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Small-town lawyer Sam Bowden's life becomes torturous when Max Cady re-enters his life. Cady went to jail for 8 years after Bowden testified that Cady attacked a young woman. Now that Cady has been released, he begins to terrorize Bowden and his family, particularly targeting Bowden's daughter, Nancy. Initially, Cady uses his newfound knowledge of the law (learned in prison) to annoy the Bowdens, then poisons the family dog... Who's next ?
For more about Cape Fear and the Cape Fear Blu-ray release, see Cape Fear Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 9, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Writer: James R. Webb
Starring: Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam, Telly Savalas, Jack Kruschen
» See full cast & crew
Cape Fear Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 9, 2011
J. Lee Thompson's "Cape Fear" (1962) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios-UK. Unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc. In English, with optional English SDH, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish (continental), Spanish (Latin America), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (continental), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Traditional Mandarin subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Max Cady (Robert Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter, His Kind of Woman), a psychopathic ex-con who has just been released from prison, has one thing on his mind - revenge. The man he is after is Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck, The Big Country, The Guns of Navarone), a well-off lawyer living a quiet life with his beautiful wife Peggy (Polly Bergen, Fast Company, The Caretakers) and teenage daughter Nancy (Lori Martin) in a small town somewhere in Georgia. Max wants to destroy Sam's life because he is convinced that had it not been for his enthusiasm, he would have not spent the last 8 years of his life behind bars.
After he introduces himself to Sam, Max begins harassing and then terrorizing his family. The chief of police, Mark Dutton (Martin Balsam, 12 Angry Men, Tora! Tora! Tora!), a good friend of Sam, attempts to kick Max out of town, but the psycho hires a slick lawyer who threatens to sue the police if they don't leave his client alone. Shortly after, Sam hires private detective Charles Sievers (Telly Savalas, Birdman of Alcatraz, The Assassination Bureau), who promises to take care of Max.
But the detective also fails, which is why Sam meets Max in a bar and offers to pay him $20,000 if he agrees to walk away. When the psycho refuses to accept the money, Sam pays a couple of tough guys to make him disappear – but they also fail. Convinced that there is no one else in town that could solve his problem, Sam decides to lure Max to Cape Fear, on his motorboat, and have the police arrest him. But when the psycho arrives, things get complicated.
Based on John D. MacDonald's terrific novel The Executioners, J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear is a dark and very stylish thriller with prominent noir overtones. Its only flaw is its inexorable desire to convince the viewer that no matter what at end good always triumphs over evil. Everything else, from the characterization to the pacing, is indeed handled exceptionally well.
Martin Scorsese's famous remake, the first film the American director shot in the wider 2.39:1 ratio, is a lot more violent and graphic film but far less intense and ultimately less satisfying. Robert De Niro's psychopath, for instance, is a man who is difficult to take seriously even though what he does - within the film - makes sense. The man Mitchum plays is someone that could exist outside of the film, amongst real people. There is one sequence, for example, where he goes to a hotel with a girl (Barrie Chase) he has picked up in a bar. She does not know that he has raped before. He looks her straight in the eyes, half-naked, and she instantly recognizes the monster. The look lasts only a couple of seconds but it is utterly disturbing. This type of intensity is simply missing in Scorsese's film.
Juliette Lewis' Danielle also has little in common with Martin's Nancy. For a long period of time she is completely unaware that a monster has entered her life. They even play together. In Thompson's film a fine line separates the kid and the monster all the time.
The determined and emotionally stable character Peck plays also has little in common with the one Nolte plays. One is an overly sanitized Southern lawyer who never loses his cool, the other a cheater whose life is slowly spinning out of control.
Ultimately, however, both films are genuinely entertaining and undoubtedly worth seeing, but only the simpler and more elegant original film oozes believable intensity. The evil Mitchum brings to it is simply far more unsettling.
Cape Fear Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with VC-1 and granted a 1080p transfer, J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios-UK.
There are traces of mild filtering throughout the entire film. Some are easier to spot (see how the shadows break up under Mitchum's eyes in screenshot #1), but others are extremely small and practically unnoticeable (see screenshot #14). This said, some light grain has been retained, but it is not always evenly distributed. Some of the best looking sequences are during the second half of the film, before and after Mitchum and Peck meet at the docks (see screenshot #3). Color reproduction is also very strong here, with the blacks, whites, and the variety of grays looking perfectly balanced. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern, but there are a couple of scenes where some harshness occasionally creeps in. There are no serious banding and aliasing issues either. Lastly, the high-definition transfer is free of large cuts, damage marks, stains, and warps. All in all, the presentation is decent enough to recommend the Blu-ray, but it is clear that it could have been a lot stronger. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu. Please note that the main menu can be set in one of the following languages: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Latin America), Russian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Mandarin).
Cape Fear Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are nine audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Japanese DTS 2.0, French DTS 2.0 Italian DTS 2.0, Spanish DTS 2.0, German DTS 2.0, Portuguese (Brazil) DTS 2.0, Spanish (Latin America) DTS 2.0, and Russian DTS 2.0. For the record, Universal Studios-UK have provided optional English SDH, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish (continental), Spanish (Latin America), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (continental), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Traditional Mandarin subtitles for the main feature.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track opens up the film very well. Bernard Herrmann's score, in particular, benefits the most, but the dialog is also consistently crisp, clean, and stable. Still, the dynamic amplitude is quite limited, so do not expect the loseless track to test your system. For the record, there are no synch issues, distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Cape Fear Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc.
Cape Fear Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What makes J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear such an entertaining film is Robert Mitchum's Max Cady. He is a real monster. Martin Scorsese's famous remake is also worthy of praise, but it is a different film, a lot more complex and populated with characters who can exist only within the boundaries of the story the film tells. Mitchum's character is a man who looks and feels real. The film's presentation is decent enough to recommend the Blu-ray, but it is clear that it could have been a lot stronger. RECOMMENDED.
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