It is not auteur cinema (though J. Lee Thompson directed The Guns of the Navarone the year before as well) but features a magnetic Robert Mitchum performance and one of the great Bernard Herrmann’s best scores
So Thompson (also English) was a big admirer of Hitchcock (hello Bernard Herrmann getting hired—perhaps the casting of Martin Balsam who just played a similar role in Psycho) and worked on the crew of 1939’s Jamaica Inn
Peck’s achievement here (he also produced) as an actor is not on Mitchum’s level (Mitchum apparently bragged about blowing him off the screen and he’s not wrong) but wow one hell of 1962 for Peck on the screen playing this, and winning the Best Actor Oscar for To Kill a Mockingbird both playing clean cut moral lawyers.
Peck’s idea to change the title from the books title of “The Executioners” – smart
The intro of Mitchum tells you everything- much (again Hitchcock) like Shadow of a Doubt and the economy of Joseph Cotton laying the bed. Mitchum here stares at a young woman’s behind on the street, he doesn’t help an older woman who drops a book, then puts out a cigar with his hand— haha—character through visual storytelling
Has some in common with like Wyler’s 1955 Desperate Hours– the disruption of the suburban nuclear post-WWII family—
Such a uniform for Mitchum—cigars and a panama hat. It’s another iconic villain in the vein of his sadistic preacher in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter in 1955.
Again- Thompson is usually pretty utilitarian in his choices behind the camera but there is a magnificent tracking shot following Mitchum as he approaches the woman in the bar that he takes home. We got a shot between bars, violence with the shutters loudly shaking—a great, horrific scene
The scene where Mitchum is stalking Peck’s daughter is like Powell’s Peeping Tom or Argento’s Deep Red or even Carpenter’s Halloween with the use of POV camera. It’s really well done (predates the last two and two years after Powell’s film)—we hear Mitchum’s footsteps. Herrmann’s justifiably iconic score. Mitchum never runs.
A dark character, and a complex moral drama (though the Peck hero here is cleaner than the Nolte version of that character in Scorsese’s film which I think adds some nice complexity)
Some slight canted angles when Mitchum enters the houseboat to take the wife. The shot of her face going from behind one side of his head to the other—awesome