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Small-town lawyer Sam Bowden's life becomes torturous when Max Cady 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. Initially, Cady uses his newfound knowledge of the law (learned in prison) to annoy the Bowdens, then poisons the family dog... Who's next ? Written by
Chris Holland <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
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