Saturday, December 18, 2010

CAPE FEAR (1962)

(April 1962, U.S.)

This is another milestone in my blog posts. Why? Because it's the first time I'll be discussing two film versions of the same title in a row. What's interesting in this case is that I saw Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of CAPE FEAR several years before I ever saw the original version or had even heard there WAS an original version. It's a little tough to keep an open mind about watching the orininal version when you have to compare it to the kind of performance that Robert DeNiro gave in the remake. But that performance will have to wait until the next post.

So, try to imagine all of the shock and horror that you may already be familiar with in the 1991 version and take it back to 1962, when the story of CAPE FEAR was first told during a somewhat more innocent era. This film, about an attorney whose family is stalked by a criminal whom he helped to send to jail for rape, is tense and suspenseful in its own right, for its own time. Robert Mitchum as Max Cady promptly tracks down Sam Bowden (played by Gregory Peck), the Georgia lawyer whom he holds personally responsible for his eight year conviction. While Cady inevitably commits acts of violence and murder, it's his relentless stalking and threats toward Bowden and his family that fill the film with fear that is to ultimately affect the audience watching it. Now while it may be unfair to compare Robert Mitchum's Max Cady to Robert DeNiro's twenty-nine years later, Mitchum is certainly a tough, brawny and frightening character to watch on screen. And while Gregory Peck has his own level of toughness, there is something just right about him as a man who possesses enough weakness to allow himself to be terrorized by Max Cady, for a time anyway.

Getting back to the innocence of 1962; it's interesting to know that the word "rape" was entirely removed from the script before shooting and the film still enraged the censors, who were worried that there was a continuous threat of sexual assault on a child. In order to be accepted, British censors required extensive editing and deleting of specific scenes. After making 161 cuts, it still nearly garnered an X rating.

So, my friends, this ends the more "innocent" version and discussion of the film CAPE FEAR. The uglier version is on its way...

Favorite line or dialogue:

Max Cady (Bowden has shot Cady and is holding the gun on him): "Go ahead. I just don't give a damn."
Sam Bowden: "No. No! That would be letting you off too easy, too fast. Your words - do you remember? Well I do. No, we're gonna take good care of you. We're gonna nurse you back to health. And you're strong, Cady. You're gonna live a long life... in a cage! That's where you belong and that's where you're going. And this time for life! Bang your head against the walls. Count the years - the months - the hours... until the day you rot!"

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