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>
When Nancy is being chased by who she believes to be Max, she runs into a room filled with lockers-we see her Right hand pressed up against a row of lockers and she is wearing a ring. In the very next frame, the ring is absent from her finger. See more »
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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