Monday, March 30, 2009


There have been two films based on John D. MacDonald's 1958 novel The Executioners. The first is a minor classic of dark suspense that starred Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. It was titled Cape Fear and was directed by J. Lee Thompson. The screenplay was written by James R. Webb.

Cape Fear was released in 1962, one year after Thompson's successful adaptation of Alastair MacLean's novel The Guns of Navarone.

The second adaptation was based on the screenplay of the first film. It was released in 1991 and starred Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange. It was directed by Martin Scorcese. The screenplay was written by Wesley Strick.

The first film was the most successful. It captured the voice and tension of the novel--with some notable changes--and did it without the trickery and over-the-top-scares of the later production. Although I must admit I enjoyed both of these films a whole lot. And the novel was even better.

A little J. Lee Thompson trivia. Thompson directed numerous films from the 1950s to the 1980s. His work includes MacKenna's Gold (1969), Conquest and Battle of the Planet of the Apes (1972 & 1973), The Passage (1979), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Death Wish 4 (1989). He was nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Guns of Navarone.

1 comment:

Frank Loose said...

I've seen both movies, too, and enjoyed both, but feel that the first one is the better. I think Robert Mitchum did a superb job of portraying Max Cady as a man to be feared and loathed. And like you mentioned, the filmmakers didn't go over-the-top in order to achieve this. I have read a lot of John D. Macdonald but not The Executioners. I guess my reason has been that i've seen the movies. Perhaps i should check out the book out anyway.