Martin Scorsese's remake of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 film is a stylish, taut thriller. Public defender Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) served as the attorney for brutal rapist Max Cady (Robert De Niro) at his arraignment. Shocked by the violence of Cady's crime, Sam duplicitously withheld information regarding the sexually promiscuous activities of Cady's rape victim--information that might have won Max's acquittal. After serving a hellish 14-year sentence in a barbaric state penitentiary, the once-illiterate Cady, who has taught himself to read and studied up on the law during his incarceration, seeks vengeance against the prosperous small-town lawyer. Max makes good on his satanic threats to terrorize Sam, stalking the vulnerable family, poisoning their dog, brutally assaulting Sam's close friend, and sexually harassing Sam's daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis). To rid themselves of this raging force of retribution, Sam, Leigh, and Danielle join together against Max in a final struggle for their very existence. Scorsese pays debts to Thompson's earlier version by using Bernard Herrmann's original score, as well as casting Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, and Martin Balsam in supporting roles. Lewis delivers a stirring performance that earned her a well-deserved Oscar nomination, as did De Niro, whose tattooed vengeance seeker is one of cinema's most terrifying, notorious presences.
Joe Don Baker - American Actor, WALKING TALL
Gregory Peck - Oscar winning American actor, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
Eldred Gregory Peck - Oscar winning American actor, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
Robert De Niro - Oscar Winning Actor/Director/Producer
Robert DeNiro - Oscar Winning Actor/Director/Producer
Barbara De Fina - Producer
Martin Scorsese - American director/screenwriter/producer, GOODFELLAS (1990)
Illeana Douglas - Granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas
Martin Balsam - American actor
Juliette Lewis - American Actress, NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Robert Mitchum - American Actor, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
Bob Mitchum - American Actor, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
Jessica Lange - American Actress, TOOTSIE (1982)
Wesley Strick - Screenwriter, DOOM (2005)
Nick Nolte - American actor, AFFLICTION
Fred Dalton Thompson - American Character Actor
CAPE FEAR is an extremely tense remake of the riveting 1962 thriller. This time Sam Bowden is not such a good guy and his family is rather dysfunctional--but there's no moral ambiguity in the purely evil Max Cady as he circles in for the kill. Martin Scorsese creates a world in which a man who withheld information for the benefit of society ends up suffering the moral consequences. Robert De Niro and Juliette Lewis deliver stunning performances as the hunter and hunted, respectively.
Theatrical release: November 1991. Filmed on location in Florida. Wesley Stick based his screenplay on James R. Webb's script for the original CAPE FEAR, which was in turn was based on John C. MacDonald's serialized novel THE EXECUTIONER. Originally, Steven Spielberg was set to direct, but he turned the project over to Scorsese instead.
"...Nolte acts with blistering energy, and Lange is in top feral form..." - 11/28/1991 Rolling Stone, p.101-103
"...Scorsese's CAPE FEAR defies thresholds, revelling in its own transgressiveness, using punchy visuals, fast cuts and a pounding soundtrack..." - 03/01/1992 Sight and Sound, p.40-1
"...We squirm, we squeal, we squeak for mercy as Scorsese and company wring us out like an old washcloth..." - 11/13/1991 Los Angeles Times, p.F1
4 stars out of 5 -- "It replaces the good vs evil set-up with endless shades of grey..." - 12/01/2011 Total Film