J. Lee Thompson directs Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Polly Bergen in this neo-noir where a lawyer’s family are harassed by a sociopath recently released from prison who blames the straight laced man for his incarceration.
Explicitly cruel and nasty for a mainstream release of its era, up there with Psycho. Mitchum’s beating of a good time girl and his lingering looks at little Lori Martin’s underage body are creepy and taboo breaking. He’s a compelling and strangely attractive monster. Always one legal step ahead and happy to toy with his prey in a series of atmosphere heavy set pieces. The monologue where he talks Peck’s staid white hat through the merciless sexual destruction of his ex-wife’s happiness is a masterclass. It is hard for Peck to really share top billing with such bristling behemoth of a star turn. The river boat finale is a drawn out, murky treat. You’ll be utterly gripped. Bernard Herrman’s score is an urgent doom laden elegy that really gets under your skin. Sam Leavitt’s B&W cinematography ups the contrast the further into the deadly mire we wade. By the time Mitchum’s definitive Max Cady is snapping necks in the swamp the screen is engorged in darkness. Features strong support work from Martin Balsam and Telly Savalas.
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