Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cape Fear (1962) Southern Tail Fin Noir

Director was J. Lee Thompson, the writers were, John D. MacDonald (based on his novel The Executioners), and James R. Webb (screenplay). The film stars Gregory Peck (Spellbound (1945), ), Robert Mitchum (8 Classic Film Noir), Polly Bergen (Champion (1949), ), Lori Martin, Martin Balsam (On the Waterfront (1954)), Jack Kruschen (Gambling House (1950), Confidence Girl (1952),  A Blueprint for Murder (1953)), Telly Savalas, and Barrie Chase (Party Girl (1958)). Cinematography was by Sam Leavitt (Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Crimson Kimono (1959)), and music by the great Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver to name just a selection) .

Cape Fear was filmed around Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island, Georgia, Ladd's Marina, Northern California, and Universal Studios. 

Hear's Maxie
Cape Fear is a Psychological Revenge Noir. Max Cady (Mitchum) is out. White Trash. Ex jailbird. Eight years. Beef rape. Baltimore. Caught in the act by Sam Bowden (Peck). Bowden testified. Bowden clinched it. Cady is pissed. Figures Bowden owes him. Owes him a lot.

Mitchum is positively reptilian in this. There is something Mesozoic about his performance. He's a brutal, relentless, ruthless, sleazy, slimy, silver tongued devil. He plays a truly frightening, borderline insane, maniac pedal to the metal. It's one of his best performances.

The Bowdens, Peggy (Bergen), Nancy (Martin), Sam (Peck)
Sam Bowden is a very successful attorney, practises in Wilmington (though it's never made clear) lives with his wife Peggy, daughter Nancy, a maid, and their dog Marilyn in a big house on the shore. They have two new cars, a 1961 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country wagon and a 1961 Chrysler Newport. Everything is juice for the Bowdens until it goes seriously Noirsville.

Mitchum "reptilian"
During his stretch Cady's wife splits. Divorces him. Marries up with a plummer. Moves away. Ex wife is number one. Cady tracks her down. Cady waits for hubby to go plumbing. Cady need his pipes cleaned. Cady wants a second honeymoon. Grabs the ex. Makes her write an I need a vacation letter. Takes her away. Shacks up at a motel. Beats her. Gets eight years worth of sex in three days.

Cady: so, I pumped another quart of whiskey into her, threw away her dress, threw away her shoes and gave her a fair chance to work her way home"

Nice guy. Max is crazy. Max is nuts. Max is EVIL. Max is DEVIANT.

Max Cady: I got somethin' planned for your wife and kid that they ain't nevah gonna forget. They ain't nevah gonna forget it... and neither will you, Counselor! Nevah!
Bowden is number two. Max visits Sam. Lets him know. Max is here. Max has a plan. Shadow the family. Terrorize the Bowdens. How low can he go. Lower than whale poop. Max poisons the pooch.

Mark Dutton Chief Of Police (Balsam)
Sam calls Mark. Chief of Police. Cops haul in Max. Strip search. No hop. No contraband. Has money. Has bank account. Can't hold him. Max is smart. Studied in Stir. Studied "The Law". Stays clean. Stays cool. Knows his rights. Can't be railroaded. Bowden is stymied. Mark says hire a private cop. Sam calls Sievers (Savalas). Sievers tails Cady.

Max has an itch. A sexual itch. The Boar's Head. A beachfront hot spot. Lots of action. Max sits at the bar. Max has a Busch. Max spots Diane. Diane is cute. Diane is a B Girl. She's imported talent. Probably come as far as the next fly speck up the coast. Diane is one of those women who are magnetically attracted to bad boys. It's a daddy issue. Diane plays peek-a-boo with Max. Bad idea. Max gets horny. Max picks her up. Very bad idea.

They leave the Boar's Head with Sievers following.

Max eyeballing Diane
peek-a-boo Diane

peek-a-boo Max

Diane Taylor: [Diane is cuddling with Max as he is driving] Why are we going this way?
Max Cady: Better scenery.
Diane Taylor: What would you know about scenery? Or beauty? Or any of the things that really make life worth living? You're just an animal: coarse, lustful, barbaric.
Max Cady: Keep right on talkin', honey. I like it when you run me down like that.
Diane Taylor: Max Cady, what I like about you is... you're rock bottom. I wouldn't expect you to understand this, but it's a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower.

"it's a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower."
Famous last words....

Max drives Diane to her apartment house and they have sex (this is 1962, so it's off screen and implied) Diane is laying on the bed spent, but Max is not finished. Max is not finished by a long shot.

I like it when you run me down like that.

Diane is beaten and sexually brutalized. When Sievers and the police arrive Cady is gone and Diane is found naked lying by the bed, covered by a sheet, her face is swollen black and blue. She won't talk to the police or press charges.

The police send Sievers in hoping he can get Diane to change her mind. Sievers can't convince her.

Sievers: Why not protect yourself. (from Cady)

Diane gets up and call a cab to the corner of Sherman and Desoto. She wants to go to the bus station.

Sievers: Well leave town if you have to and, as I said no one will blame you. But before you go would you help us put this man away? All you have to do is come down to police headquaters and sign a complaint. Won't you do that? If not for your sake for somebody else's?
Diane: Protect myself? Nobody can protect themselves against a man like that. I'm scared. You can't help me.
Sievers: But I can! Now you file an assault charge and Cady will get six months in jail.
Diane: Six months. And after that? When he walked out of this room, he said... he said to consider this only a sample. From my limited knowledge of human nature, Max Cady isn't a man who makes idle threats. Anyway you said you weren't a policeman. What do you want?
Sievers: I have a client Sam Bowden, Mr. Sam Bowden. Cady has threatened his wife and his daughter. Never mind the reasons. Mr. Bowden is worried and I can't blame him. You know Cady.
Diane: You believe that I could ever...ever.... in my whole life...step up and repeat to another living soul...what that man--What he did? What about my family? I'm someone's daughter too. What about the newspapers in my home town? Do you think I could bear to have them read about--....

Powerful stuff. We already know that Diane has pretty loose morals to begin with, she already made it with Cady normally. The only two things left to "imagine", thanks to the Hays Code (The Motion Picture Production Code), are oral and anal, and the only thing worse is anal then oral. Now that's ROCK BOTTOM.

Sam is desperate. Sievers suggests muscle. Sam bites. Three punks to take care of Cady. But Cady is tough. Cady kicks ass. One of the punks squeals. Cady gets lawyer. Lawyer is shyster. Lawyer wants disbarment.

hire muscle
Sam makes plan. Use Peggy and Nancy as bait. Houseboat. Cape Fear River. Lure Cady. Get on plane. Fly to Charlotte. Dive to back to dock. Join family. Sam and one deputy wait. Cady bites.



Cape Fear is a shocking calculated buildup of terror. Cold blooded menace combined with vividly suggested sexual deviant behavior. You'll want to take a hot shower after its conclusion. Robert Mitchum should have been nominated for an Oscar. A 10/10

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