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>
Gregory Peck later said regarding Robert Mitchum, "I had given him the role and had paid him a terrific amount of money. It was obvious he had the better role. I thought he would understand that, but he apparently thought he acted me off the screen. I didn't think highly of him for that." See more »
When Sam is at the boat dock he goes into the shop and gets some thinner. As he is leaving the shop he has the thinner in his left hand. Then when he confronts Caty the thinner is gone and then he takes his daughter down the stairs the thinner is never seen again. See more »
[Diane is cuddling with Max as he is driving]
Why are we going this way?
What would you know about scenery? Or beauty? Or any of the things that really make life worth living? You're just an animal: coarse, lustful, barbaric.
Keep right on talkin', honey. I like it when you run me down like that.
Max Cady, what I like about you is... you're rock bottom. I wouldn't expect you to understand this, but it's a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower.
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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.
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