Sunday, 27 March 2016

Cape Fear (1962)

Bristol-born J Lee Thompson’s original adaptation of John D MacDonald’s novel The Executioners (the name was changed because producer and star Gregory Peck thought movies with geographical titles did better at the box office) gets a DVD re-release courtesy of Fabulous Films.

Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) is a successful small-town lawyer who, eight years ago, acted as a witness in a case that resulted in the incarceration of violent criminal Max Cady (Robert Mitchum). When Cady is released from prison, he tracks Sam down, promising to destroy his life bit by bit while ensuring that there’s nothing Sam can do about it. With the family dog dead and both his wife and young teenaged daighter under threat, eventually Sam has to take the law into his own hands, culminating in a showdown at Cape Fear.

For an early 1960s picture CAPE FEAR still feels really quite edgy. Mitchum’s portrayal of Cady is genuinely unnerving and the scenes of violence, while never exactly explicit, can still make you feel uncomfortable. Director Thompson imbues the film with a fine noir style, where you’re never quite sure which shadow the danger might be lurking in. It’s probably his finest moment in a lengthy career that included cracking pictures like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961), the final two original sequels to PLANET OF THE APES, and some grim Charles Bronson stuff including TEN TO MIDNIGHT (1983) and THE EVIL THAT MEN DO (1984). I'd also go so far as to say that this CAPE FEAR is better than the later 1992 remake by Martin Scorsese, which kept Bernard Herrmann's original music score but certainly lost muchof the noir feel so superbly evinced here. 

In the book, Max Cady is a courtmartialed soldier, but US censors demanded this be changed as it ‘reflected badly on US military personnel’. Here in Britain, the print was extensively edited and several scenes deleted. Fabulous Films’ print is, of course, uncut and with everything in the right order.

Extras include a 28 minute making of featurette, production photographs, a trailer, production notes, and cast and crew bios and filmographies - basically everything ported over from the previous Universal Pictures release.

J Lee Thompson's CAPE FEAR is out on DVD from Fabulous Films on 28th March 2016

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