Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Cape Fear (1962)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Cape Fear (1962)

In director J. Lee Thompson's suspenseful and intense late b/w film noir from James Webb's screenplay, based on John D. MacDonald's novel "The Executioners":

  • the moody music by Bernard Herrmann - under the opening credits
  • the evil, intimidating, vengeful and insolent character of cigar-smoking, Panama hat-wearing psychopath Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), first exemplified when he walked inside a Southern courtroom and as he ascended the stairs ignored a woman who dropped a book in front of him
  • Cady's appearance at a bowling alley, where he inappropriately propositioned the married waitress (Joan Staley) with a $20 bill, then approached Sam and threatened: "Don't mind me, Counsellor. I'm just gettin' a gander at the rest of your family. You're a lucky man"
  • the many chilling moments in which the sexually-predatory Cady pursued and stalked the female family members of lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) intent on raping them, as revenge for his conviction "eight years, four months and thirteen days ago"
  • his poisoning of the family dog Marilyn with strychnine (mid-barking, the dog let out a long whine)
  • Sam's talk with his family about the menacing threat: "I'm not telling you this to frighten you, but I want you to be careful. I think you're old enough to be told why. Eight years ago, I was a witness against a man, and he was sent to prison. And the thing is, he's out now and blames me for his conviction. (Nancy: He's the one that poisoned Marilyn.) Maybe, but there's no proof of that. (Nancy: But you know he did.) Thinking isn't knowing. Just be careful. This is a big man. He has dark hair. He smokes cigars and usually wears a panama hat. I'll get you a police photograph of him. Until we have this thing under control, I want you never to leave this house or the school grounds except in your mother's car. There's nothing to worry about as long as you're careful. The police are gonna keep a very close watch on the house. And the chances are he's just trying to scare us anyway."
  • his continued menacing of young teenaged daughter Nancy Bowden (Lori Martin) at her school
  • his sexually threatening of both females on a houseboat on Cape Fear River
The Sexual Assault of Young Nancy
  • the deeply frightening scene in which the bare-chested ex-con threatened to force Sam's wife Peggy (Polly Bergen) to have consensual sex with him in order to save the rape of her daughter: ("You proposition me. You, instead of Nancy, and I'll agree never to see you again. All right? Listen, unless, of course, you want it. Now that's how you give your consent") - when she claimed he was using sexual blackmail on her, he held her against a wall, slapped her, and forced her to keep quiet: "All in all, I don't think you're gonna, you're gonna say too much about this, are you?"
  • and then after creating a diversion, Cady went after young Nancy. Although the young girl defended herself with a fireplace poker, she was no match against his powerful grip - he gagged her mouth and dragged her outside, and was about to rape her when she was saved by her father
  • the climactic conclusion when Sam saved Nancy, fought bare-fisted against Cady, overpowered him, held him at gunpoint, shot him, and then decided to not kill him, although Cady urged him to shoot: (Sam: "No. No! That would be letting you off too easy, too fast. Your words - do you remember? Well I do. We're gonna take good care of you. We're gonna nurse you back to health. And you're strong, Cady. You're gonna live a long life - in a cage! That's where you belong. And that's where you're going. And this time, for life! Bang your head against the walls. Count the years, the months, the hours, until the day you rot!")

Max Cady Ascending Stairs of Courthouse

Sexual Predator Max Cady Watching Bowden Family at Bowling Alley

Words of Warning to Family by Sam

Menaced Daughter at School

Cady's Sexual Assault of Peggy


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