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Monday, February 15, 2010

Retro Review: Cape Fear(1991)


With the release of “Shutter Island” this weekend, I decided to revisit another earlier suspense tale from Martin Scorsese. “Cape Fear”.




Cape Fear
Cast: Nick Nolte, Robert Deniro
Writer: Wesley Strict.
Director: Martin Scorsese.

*** and ½*’s out of 4


“Cape Fear” is very much an homage to those classic suspense films of the late fifties, early sixties. With its classic incidental score from “Psycho” Composer Bernard Herrmann even a title page by Saul and Elaine Bass who have made title pages for most of Hitchcock’s movies. Scorsese has created a tale that could have been made in that time period, but no way would it ever be released with the rating code than. This version which was a remake of the same title features strong language and violence but never once does it get exploitative or super explicit and it still remains in the same vein of classic suspense movies.


Max Cady (Deniro) has just been released from prison after fourteen years and comes after his lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) and his family (Jessica Lang, Juliette Lewis) this is the only thing that the original and this remake have in common. In this version The Bowdans are a pretty well adjusted family but there are moments of tensions between them. These issues are brought more to life when Cady begins his subtle harassment with the people in Sam Bowdan’s life. These harassments stay within the law so that they he will not be arrested for them and he is able to twist things around to make the law work on his side if Bowdan ever decides to attack him.

The most suspenseful scene in this movie is when Cady seduces the daughter Danielle backstage at an auditorium. She finds him charming because she is having an argument with her father and so is he. She uses sex to sort of get back at her dad for grounding her. Little does Danielle know that earlier Max had raped and beaten Sam’s coworker played by Ileana Douglas. So that moment when they kiss. We don’t when or if he is planning to attack her.

The 1962 version of Cape Fear starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum in the roles of Sam Bowden and Max Cady is a very intensive thriller for that time period and it does include a much better ending, but all the characters are very back and white. Cady is the bad guy and Bowdan and his family are good. This remake shows that everyone has a tendency to walk the dark side a little In the early sixties you could not show that the father was having an affair or the sexual thoughts of a sixteen year old girl. Scorsese layers these elements with classic film making from the past.

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