Cape Fear Blu-ray Review

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Reviewed by Chris McEneany, 17th October 2011.
The 1962 version of Cape Fear is a thunderous example of boundary-pushing suspense and emotive thumbscrew-turning. The story is magnificently insidious and the performances superb. Thompson's relentless grip on audiences is pure reference material and his steady twisting of emotions and anxieties is a masterclass of slow-burn tension and macabre eloquence. The two leads are awesome, and their performances absolutely classic linchpins of the genre, but then they are also supported by an impeccable ensemble. Each performer gives weight to the drama, nudging the excitement and the terror further and deeper as the plot spirals into ever-murkier territory.

For me, it beats the over-ripe and over-the-top excesses of the remake and remains the more penetrating study of a hellish scenario. It is is still hard to believe just how much they got away with. Psycho had broken the mould, of course, and Cinema would never be the same again … but Cape Fear brought the horror of wanton cruelty and criminality right to the family doorstep and demanded to know what you would do about it. People like Norman Bates certainly exist, but the chances of running into a confident sociopath like Max Cady were probably even higher. Cape Fear, then, was a wake-up call to a contented America that erroneously believed its laws could actually protect it.

It is unforgivable that Universal jettison the old "making-of" and supply nothing of supplemental value, but their UK region-free transfer of this classic chiller is mostly terrific. Both the image and the sound-mix are wonderful, although some will surely spot the tell-tale hints of the restorative process appearing. But this remains a sterling presentation of an incredible, and yet still surprisingly little-seen milestone of gut-punching culture-shock.

Highly recommended.

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