J. Lee Thompson’s this first and original version is brilliant tense filled thriller with an unforgettable face of the villain. He is Max Caddy. 8 years ago Sam Bowden, an attorney witnessed against Caddy for his crime in court. Now he’s back from prison with sole aim to threaten Sam and his family. The face of fear is terrifying and just inescapable.
From his very entry from the film’s opening titles, Robert Mitchum made us feel the chilling tension on screen. His cold-blooded act of ex-convict Max Caddy overwhelmed almost everything in the entire film. Gregory Peck seems so kid to him. Watch his ‘don’t give a damn’ body language and expressions clad in panama hat and a cigar in hand here; quite a learning material even for actors like De Niro in Scorsese’s version. However De Niro played his method act so well; Mitch is just irreplaceable in this original one. He needs no biblical tattoos over his body, bloodshed and violence- props of Scorsese territory and still he made us felt the terror till his very end. Must say that he’s the villain to watch and it’s surely one of his most remarkable roles, along with ‘The Night of a Hunter’ and ‘Out of the Past.’ Hitchcock loyal, Bernard Herrmann’s jarring score surmounted the thrill so exceptionally well that Scorsese repeated him in his remake too along with Elmer Bernstein. The film has brilliant B&W camera work and editing too. The climax on river and houseboat is real tour de force.
Watch it for Mitchy- the bitchy, the villain you won’t forget so easily.