Down From the Shelf ~ Cape Fear (1991)


The Facts:

Synopsis: A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.

Stars: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Illeana Douglas, Juliette Lewis

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rated: R

Running Length: 128 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  The memory is still as clear as day.  My dad had taken me to the opening night 7:25pm showing of Cape Fear at the Edina and we were now back at our house.  My mom was gone for the weekend and it was a bachelor weekend at the Botten household.  Well after seeing Cape Fear I was absolutely scared to death and slept with the light on an my head under the covers.  Even now, I can’t watch Scorcese’s remake with pinpointing the exact moment my blood turned cold and I weighed the pros/cons of peeing my pants.  All I’ll say about the moment to keep it a secret for people who haven’t seen it is this – the maid.  Decorum won out and I kept my bladder intact.

Back then it was all about the scare for me.  I didn’t pay attention to performances or camera techniques.  Watching the film today, I understand so much more about what Scorcese was going for when tackling this piece.  He was trying to make a contemporary and arty adult slasher film and he’s largely succeeded with the aid of DeNiro, Nolte, and Lange.  Lewis is still growing on me here, but I’m a big fan of her work in recent years.  If you look at the trivia for this movie it appears that every young female in Hollywood was up for this role (though I highly doubt Tiffani Amber-Thiessen was strongly considered) and Lewis was an interesting casting choice.  Both she and DeNiro were nominated for their work here and I was surprised it didn’t nab noms for cinematography, editing, and score – all which are award worthy.

I’ve seen the original Cape Fear (it was a brilliant touch to bring back original stars Peck and Mitchum for cameo roles) and feel I may be in the minority when I say I prefer the remake.  The original was considered ahead of its time with its take on violence but I feel the film is more effective when the danger is more real.  Even though it does drag a bit in the middle section the final thirty minutes are gripping moments of cinema.  If you’ve never seen this, give it a try.  It’s a nice bridge between the extreme violence of Scorcese’s early years and the more refined filmmaker he evolved into as the decades passed.