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 <email@example.com>
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!
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