Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cape Fear reviewed by Dean Brierly


Cady channels his inner beatnik.

Dean Brierly reviews for both Cinema Retro and other magazines and has two of his own websites--Films of The Fifties, Films of The Sixties. Here's an example of his work, a section from his long review of Cape Fear. You'll have to scroll down a ways to get the entire review. It's excellent.

The Lawless

Robert Mitchum rarely played out and out villains, but when he did, the results were spectacular. No one who has seen Night of the Hunter (1955) is likely to forget his murderous preacher with the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles. The actor brought equal intensity to his role as Max Cady, whose heavy-lidded, baleful stare hints at barely repressed psychotic undercurrents. Mitchum’s powerful physique, on frequent display throughout the film, holds the promise of unstoppable violence. He imbues Cady with a reptilian quality that evokes nothing so much as a ravenous crocodile as he pursues the Bowden family through Georgia swampland in the film’s final minutes.

The revelation of Mitchum’s performance, however, is its redneck hipster quality. Cady is without doubt one of the most visceral predators ever burned onto celluloid. But he’s also an undeniably cool cat, a sociopathic Jack Kerouac, if you will. Cady’s sartorial style—chinos, sport shirt, windbreaker and, most distinctively, a sporty Panama hat tilted back at a cocksure angle—immediately sets him apart from the conservative citizenry of the small Southern town where the story unfolds. Cady doesn’t walk, he saunters. His body language is arrogant and knowing, and his face is set in a perpetual smirk, as if he’s enjoying a secret joke at the expense of all the rubes around him. He’s also a fount of sardonic humor, delivered in streetwise jargon that nicely counterbalances the film’s visual and thematic darkness. His first words in the movie, addressed to an elderly black janitor, are: “Hey, daddy, where does Sam Bowden hang out?” Although Cady uses the word “daddy” as a casual form of an address to an older man, the term also harbors racial and sexual implications that possibly relate to his life in prison. The viewer has already pegged Cady as an unregenerate sleazeball, so anything’s possible.

But what really makes Cady cool is how easily he dominates people and situations. When he’s arrested in a cocktail bar on the orders of Chief Dutton, he doesn't meekly submit, but first ambles over to the sexy girl he’s been eyeballing, tosses a contemptuous glance at her male companion, and says, “I’m going to give you just one hour to get rid of your friend.” “Are you trying to pick me up?” she asks. He relies with a knowing leer and emphatic “Yes,” pushes the brim of his hat down Sinatra style and strolls out like the arrogant badass he is.

for the rest go here

1 comment:

Steve Scott said...

Interesting that there is no mention of the fact that CAPE FEAR was based on John D. MacDonald's 1958 novel THE EXECUTIONERS. MacDonald visited the set and later reported that the hat was Mitchum's idea, something that he spotted in a local "Monkey Ward" and purchased for $1.00.