Cape Fear (1962)

Dir. J. Lee Thompson. Robert Mitchum stars as the ex-convict Max Cady, released from prison and is single-minded in his torment of the man he blames for his incarceration, humble local prosecutor Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck). Sam must protect his family from this monster, as he struggles to keep his battle for survival within the bounds of the law he is bound to uphold. It’s interesting to see both Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck play similar versions of their own characters from previous films – Mitchum recalling his villain in The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Peck almost playing a continuation of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, made in the same year as Cape Fear. Both male leads are suitably convincing, but the best performance is from Peck’s on-screen daughter, Nancy, played by fourteen-year-old Lori Martin, often the target of Max Cady’s terrorism. The Hitchcockian atmosphere is not accidental, with director J. Lee Thompson hiring George Tomasini as editor, well known for editing some of Hitchcock’s most successful films, including Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). Another intentional Hitchcock connection is the music, coming from Psycho composer Bernard Herman, who imbues the film with a similar sense of dread.

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.