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J. Lee Thompson
Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam
Writing Credits:
James R. Webb

Tagline: Synopsis:
A lawyer's family is stalked by a man he once helped put in jail.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 9/18/2001

• “Making of Cape Fear” Featurette
• Trailer
• Production Photographs


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Cape Fear (1962)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 5, 2017)

With 1962’s Cape Fear, we get a thriller that paired Hollywood legends Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. Max Cady (Mitchum) serves eight years for rape and emerges from prison.

First item on Cady’s agenda? Track down Sam Bowden (Peck), the lawyer he holds responsible for his incarceration. Cady slowly insinuates himself into Sam’s world, with an emphasis on teen daughter Nancy (Lori Martin). The ex-con determines to make the attorney’s life miserable as revenge for his imprisonment.

Going into this 2017 screening of Fear, I don’t recall if I ever saw it previously. Like many, I took in the 1991 remake from Martin Scorsese, but I can’t remember if I ever went back and gave the 1962 original a shot.

I’m guessing I didn’t, partly because I didn’t much like the Scorsese version. I plan to reappraise that film, but my initial 1991 screening left me unimpressed and unlikely to seek out the original.

Though I’ve not seen the 1991 version for 25 years, I remember one prominent negative: Robert De Niro’s scenery-chewing turn as Cady. I’m happy to see that Mitchum does much better here, as he creates a substantially more believable villain.

As I recall, De Niro went so broad as Cady that he created a laughable caricature, whereas Mitchum makes the part more real. Mitchum gives Cady the oily charm, intelligence and charisma he needs for aspects of the tale but he delivers the threat and darkness required as well. Mitchum creates an antagonist with depth and cruelty who also feels wholly realistic – and that makes him even scarier.

Peck gets the less interesting part but he does fine. The actor spent 1962 in attorney roles, as he also starred in To Kill a Mockingbird that year.

Peck’s work as Bowden shows some shades of Atticus Finch, but he broadens for Fear. While Bowden allows Peck some of the nobility found in Finch, he gets to show more anger. Peck gives the part a good sense of frustration and outrage as he attempts to fend off Cady’s insidious threat.

As directed by J. Lee Thompson, Fear manages a nice pace and also maintains a consistent tone of menace. The film’s world keeps the viewer on edge, though not through obvious theatrical tricks. Instead, the movie feels tense in a general sense, as it boasts anger that usually remains below the surface.

It’s that understated sense of cruelty that makes Fear so engaging. Rather than play events for overt scares, the film keeps matters subtler. That pays off and turns this into a compelling tale.

Maybe I’ll change my mind when I rewatch the 1991 version, but right now I think the 1962 Cape Fear walks all over it. This edition produces a tense, menacing tale that works nicely.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Cape Fear appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the transfer largely held up well.

For the most part, sharpness looked solid. A few slightly soft images materialized, but not a lot. Instead, I thought the majority of the flick boasted nice clarity and delineation. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but moderate edge haloes crept into the picture at times.

Black levels were pretty strong. At times they could seem a little inky, but usually they presented good depth and dimensionality along with nice contrast. Shadows were also fine, and the image lacked notable print flaws; a small speck or two popped up but nothing much. In the end, the movie looked good.

Cape Fear featured a perfectly adequate monaural sound mix, one that seemed typical of efforts from the era. The audio was somewhat dull and lacked detail, but I found it to also be clear and easily comprehensible.

Music lacked much punch, as dynamic range appeared limited. Speech was a little flat – and held back by some lackluster looping – but seemed intelligible and without edginess. I was pleased to note that no substantial distortion occurred during the track. The soundtrack delivered little spark or life, but it's more than acceptable based on the age of the movie.

A few extras round out the disc, and we get a featurette called The Making of Cape Fear. It runs 27 minutes, 59 seconds and includes comments from producer/actor Gregory Peck and director J. Lee Thompson.

“Making” covers the source novel and its path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, Peck’s dual role as actor and producer, Thompson’s approach to the material and Hitchcock’s influence, shooting black and white and art direction, sets and locations, score, censorship issues and the 1991 remake.

On the surface, the inclusion of only two participants sounds like a weakness, but “Making” overcomes potential pitfalls. Both Peck and Thompson prove to be chatty and informative, so they cover a nice array of topics. It’s too bad they didn’t sit for a commentary, as they add a lot of good notes about the movie.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a collection of production photos. This gives us a four-minute, 49-second montage that mixes stills with film clips. The inclusion of the movie snippets perplexes me, and the photos themselves don’t seem especially great.

Led by excellent lead performances and taut direction, the 1962 Cape Fear works as a strong thriller. It delivers an involving tale with enough twists to keep the viewer on edge. The DVD offers mostly positive picture and audio as well as supplements led by an engaging featurette. Expect a solid drama here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.75 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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