Cape Fear (1962)

Cape Fear
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Writer: James R. Webb
Based on: John D. MacDonald‘s novel The Executioners
Cast: Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Lori Martin

Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) is a successful lawyer with a nice family. But when Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) – who Sam got convicted with his testimony for attacking a young girl – is released from prison, Max starts to threaten Sam’s entire life and family. He stalks all of them, but particularly Sam’s daughter Nancy (Lori Martin), but always just within the law – until he forces Sam to resort to desperate measures.

Despite the excellent performances by both Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, that movie was a bit slack and underwhelming.

The film lives off the scenes were Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum take each other on verbally. [Is that as suggestive as I think it is? If so, I’m sorry. Though, actually, they both really aren’t hard on the eyes* so it could be worse. And it’s not all my fault – if the movie would be watched by the youth of today, there would be legions of slash fanfics out there.] Their dialogues are pretty damn fantastic and both of them deliver perfectly.

Unfortunately otherwise the script is rather forgettable. And so fucking sexist. I mean, the 60s really weren’t the world’s most feminist time but this movie really suffers from passive damsel in distress syndrome. The women really don’t do anything except be protected, by men of course, and get attacked. Also by men. Damn frustrating.

You just really notice that the movie is quite old. That is not all bad – the sexual assault, for example, was really constrained (there’s no actual nudity and he doesn’t even touch her breasts directly) and yet completely tense and effective. But sometimes it was just laughable. The way it’s established that Max is not a good guy? He walks past a librarian, makes her drop a few books and then HE DOESN’T HELP HER PICK THEM UP! *gasp*

Since – as you might know – I like to compare original versions and remakes, I’ll try to watch the remake soon. I’ll be interested to see whether they were able to update it to a more modern sensibility.

Summarising: didn’t age particularly well, despite the very good performances.

*Though honestly, the fashion at the time… Gregory Peck with his long legs and the pants up to his nipples looks like he is made of about 90% pants. Not sexy.

1 thought on “Cape Fear (1962)

  1. Pingback: Cape Fear (1991) « Stuff

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