigger when he acts. Peck is good even if his character is too clean-cut when he should have been pushed further over the line for my tastes. Bergen doesn't have much to do, but her final scene with Mitchum is powerful and she really lets rip. Martin is perfectly cast – she looks like a child but also is `developed' enough to be a sexual role for Mitchum to prey on. It is easy to watch her as Mitchum closes in on her, almost licking his lips, but that's the power of the film.

    Overall this manages to be powerful and thrilling despite the censors and is a really good drama. However it is totally carried by a monstrous yet subtle performance by Mitchum. De Niro was good in the role but once you've seen this you'll realise that menace can be acted subtly and not just by sneering and getting tonnes of tattoos.
  • One perverse individual can exploit his freedom by using it to encroach on someone else's. That is the problem with a society which cherishes personal liberty. The community has the dilemma of deciding whose freedom it ought to protect. At what point should the state intervene?

    Today, modern democracies have anti-harrassment laws which carry criminal penalties, and there is also the civil remedy of an injunction with power of arrest, but back in the early 1960's a man who chose to make a nuisance of himself enjoyed wide latitude. It was difficult for the law to step in without infringing his civil and constitutional rights.

    Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) is a small-town attorney in the south-eastern United States. He has a lovely family and a nice home, and is well thought of by neighbours and colleagues alike. This American idyll is destroyed when a newly-released convict shows up, intent on harrassing Bowden. Some years back, the lawyer had appeared as a witness at this man's trial, and the convict bears an irrational grudge.

    Max Cady is one of the cinema's great villains. Mitchum is irresistible as the heavy-eyed smart alec seething with sexual energy. Cady's sharp but warped intelligence is disturbing to behold (the way he obtains Bowden's vacation address is chillingly impressive). He begins to show up wherever Bowden goes, an ominous sarcastic presence to which no objection can be made, so long as he stays within the law. Cady's salient traits are placed before us right from the start of the film. He is completely callous (ignoring the girl who drops her books on the stairs) and a nasty sexual predator (picking up the waitress in the bowling alley).

    "Cape Fear" is a taut, absorbing thriller. Mitchum's charisma fills the screen, and the dark eerie look (by Director of Photography Sam Leavitt) compounds the feeling of menace. The incidental music is excellent.

    However, the film has some implausible ingredients. Why would a woman who has just been sexually degraded, and is clearly traumatised, be handed over by the police to the care of a private eye? (Charlie Sievers the gumshoe is played by Telly Savalas - with hair!) Would a criminal attorney really - no matter what the provocation - hire waterfront thugs to beat up a stalker? How come Sam's gun is still effective after being immersed in the river? Why doesn't Nancy's phone work? It is preposterous to suggest that Cady would waste time on the elaborate feint towards Peggy instead of pursuing his real victim. And how can it be that Cady can defeat three ruffians single-handed, overwhelm a police bodyguard with ease, yet fail to defeat Sam, even when armed with a stick?

    Verdict - Allowing for the improbabilities, this is a well-made thriller with a magnificent performance by Mitchum.
  • Spleen4 August 1999
    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 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.
  • 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 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...
  • I recently picked up a VHS copy of Cape Fear from a market and watched and found it an excellent movie. This is long deleted on video in Britain, so I was lucky to see it.

    A lawyer and his family are terrorised by a killer he helped to put in prison. Released after eight years, he wants his revenge. He starts by poisoning the family dog and he kills a woman before picking on the lawyer's daughter. The family flee to their houseboat and the killer is finally arrested after he is set up and faces many more years in prison.

    This is Robert Mitchum at his creepy best, in a role very similar to the one he played in Night Of the Hunter.

    The lawyer is played by Gregory Peck and the movie also stars Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam and an early role for Telly Savalas (Kojak).

    The excellent score is by the great Bernard Herrmann (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Psycho).

    This movie was rather creepy in parts and is a must for any movie fan.

    Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Lejink6 November 2017
    For me, one of the best thrillers you could ever hope to see, Robert Mitchum somehow manages to top the sheer malevolence of his characterisation of the deranged preacher in the classic "Night Of The Hunter" with his portrayal of the vengeful Max Cady out to terrorise the family of the man whose testimony put him in jail, Gregory Peck's straight - arrow attorney at law, Sam Bowden.

    The difference between the preacher and Cady and what takes Cady's evil to a different level again, is his obvious intent to corrupt Bowden's young daughter as he sees her for the first time painting her parents' boat. Before that it's difficult to tell just what shape his revenge will take but once the idea fixes in his mind, impossible as it might seem in a Hollywood feature from 1961, he clearly intends to carry out his plan, although he's not above attacking Peck's wife as a diversionary tactic.

    Almost as much a study in how a good man can be brought almost to murder as in the psychopathic behaviour of a bad man, the story moves inexorably towards its nerve-shredding climax in the dark waters of the canal to where Peck unwisely lures Mitchum. We see Peck's Bowden gradually slip down almost to Cady's sub-human level, compromising in the process his years of legal training never mind his common decency as a happily married family man. In one of the great closing shots in cinematic history (in my opinion), he stops just short of this as he reclaims his humanity although just how he and his clearly traumatised family come back from this I personally couldn't imagine.

    Everywhere you look there are fine performances, from Polly Bergen who tries to be her husband's moral compass but who likewise goes all points west the closer Cady gets to her daughter, young Lori Martin is excellent as the terrorised daughter in question, while there are solid characterisations in support by a folically-gifted Telly Savalas as the Bowdens' appointed private detective and Martin Balsam as the supportive police chief with a special nod to the little known Barrie Chase, the bar-room floozy Cady casually picks up and uses / abuses almost as practice for what's to come. Peck as you'd expect is excellent but it's undoubtedly Mitchum's film. Bulked up and brutish, sodden and unkempt, with no qualms about beating up and presumably raping women as well as casually breaking the neck of the policeman sent to play family bodyguard, it's all in the nuance and intent as up until the climax you barely see him lift a finger against anyone. I defy your skin not to crawl as he smears the terrified Bergen's breasts with raw eggs on the houseboat.

    Credit director J Lee Thomson for a masterfully helmed thriller , one so good that Hitchcock himself could hardly beat it, the action and tension all the better for being filmed in "Psycho-esque" black and white and accompanied by another terrific Bernard Hermann soundtrack.
  • Let me start by saying that I am, and have always been, a fan of the villains. When I first started learning how to use Macromedia Dreamweaver, my test site was a shrine to the various villains in the various stories I've written throughout my life. The villain remains to this day the best way to advance the dramatic tension of the plot, and I hold a deep respect for them because of it.

    That being said, this is possibly the first movie that has made me root for the hero to win, while still having a truly good (so to speak) villain. Gregory Peck's caring and responsible family man plays perfectly against Robert Mitchum's sleazy, cigar-smoking, prostitute-beating rapist. (It would've been nice if Mitchum could've done something like this seven years earlier in Night of the Hunter, but I'll gripe about that in its own review.) Peck plays one of those heroes that even a villain nut like me can't help but root for, and Mitchum couldn't have been a more despicably good villain if he tried.

    Nearly everything else about this film is perfectly executed. The suspense, the relations between the characters, the script, the believability of the situations and actions, and of course, the acting...with one rather glaring exception. Where did Lori Martin learn to act? Talk about annoying! No, she wasn't bad enough that I didn't care about what would happen to her character, but it would've been nice if she had taken a few acting classes before showing up on set. I probably could've given a more believable performance as Gregory Peck's daughter when I was that age. And when I was that age, Gregory Peck was eighty-six.

    But in the end, the movie came through. If you ask me, this, not Night of the Hunter, is the film Robert Mitchum should be remembered for. (And before anyone (because I know there are some of you out there) starts berating me about only saying that because I was disappointed by Night of the Hunter, I actually saw this movie first.)
  • 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 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
  • Former convict Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) seeks revenge against Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), the man whose testimony sent Cady to prison for eight years. But that revenge is not initially physical. Instead, it takes the form of intimidation and psychological terror against Bowden's wife (Polly Bergen) and young daughter, Nancy.

    Cady is a low-life who hangs out in seedy bars and treats women badly. He smokes cigars and wears a Panama hat. In contrast, lawyer Bowden and his goody-goody family live in a big house with a manicured lawn.

    What's interesting here is that, as criminals go, Cady is quite smart. His intimidation tactics stay well beyond the law's reach. For example, at a boat launch, Cady stares lasciviously at Nancy. Bowden notices, and in disgust tries to engage Cady in a fight. But Cady refuses, noting nearby witnesses who could be called to testify against Bowden, the aggressor. And so it goes, throughout much of the story; wherever Bowden goes, Cady is somewhere nearby. He hovers, like a hawk over its prey, waiting for just the right moment. Cady's terror is what he might do.

    The last part of the film takes place on or near a houseboat on the Cape Frear River in North Carolina, where Bowden's wife and daughter are holed up. Here, at night, in the midst of wilderness, Cady pursues his prey. He's a night stalker, or hunter, silent like a snake, sly, ever watchful, cold-blooded and reptilian. Amid the stillness and dark shadows, Cady creeps closer and closer.

    Bernard Herrmann's eerie background music reminds me of the music in "Psycho". Filmed in B&W, both films use high contrast lighting. The music/lighting combo exudes a high level of tension and suspense.

    Even though Gregory Peck is the film's protagonist, "Cape Fear" really belongs to Mitchum, who gives a very good performance as the villain. Peck's performance is adequate; Polly Bergen tries a tad too hard and comes off as melodramatic, especially toward the end. The always reliable Martin Balsam shows up in this film, as he did in "Psycho", with a very credible performance as a good guy cop.

    With great B&W cinematography, appropriately frenetic "Psycho"-like music, effective plot structure, and a fine performance by Robert Mitchum, "Cape Fear" is a highly suspenseful film.
  • Robert Mitchum is at his creepy best here, playing a villain than can easily rival his antagonist in "The Night of the Hunter". Mitchum is memorable as Max Cady, an ex-con who has never forgiven lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) for helping to put him behind bars for eight years. Now the ex-con is back, and is determined to constantly harass Sam & his family (Polly Bergen as wife Peggy, Lori Martin as daughter Nancy). Cady has something especially insidious planned for the females. It isn't long before Sam believes that his nemesis is capable of anything, and is resorting to desperate measures to remove this threat from his life.

    "Cape Fear" is one of the all-time great black & white thrillers to come out of Hollywood, boasting a sharp script by James R. Webb, that is based on the novel "The Executioners" by John D. MacDonald. It may indeed lack the explicitness of later Hollywood films, but that actually adds to its power. What it suggests is already pretty powerful.

    Overall, it has a very Hitchcockian feel, and in fact was scored by frequent Hitch collaborator Bernard Herrmann (one of the composers' most haunting and unforgettable soundtracks) and cut by George Tomasini, who'd edited "Psycho". It marks one of the absolute best efforts for the director J. Lee Thompson ("The Guns of Navarone").

    It's clear early on that Cady is the more interesting role. As vile as he is, he has an unpleasantly sly, savvy quality about him, only enhanced by the fact that he's spent his time in stir studying up on the law. Now he knows just how much he can get away with in the name of making Sams' life a living Hell. And he has a man in his corner, a grandstanding attorney played by the great character actor Jack Kruschen.

    In comparison, Sam is an ideal role for Peck, what with his All-American, model of decency type of character. And he becomes more intriguing as he relents and starts taking those desperate measures, like hiring some local toughs to try to gang up on Cady.

    Not much is done with the wife and daughter roles; they're mostly just required to be stand around and be scared. But Bergen and Martin are appealing in their performances.

    In addition to Kruschen, other notable cast members include Balsam (who, of course, played Arbogast in "Psycho"), Telly Savalas, Barrie Chase, Paul Comi, Page Slattery, and Edward Platt. But Mitchum towers over everybody with a performance of pure smarm and menace.

    The finale is genuinely gripping stuff: it's quite tense and very atmospheric.

    Famously remade by Martin Scorsese in 1991, with interesting new layers to the story, but an ultimately more over the top nature, with Robert De Niro's version of Cady coming off like a cartoon bogeyman.

    Eight out of 10.
  • The Original Cape Fear, where to start with this classic noir film? First of all let me preface this review by stating , if you came here looking for a compare and contrast job between this and the (1991) Cape Fear with Nick Nolte and Robert De Niro, you have come to the wrong place. Now that I have that off my chest let us begin.

    The plot consists of a southern lawyer Sam Bowden (Peck) being visited by a felon he helped put away eight years ago, Max Cady (Mitchum). Following the initial reintroduction, Cady begins to slowly and deliberately annoy and harass Bowden and his family. As the film progresses this harassment turns more and more dangerous as Cady first targets the family dog and then takes an interest in Bowden's young teenage Daughter Nancy (Lori Martin). We see a man of the law Bowden confronted with the limitations of that law despite his friendship with the police department.

    This film is visually stunning shot in classic black and white with a haunting tension filled score that scares the bejesus out of you. You feel the growing desperation of Bowden as Cady skates at the edge of the law and forces Bowden to the other side of the law. Just how far is Bowden willing to compromise his principles to protect his family. You can't really help but put yourself in the same situation while watching the film and wondering what you would do.

    The whole cast of this film is fabulous. Peck's portrayal of Bowden as the anit-Atticus Finch is great but not as great as Mitchum who steals the movie as the increasingly creepy and lecherous Max Cady. His portrayal is even more amazing when you consider what sensors would allow to be seen when this film was made. Mitchum imparts more meaning out of a leer and tip of his hat than many modern films can with crazy CGI effects. The supporting cast is rock solid as well, Martin Balsam is great as the Police Chief Mark Dutton, and Telly Savalas is outstanding as Private investigator Charles Sievers even if he does not have a lollypop.

    The level of fear and uneasy sexual tension in this film will have you on the edge of the couch. I highly recommend seeing this film if you haven't in the past or revisiting it as it never gets stale. This is what great film noir is all about.
  • Many people know the 1991 remake but very few have actually seen the original. A shame because it is worth seeing- and to be known by more.

    In a way "Cape Fear" seemed ahead of its time which it was not. It merely was a trend setter for later movies. The movie feels like it was made the same way as thrillers are made these days.

    The movie doesn't rely on scary gory scene's and violence but more on the psychological thriller elements, it is thanks to Robert Mitchum that this works very well in the movie. He manages to put-, with his character, a certain tension in the movie.

    The ending is a bit of a disappointing and not really tense or exciting. Another complaint is the way the dialog is delivered, it is done way too fast almost as if the actors were in an hurry, there are hardly any pauses between the sentences.

    The famous musical score is from Bernard Hermann whose score was later reused for the 1991 remake, 16 years after his death. But the music wasn't the only thing that was reused, also the actors Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Martin Balsam reappeared in the remake. And then the question which movie is the better one? In my humble opinion the remake is even better and more exciting.

    But judge for yourself which movie is the better one, both are recommendable.

  • kalibeans14 April 2012
    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 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.
  • Robert Mitchum delivers the performance of his career as the most terrifying villain to ever be captured on film - Max Cady. It is an absolute travesty that he seems to have flown under the radar of mainstream Hollywood films for most, if not all, of his career. Because of this film, as well as "Night of the Hunter" - he has solidified his place in history as the most underrated actor of all time.

    Gregory Peck, Martin Balsam, and Polly Bergen all delivered excellent, complimentary performances, and director J. Lee Thompson did a phenomenal job creating a world that seems lived-in and realistic. "Cape Fear" is ultimately 106 minutes of solid, genre-defining terror that simply demands to be seen by anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of the horror genre.

  • This psycho-thriller based on John MacDonald novel titled ¨The executioners¨ concerns about Max Cady an ex-con excellently played by Robert Mitchum ,he accuses a Southern advocate,a magnificent Gregory Peck,for his eight years imprisoned and schemes a malevolent vengeance on his wife(Polly Bergen) and daughter(Lori Martin).Peck is helped by the chief Inspector(Martin Balsam) and he hires an astute detective(Telly Savallas)to watch him.Meanwhile Mitchum plays to cat and mouse with his family which is increasingly menaced.

    The film contains psychological characterization ,grisly triller,tense situations, and is pretty entertaining.It's brilliant,atmospheric and slickly developed,almost a masterpiece.Major asset are the continuous suspense and marvellous acting. Casting is frankly awesome with exceptional performances,especially by Robert Mitchum as a wacko with ominous purports. Musical score by the master Bernard Herrmann with a similar style from Hitchcock music films.Sensational black and white cinematography by Sam Leavitt.The motion picture is finely directed by J.Lee Thomson (Guns of Navarone,McKenna's gold),a good filmmaker,though in his final career, he only directed Charles Bronson vehicles(Ten to midnight,Newman law,St Ives).The film was remade by Martin Scorsese,an inferior remake with secondaries appearance by Mitchum,Peck and Martin Balsam. It's a must see for Mitchum and Peck fans.The film is one of the best thrillers from the 60s.Rating : Better than average.
  • Robert Mitchum was born for this role. He played the evil Max Cady as though Cady's spirit was actually inside him. Cady was a psychopathic murderer who became obsessed with a couple and their daughter. To counteract this persistent attention, the couple hired a security agent. When this went terribly wrong, the family made a run for their houseboat. Unfortunately, Cady was wise to them leading to a nail biting finale. 5 stars go to this great film.
  • Film can build tension unlike any other medium. You can spend three quarters of a feature-length run-time just building... and building... and building... and, as long as there's a solid pay-off, it makes for a great movie. De Palma's Carrie is a high-school drama for most of the movie, but there's an underlying paranoia to it all that makes the horrific payoff all the more satisfying. Rosemary's Baby is probably the most beloved example of film paranoia, closely following an innocent woman's gradual loss of sanity. By my lights, even alongside its Hitchcock-made contemporaries, Cape Fear is the film that fully mastered the art of paranoia.

    Robert Mitchum's portrayal of Max Cady is the greatest horror monster of all time. Until the climax, his violent actions are only hinted at or occur off-screen, yet there is no doubt of his savagery. That's all Mitchum's acting. Be it in his sailor's costume or dandy suit-and-tie, his constant, watchful gaze on the Bowden family exudes malevolence. Whenever he and Peck come face to face, the screen exudes tension. Whenever Mitchum is off-screen, his character is still there-always at the back of your mind, just out of sight. What horror flick even comes close to this? Psycho was on the right track, but Bates isn't as fully-formed an antagonist as Cady. Halloween gets the all-pervasiveness right, but Michael Myers as a monster is more silly than terrifying. Inhuman ghouls and masked killers don't come close to the realist horror of Max Cady.

    Thematically, beyond the visceral feelings that the film evokes, it is a study in small-l liberalism. Bowden is an upstanding man of the law who wholeheartedly believes in it-but Cady also understands it well after his prison sentence of obsessive studying. The law leaves Bowden helpless against the fate that Cady has in store for his family. Despite this, we hear again and again "Would you want to have it any other way?" Cape Fear portrays the reality of the rule of law; it's difficult, and many will slips through its cracks, but as long as individual rights carry any weight there is no better option. Bowden accepts the reality of the situation and fends for his family any way he can.

    The climactic boat scene could never be done justice by Scorsese's remake, and he probably knew it. The forest sneaking and water fighting could never be the same in color-nor could Max Cady, I think. Just look up that shot of him in the boating outfit looking over the rail. He would look absurd in color. The glorious black-and-white cinematography, and Bernard Herrmann's perfectly suspenseful score, wrap up the final product into the masterpiece of filmmaking that it is. Next time you're rating a list of horror flick monsters, just remember Max Cady.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    J Lee Thompson's "Cape Fear" is an account of a straightforward battle between good and evil. Good is represented by Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) who is both a respectable lawyer and a decent family man. Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) on the other hand, is an evil, psychopathic rapist who, having spent eight years in prison comes to Bowden's neighbourhood to terrorise him and his family because Bowden had previously given testimony in the court case which led to Cady's incarceration.

    Initially, it appears that Bowden is in a very strong position to counter the threat from Cady because he has a long established friendship with the local police chief, Mark Dutton (Martin Balsam). Dutton is sympathetic to Bowden's plight and comes up with some useful ideas for getting rid of Cady. These ideas are unsuccessful, however, because what Bowden and Dutton don't realise, is just how methodically Cady has been planning his revenge and how well he is able to anticipate what actions the police are likely to take. Being the honest, law abiding man that he is, Bowden makes every attempt to deal with Cady's threats by legal means but when none of them work, in desperation, he eventually takes a more unorthodox course of action which leads to him being threatened with being disbarred. Events come to a head and are ultimately resolved only after a long and hard physical battle between the two men.

    An excellent script by James R Webb and some intelligent direction from J Lee Thompson combine to provide increasing pace and suspense as Cady moves from implied levels of intimidation, through psychological pressure all the way up to very serious physical threats. The tension and drama are also brilliantly enhanced by Bernard Herrmann's excellent score. Peck and Balsam are thoroughly convincing in their roles but are inevitably outshone by a truly exceptional performance by Robert Mitchum. His portrayal of a character who is a thoroughly debased, violent monster, is genuinely scary and a remarkable achievement considering the strict standards of censorship which prevailed at the time.
An error has occured. Please try again.