Cape Fear (1962) – 4.5/5

A horrific, terrifying suspense film that borrows a lot from Hitchcock but has enough originality and boldness to stand on its own, and then some. And what a brilliantly disturbing performance from Robert Mitchum, who injects this movie with a degree of danger and violent unpredictability that lifts this film into the realm of pure terror at times.  Truly the stuff of nightmares, especially in the third act, man.

Mitchum is the spine of the film, giving a fearless, frightening performance as this deranged stalker ex-con rapist type, which, for a movie made in the early 60s, is really gutsy. Though never that graphic, the film pulls no punches, implying or downright showing things that you wouldn’t see even by today’s “looser” moral standards. And it’s startling. Instances of Mitchum’s character **SPOILERS** speaking suggestively about or staring longingly at Gregory Peck’s 15-year-old girl, who by the way is made to wear the tightest and most revealing of outfits to further emphasize her sexuality, **END SPOILERS** are sick, creepy, and disturbing to a degree you rarely ever see in films. It’s just bold acting, writing, filmmaking.

This film really hits at you at a gut level. It’s every father’s worst fear, shot and edited for all to see and experience first hand. And the fear is constant, ever-present, to an almost unbearable degree at times. Then the third act comes along and, well, I won’t spoil it. It’s brilliant, mostly because you don’t know how far it’s going to go. There’s actually one scene in it that had me shaking, where **SPOILERS** Mitchum’s character corners the little girl, his intentions clear, as she just cries and tries to fend him off any way she can. **END SPOILERS** It’s downright heartbreaking, mostly thanks to some great, great acting from the both of them.

The only real issue I had with it was Gregory Peck’s rather stiff performance. I understand he’s supposed to be this loving superhuman father/husband/person type, and he certainly has the presence for it, but he never seems troubled by anything that’s going on. His range of emotions never go beyond those of someone who is always in control, which is odd considering he isn’t in control for a good chunk of the movie. He’s always just extremely confident or some slight variation thereof, but never, I don’t know, worried or unsure or frightened or any other of the massive range of emotions a person goes through when he and his family are threatened with physical harm by a vengeful psychopath. Very odd.

Overall, great, disturbing horror suspense film, with a heavy emphasis on the horror aspect, though it’s mostly psychological. Mostly. The film looks and feels very Hitchcockian, with its deliberate use of light and shadow, and Bernard Herrmann’s great score which perfectly sets up the mood of the film within the first 10 seconds.

But yeah, great movie; tense, bold, and ballsy, with great cinematography and some fantastic performances, especially from Robert Mitchum who has given some of the most chilling performances ever put to screen, this being no exception. I’ve come to the conclusion that the guy is terror personified. There’s just no way around it; the guy perfected the art of being creepy and/or homicidal. On screen, at least.

They just don’t make them like this anymore. Well worth watching.

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