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Cape Fear (1962)

Cape Fear. Feature film. (1962, 105 mins) IMDB

...a classic is born...

C

APE FEAR is one of those film I watched growing up--at least once or twice. For the few who haven't seen it, you've probably heard about it.

If you've ever read about film structure, about three acts, about raising the stacks etc. then use this film as an example. It's all there. It includes making the bad guy as bad as possible and Mitchum plays him perfectly. Not many actors could have played the role as well as he did.

The story and premise are straight forward. Mitchum just got out of jail. He spent eight years in jail because Peck was a witness to his crime and testified against him. Mitchum's holding a grudge. A big grudge.

When they reunite, the suspense and terror begin. What is Mitchum going to do to Peck and his family? How can our hero fight back?

He works with the police, but there isn't much they can do because he hasn't committed any crimes. The private detective Peck hires can't dig up any dirt. Bribing Mitchum doesn't work either.

As it should be, Peck devises a scheme to lure Mitchum to a remote area in Cape Fear where the showdown takes place. The outcome known, we watch the final struggle with interest because we want to see Peck prevail even when we know he will.

An early scene in the film shows Mitchum is the bad guy. He's walking up a flight of stairs inside a courthouse. A woman, carrying a stack of books, is walking down and past him. She's struggling to carry this load and drops one of the books. Struggles to bend over and pick it. Mitchum hears it happen, knows the woman could use a hand, but keeps on walking up the steps and ignores her. There's not one word of dialogue and yet it tells a great deal. That is filmmaking.

I always that the name of the film was made up, but according to Peck in a interview on the DVD, he wanted a place name for the title and found it on a map. Odd name for a place. He reasoned films with titles based on places (e.g., Casablanca) did well. It didn't turn out that way. While the film is recognized today, it didn't do well when it was released with the result that Pecks' producing career was over.

Posted 2009/04/11 at 19h37ET in Movie Commentary.

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