CAPE FEAR. 1991. DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY FREDDIE ‘HAMMER HORROR’ FRANCIS. MUSIC BY ELMER BERNSTEIN. STARRING ROBERT DE NIRO, NICK NOLTE, JESSICA LANGE, JULIETTE LEWIS, ILEANA DOUGLAS, ROBERT MITCHUM, GREGORY PECK, MARTIN ‘MILTON ARBOGAST’ BALSAM AND JOE DON BAKER. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a brilliant film. Jaw-droppingly brilliant. The four leads play their parts to absolute perfection and there isn’t a wrong note anywhere in the whole production. I suppose this rave review could stop there, haha, having said everything it needs to say, but I’m not passing up a chance to talk about this, one of my favourite ever movies.
Yes, it’s better than the original film, even though it feels like sacrilege to say that when the 1962 original starred two of Hollywood’s greatest ever leading men, dear old Robert Mitchum whom I was recently watching in the famous Christmas film SCROOGED and Gregory ‘Captain Ahab’ Peck. The two lads have small roles in this fabulous remake though, as a police chief and a lawyer respectively, thus lending the film more than just a touch of authentic Hollywood glamour.
The best thing about the remake is Robert De Niro. Yes, yes, THE GODFATHER, etc., yadda yadda yadda, but to me, his performance as ex-con and brutal rapist Max Cady in CAPE FEAR is what they’re calling nowadays a ‘career-best’ performance.
He looks terrific, with his (mmmmm) prison-sculpted, tattooed body, greased-back hair, mesmerising dark eyes and natty threads. Very nice indeed… He’s got the voice down to a ‘T’ and the air of menace he manages to exude even while seemingly engaged in a casual chat is simply overpowering.
He can be friendly and relatable and ‘down with the kids’ too though, like when he’s almost hypnotising impressionable young Danny into believing he’s one of the good guys. His ability to act the right part as and when the need arises is part of his power and, also, part of what makes him so deadly dangerous.
I’m not saying it’s not a hard film to watch at times. After all, it’s the story of a recently released ex-con (Cady) who blames his lawyer (Nick Nolte as Samuel Bowden) for the fact that he got sent down for fourteen years for the brutal rape of a sixteen-year-old girl. Now, he’s gunning for the lawyer and the lawyer’s family, which includes his wife, the frustrated, beautiful Leigh; his teenage daughter, the sexually precocious but naïve Danny; and even the lawyer’s dog and also his maid.
‘I’m gonna make you learn about loss,’ Cady tells Sam when they meet again after fourteen long years. And, sure enough, he sets about doing just that in a way that has the viewer on the edge of his/her seat for two hours plus.
There’s a violent rape in the film that always makes my blood run cold. Poor Ileana Douglas! Remember how she sang ‘THE LOOK OF LOVE’ in ALIVE and talked so hopefully about getting out of the Andes mountains and one day seeing her kiddies again? God love her.
What Robert De Niro does to her in CAPE FEAR is something that could happen to anyone. We’ve all been there, right? Drunkenly flirting with a complete stranger because some other a**h*** has left us high and dry? I can’t be the only one, haha.
The film sends the clear message that you’re taking your life in your hands every time you go home with a stranger. Max Cady’s manipulation of the stinking-drunk Laurie is a masterclass in Taking Advantage Of A Drunken Woman. It’s terrifying to watch because we already know something she doesn’t. We know what he is and what he’s capable of.
Also, his disturbing behaviour with teenager Danny deliberately borders on the paedophiliac because of the girl’s age. Sheesh. What a nice guy…
Max Cady takes on an almost supernatural aspect in the film, the way he refuses to be killed or even be hurt too badly. He’s like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, the way he just keeps coming at you no matter what you throw at him. During his years in the can, as I believe it’s referred to by the cons themselves, he’s trained his muscular, prison-hardened body (drool!) to disregard pain and physical discomfort.
Though not a horror film per se, CAPE FEAR is pretty damned scary at times. Max Cady’s almost super-human or supernatural in the way he won’t die. He’s like ‘some kind of non-giving-up school guy,’ as Bart Simpson once said about Principal Skinner in THE SIMPSONS.
Speaking of THE SIMPSONS, did you know that Max Cady is actually Sideshow Bob and vice versa? Watch their TERROR LAKE episode, also known as THE THOMPSONS, and you’ll see what I mean. Remember Bob exercising in his prison cell, all tattooed and pulling himself up on the weights? Max does that. Remember Bob leaving prison and walking right up to our TV screens? That’s Max.
And what about Bob behaving obnoxiously in front of the Simpson family at the cinema, hitching a ride to Terror Lake underneath the family jalopy and then ‘popping up’ again on the boat? All based on Max. Every time I watch this film I just keep yelling ‘Bob does this! Bob does that! Look, it’s Bob again!’ at the screen. It’s quite funny the way that happens. And I bet I’m not the only one who does it, haha.
Any-hoo, this film has a kind of Hitchcock-esque feel to it at times with the VERTIGO-style special effects that crop up from time to time. There’s nothing cheap or shoddy about the look of the film, though, and there are some gorgeous shots of the Bowdens’ magnificent West Essex County mansion set against differently-painted skies to ogle at as well.
Check CAPE FEAR out if you haven’t already done so. But you’ll need a strong stomach so be warned. This psychological thriller with lots of unpleasant legalese thrown in is strictly for adults only. And don’t forget what Chief Wiggum tells Homer. It’s sound legal advice.
‘Once a guy is inside your home, anything you do to him is niiiiice and legal. Aw, but it don’t work if you invite him in…!’ or words to that effect…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY