Review: Cape Fear(1962)

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Cape Fear is a late film noir or early neo noir from 1962, brought to the screen by Gregory Peck. He brought the book The Executioners by pulp and noir great John D. MacDonald to the screen. He didn’t like the title, The Executioners, and from 1960’s marketing perspective, Peck thought films named after places did well at the box office. So he looked along the East Coast for a name and he came across Cape Fear. Peck’s company backed this film and it actually lost a lot of money on its release. The film was to violent and tackled subjects that movie goers didn’t want to see. Luckily when Martin Scorsese remade this film in 1991, Peck still owned the rights. He made a tidy sum on licencing of the film to Scorsese.

Honestly I put off watching this classic for years. After seeing the 1991 version I could not see how this one could compare. I mean, how could anybody be better then Robert De Niro and Scorsese?

I finally broke down and watched this classic and I’m glad I did! Directed by J. Lee Thompson I had low expectations. Thompson may not be Scorsese, but he did a damn good job.

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This story is a classic tale of a good man pushed to the brink by a bad man. Will the good man have to do illegal, evil things to rid himself of the bad man? Will good prevail over bad?

Gregory Peck plays lawyer, Sam Bowden. A upstanding man of the community with a beautiful wife and daughter. At first, I questioned the character being a lawyer. I thought he prosecuted or defended Max Cady, and that is why Cady hated him. He is actually an eye witness to a crime and his testimony put Cady in prison. So if Bowden is a witness, why does he have to be a lawyer? Well as the film progressed I understood why. Bowden takes the law very seriously, because that’s his job. If Bowden was in another profession, I think the story would have progressed differently.

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Cady is played by Robert Mitchum and is one of those performances everybody needs to see! Cady is an ex-con who just got out of prison for assaulting a young girl and was seen in the act by Bowden. If it wasn’t for Bowden, he would have got away with it, and not spent the last 8 years in prison. His life would not have been ruined and he is looking to get revenge. Cady uses his time in prison wisely, and studies law. He know just what he can say and do, according to the law and Bowden can’t do anything about it.

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The clash of good and evil starts with the law being the game. Look for Polly Bergen as Bowden’s wife and Martin Balsam as the Police Chief. My favorite small role in this film goes to Telly Savalas as the hardboiled P.I. Bowden hires. Savalas tried for the role of Cady but lost out to Mitchum and received this role instead.

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It has been years since I have seen the remake of this film, but after watching this I’m going to have to watch them back to back to see who played Cady better, De Niro or Mitchum. I remember De Niro being great in this, but Mitchum’s portrayal is legendary.  Some Sunday afternoon, I will need to watch these back to back and look at a film vs film on these two. Maybe I will read the book first and look at a book vs film vs film, now that would be interesting.

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This is a must see classic for all fans of film and especially those that are fans of noir. This is a very dark film from the early 1960’s and pushed into some new terrain for film in general.

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Review: Mirage

Mirage is a neo noir film from 1965 starring Gregory Peck, directed by Edward Dmytryk.  This is based on a book written by Howard Fast under the pseudonym Walter Ericson.

This story starts with Gregory Peck in a high-rise where he seems a little confused.  The power is out, and he starts down a stairwell.  He runs into a women, played by Diane Baker, who thinks she knows him, but he does not know her. They get to the bottom of the stairwell and she can see him in the light and does know him.  He does not remember her and she runs away.  He goes outside and sees a body on the street, somebody just jumped from the high-rise.  We learn the body belongs to a well-respected man who is the head of a peace organization.  As Peck tries to figure out what is going on, he realizing he doesn’t remember anything from the last two years.  He finds thugs played by George Kennedy and Jack Weston chasing him.  He hires a rookie private eye played by Walter Matthau and runs into supposed co-worker Kevin McCarthy throughout his adventure.  He tries to get help from a psychiatrist, but that just makes things more confusing for us and Peck.  How does this all fit together?  Is everybody working against Peck?  What do they want from him?  Is Peck really just an accountant?

This film is a neo noir I believe by date alone.  This movie is filmed in black and white with a very noir style cinematography, from a director who knew noir.  This film came on the heals of the popularity of Charade substituting Peck and Baker for Grant and Hepburn and bringing Matthau and Kennedy over from that cast.  It was also cashing in on the popularity of Hitchcock’s suspense movies.  Sure this might be a little weaker substitute when compared to that company, but it is a good movie on it is own.  If you haven’t seen this yet, it is worth checking out.

Favorite Tidbit:  This film was remade only three years later and titled Jigsaw.  I have not seen this version, but can’t imagine why this movie would be re-made so soon after the original?