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CAPE FEAR (1962)

Cape Fear (1962) poster


Tagline: "Their ordeal of terror triggers the screen's most savage war of nerves!"

The Preshow Entertainment was Movietone Newsreels, the year: 1957 Lowell Thomas, who had to be 103, did the wraparounds for the original newsreels. Included were stories about the space race, Vice President Nixon, and President Eisenhower. Other segments included a twister in Fargo, a bridge collapse in Canada, and England's second detonation of an H-Bomb (in the Atlantic).

But my two favorites were 1) the Indian fakir telling us about his intense concentration before walking over hot coals. He proceeded to walk over the coals, made it three steps, and bailed; and, 2) the plane that crashed in a Canadian air show. Good news! The pilot's ejection seat worked. Bad news- his chute failed to open.

The copy was hysterical, with lines like (re: dog in space) "...and when the dog is removed from his space suit, he is as frisky as a kitten," and "...and in the space called outer." And after a Vanguard missile fails to lift-off and explodes at Cocoa Beach- "Take comfort in the fact that only a free country can admit this mistake." But I guess they're not as bad as the modern-day overly dramatic readings of Sheriff John Bunnell (Ret.) on WORLD'S WILDEST POLICE CHASES.

The Random Movie selected was CAPE FEAR. This is the original 1962 version. What a great movie. Wow. So much better than the remake, which was memorable (DeNiro's movie theater cackling and Juliette Lewis' Thumb Sucking Revue), but very much a cartoon. This one grabs you at the very beginning and never lets go, despite its less than satisfying finale.

Really bad guy (presumed rapist, child molester, batterer, etc) Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) returns to terrorize lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), who he blames, rightfully so, for putting him away for 8 years. And in those 8 years, Cady studied law, so the tactics he uses to unnerve Bowden and his wife and kid are all....legal. Despite his strong connections, Bowden finds himself more and more helpless. But even a righteous man will go to desperate measures and defy his own belief system to protect his family.

Robert Mitchum as Max Cady

CAPE FEAR is so gripping that even though there were eleven of us watching, we hardly spoke. Personally, I didn't want to ruin anyone's (including, selfishly, my own) experience with my hit or miss jokes. It's an hour forty-five that seems to fly by. And the trick is that they put us in Peck's shoes. We feel useless, alongside him. We want Mitchum dead, and Peck to do it, yet we know we can't.

A war of nerves (as they say twice in the movie, and once in the tagline) continues, made even creepier with Bernard Herrmann's score, until headgame becomes endgame.

An interesting supporting cast includes Telly Savalas, Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam, and the Chief on GET SMART. Director J. Lee Thompson didn't really have too many highlights (GUNS OF NAVORONE, made a year earlier excluded, and guilty pleasure WHAT A WAY TO GO! as well) in his career. Many of his films remain unknown. There are also the two lesser loved PLANET OF THE APES movies (BATTLE and CONQUEST), and a bucket of Charles Bronson movies. But CAPE FEAR alone makes up for any and all misfires in his body of work.

And this is important! It's one of the few movies that when someone is looking through binoculars, they cut to a POV of a single circle, as in real life. Usually, they use that sideways hourglass card, which is just so wrong.

SEE THIS MOVIE!!!! Or I'll come over and legally make your life miserable.

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