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Cape Fear (1991)

I was flicking through the movies on Sky at the weekend and saw one that, as many times as I’ve put it on at various points of the film over the years, I’ve actually only ever seen it all the way through once.

I figured it was time I watched it again.

Cape Fear (1991)

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a crime/thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and a remake of the original 1962 film of the same name starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum.

The original is an adaptation of the 1957 novel, “The Executioners” by John D. MacDonald.

It stars Robert De Niro (Goodfellas), Nick Nolte (48 Hours), Jessica Lange (Tootsie) and Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) among others.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

When attorney Sam Bowden (Nolte) knowingly withholds evidence that would acquit violent sex offender Max Cady (De Niro) of rape charges, Max is sentenced to 14 years in prison. But after Max's release, knowing about Sam's deceit, he devotes his life to stalking and destroying the Bowden family. When practical attempts to stop Max fail, Sam realises that he must act outside the law to protect his wife and daughter.

I think I enjoyed this film more on this latest watch than previously before.

It’s one of many remakes on a long list that I’m ashamed to admit to having never seen the originals (The Magnificent Seven, Ocean’s 11, The Wicker Man, Scarface, Death Wish and The Mechanic are all sadly on that list). 😳

Something I love about decent remakes though are the cameos from actors who appeared in the originals. This movie somehow managed to get both the legendary Gregory Peck (in his final big screen appearance) and Robert Mitchum back, and not just for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene but for fairly substantial roles. Martin Balsam who played the police chief in the original even returns to play the judge.

The thing I particularly like about this movie is the way it’s shot kind of like a Hitchcock film.

Without trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about, the colour palette, the camera angles and the close ups with actors in the background really make it feel like an old Hitchcock movie at times. I’ve since read that that was Scorsese’s intention and as much as the style was criticised by some critics, I think it’s pretty cool!

Although I haven’t seen the original I also read that much of the original score by Bernard Herrmann was re-created by composer Elmer Bernstein and I love that! To me that shows a real love and respect of the original film.

Robert De Niro as you’d expect is brilliant as the film’s villain Max Cady, and Nick Nolte (who reportedly lost weight for the role in order to appear physically inferior to Di Nero who packed on a load of muscle for the part) is also really good as the mild mannered, pencil pushing defence attorney, Sam Bowden.

As good as those two Hollywood big shots are though, it’s actually Juliette Lewis (who was only around 18 at the time) who steals the show for me. She’s brilliant! 👌

Interestingly, Steven Spielberg was set to direct this movie but found it all a bit too violent. He ended up doing a swap with Scorsese who was due to make Schindler’s List and it all worked out for the best.

Interestingly, while Spielberg was in charge of the project, Harrison Ford was approached to play the part of Sam Bowden. He was only interested in being in the film however if he could play the villain, Max Cady. De Niro had firm dibs on that character though and the rest, as they say is history.

I’ve never been an avid watcher of the Simpsons but I remember an episode that parodied this film and it was really funny. As I recall it was Sideshow Bob in the De Niro role trying to get Bart. It’s worth a watch if you can track it down.

If you like a suspenseful thriller with a climatic finale you can’t go too far wrong with this one. 👍

Seen it? What do you think? 🤔

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