Saturday, September 23, 2006

Review: Cape Fear.

Of course, I mean the 1962 original, not the 1991 remake. This is due to two factors: #1, I am older than all of you; and B, I always try to see the original first. (See La Femme Nikita before Point of No Return to see what a ripoff the remake was. Besides, you'll learn how to say "motherfucker" in French.)

Cape Fear is a classic, referred to in many other reviews of crime noir thrillers. Robert Mitchum gives a virtuoso performance as the villain of the piece, setting the tone for the entire film. It's lavishly directed and photographed, wringing the anxiety from every shadow. The music is also excellent, and has themes that reminded me of Psycho... not surprising, since Bernard Herrmann composed the music here too, and he's always magnificent.

Gregory Peck is stalwart as the lawyer good guy victim, a tough part to play well. Reportedly, Peck punched Mitchum for real in one of the film's fight scenes, and Mitchum said he felt it for days, and not to pick a fight with Peck. Filming continued after the punch, of course.

Polly Bergen plays the haunted wife, and she gives a terrific performance. I knew her mostly from commercials and game shows in the 60s, so it's amazing to see what depth she brings to this harried character.

I highly recommend this original version. It's dark and foreboding and a tale well told and well acted. Could be Top 100 for me, it's going on the list of possibles. (I have to admit I'm curious to see what Scorsese and De Niro do with this story.)

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