Jaw-grindingly tense thriller starring Robert Mitchum as a sadistic ex-convict terrorising the family of Gregory Peck, the lawyer he blames for his conviction. Remade by Martin Scorsese with Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte in the leads, this stirred controversy on its release owing to Mitchum brilliant, chilling and brutally misogynistic portrayal of a soulless predator.
J Lee Thompson
Robert Mitchum can be frighteningly evil when he puts his mind to it and the two best examples are Night of the Hunter and this tense and chilling thriller.
He plays Max Cady, a psychopath recently released from prison. He's after the man who put him there, lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck).
Cady terrorises the family in various ways, but is smart enough to keep the law at arm's length. Eventually, Bowden realises he'll have to deal with Cady himself.
Even if you've seen Martin Scorsese's remake with Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte, this is even better.
Mitchum is grimly realistic, Peck powerful as the family man backed into a corner and there are excellent supporting performances from Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam and Telly Savalas in a very early role.
Striking black and white photography heightens the sense of menace and J Lee Thompson's direction doesn't allow the tension to slacken for a moment.