Cape Fear (1991 film)
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''Cape Fear'' is a 1991 American
psychological thriller Psychological thriller is a Film genre, genre combining the thriller (genre), thriller and psychological fiction genres. It is commonly used to describe literature or films that deal with psychological narratives in a thriller or thrilling setting ...
film directed by
Martin Scorsese Martin Charles Scorsese ( , ; born November 17, 1942) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and actor. Scorsese emerged as one of the major figures of the New Hollywood era. He is the recipient of many major accolades, incl ...
. It is a
remake A remake is a film, Television program, television series, video game, song or similar form of entertainment that is based upon and retells the story of an earlier production in the same medium—e.g., a "new version of an existing film". A r ...
of the 1962 film of the same name, which was based on the 1957 novel '' The Executioners'' by John D. MacDonald. It stars
Robert De Niro Robert Anthony De Niro Jr. ( , ; born August 17, 1943) is an American actor. Known for his Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, collaborations with Martin Scorsese, he is considered to be one of the best actors of his generation. De Niro is ...
,
Nick Nolte Nicholas King Nolte (born February 8, 1941) is an American actor. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1991 film ''The Prince of Tides''. He received ...
, Jessica Lange, Joe Don Baker and
Juliette Lewis Juliette Lake Lewis (born June 21, 1973) is an American actress and alternative rock singer. She is known for her portrayals of offbeat characters, often in films with dark themes. Lewis became an "it girl" of American cinema in the early 1990s, ...
.
Robert Mitchum Robert Charles Durman Mitchum (August 6, 1917 – July 1, 1997) was an American actor. He rose to prominence with an Academy Award nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor for ''The Story of G.I. Jo ...
plays a small role in the film, while
Gregory Peck Eldred Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916 – June 12, 2003) was an Actor, American actor and one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s in film, 1940s to the 1970s in film, 1970s. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck the AFI's 100 Y ...
(in his final theatrical film role) and Martin Balsam cameo; all three starred in the original film. The film tells the story of a
convicted In law, a conviction is the verdict reached by a court of law finding a defendant Guilty (law), guilty of a crime. The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal (that is, "not guilty"). In Scotland, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", w ...
violent statutory rapist, who, mostly by using his newfound knowledge of the law and its numerous loopholes, seeks vengeance against a former
public defender A public defender is a lawyer A lawyer is a person who practices law. The role of a lawyer varies greatly across different legal jurisdictions. A lawyer can be classified as an advocate, attorney, barrister A barrister is a type of law ...
, whom he blames for his 14-year imprisonment because of the purposefully faulty defense tactics used during his trial. ''Cape Fear'' marks the seventh collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro. The film was a commercial success and garnered positive reviews, receiving Oscar and
Golden Globe Award The Golden Globe Awards are accolades bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association beginning in January 1944, recognizing excellence in both American and international film and television. Beginning in 2022, there are 105 members of ...
nominations for Best Actor (De Niro) and Best Supporting Actress (
Juliette Lewis Juliette Lake Lewis (born June 21, 1973) is an American actress and alternative rock singer. She is known for her portrayals of offbeat characters, often in films with dark themes. Lewis became an "it girl" of American cinema in the early 1990s, ...
).


Plot

Sam Bowden is a lawyer living in New Essex,
North Carolina North Carolina () is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. The state is the List of U.S. states and territories by area, 28th largest and List of states and territories of the United ...
with his wife Leigh and teenage daughter Danielle ("Danny"). Max Cady, a former client of his, is released from prison after 14 years. Max was tried for
statutory rape In common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a ...
and battery of a 16-year-old girl and, appalled by the attack, Sam buried evidence of the victim's
promiscuity Promiscuity is the practice of engaging in sexual activity frequently with different partners or being indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners. The term can carry a moral judgment. A common example of behavior viewed as promiscuous by ma ...
and Max's unawareness of her actual age, which might have lessened the latter's sentence or even secured his acquittal. Sam believes that Max, who was illiterate at the time of his conviction, remains unaware of his purposefully botched defense. Unbeknownst to him, however, his former client is a naturally intelligent and single-minded
psychopath Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is characterized by persistent Anti-social behaviour, antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and Boldness, bold, Disinhibition, disinhibited, and Egotism, egotistical B ...
; he learned how to read and studied law in prison, and even unsuccessfully appealed his own conviction several times. He tracks Sam down and begins to terrorize the Bowden family; he lurks near the property and the family dog is mysteriously killed. Sam attempts to have Max arrested but the police have no evidence of a crime. Max intentionally crosses paths in a bar with County Courthouse
clerk A clerk is a white-collar worker who conducts general office tasks, or a worker who performs similar sales-related tasks in a retail environment. The responsibilities of clerical workers commonly include record keeping, filing, staffing service c ...
Lori Davis, who is in love with Sam, then rapes and beats her nearly to death. Despite Sam's advice, she refuses to press charges out of fear that their ongoing platonic flirtation becomes public, as well as unwillingness to be cross-examined and humiliated by her own colleagues. Sam hires a private investigator, Claude Kersek, to follow Max. Max approaches Danny by impersonating her new drama teacher and feigning an unorthodox interest in her teenage angst. He lures her to the school theater, shares a
joint A joint or articulation (or articular surface) is the connection made between bones, ossicles, or other hard structures in the body which link an animal's skeletal system into a functional whole.Saladin, Ken. Anatomy & Physiology. 7th ed. McGraw- ...
with her, manipulates her libido and attraction to him and kisses her. Her parents find the joint in her schoolbook, and Danny's coyness about the extent of Max's seduction drives Sam to the point of desperation. He then agrees to Kersek's plan, which he had dismissed earlier, to have Max beaten up. Sam also gives Max a final warning, which the latter secretly tapes with a hidden recorder. Kersek's three hired thugs accost and beat Max as Sam watches from afar, but Max turns the tide on his attackers and viciously beats them instead. Max then uses the recording of Sam's threat and an exaggerated display of his own injuries to file for a restraining order against Sam. Lee Heller (Max's lawyer) also petitions the ABA Ethics Committee for Sam's
disbarment Disbarment, also known as striking off, is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law, thus revoking their law license or admission to practice law. Disbarment is usually a punishment for Legal ethics, unethical or cr ...
, thereby triggering a two-day emergency meeting in
Raleigh Raleigh (; ) is the capital city of the state of North Carolina and the List of North Carolina county seats, seat of Wake County, North Carolina, Wake County in the United States. It is the List of municipalities in North Carolina, second-most ...
. Kersek anticipates Max's intention to enter the Bowden house while Sam is in Raleigh; the family fakes Sam's departure and hides in the house, hoping that Max will break in, so that he can be shot in self-defense. However, Max kills the Bowden's housekeeper Graciela and dons her clothing before murdering Kersek by
garroting A garrote or garrote vil (a Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine ...
him with a piano wire and shooting him with his own pistol. Horrified after discovering the bodies, the Bowdens flee to their houseboat docked upstate along the
Cape Fear River The Cape Fear River is a long blackwater river in east central North Carolina. It flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Fear (headland), Cape Fear, from which it takes its name. The river is formed at the confluence of the Haw River and the De ...
. Max, who has followed the family, attacks Sam and prepares to rape Leigh and Danny while making Sam watch. Danny sprays Max with lighter fluid as he lights a cigar, engulfing him in flames and causing him to jump off the boat. However, Max clings to a rope and pulls himself back on board. As the boat is rocked by a violent thunderstorm and the raging river, a badly burned and deranged Max confronts Sam, putting him on a mock trial for his deliberate negligence 14 years ago. Despite Sam's insistence that Max bragged about beating two prior rape charges and that his crime was too heinous for the promiscuity report to be taken into account, Max berates him for failing to do his duty as a lawyer. The storm eventually knocks Max off his feet, allowing Sam to gain the upper hand once the women jump off the boat and make it to shore. Sam uses Max's handcuffs to shackle the latter to the boat. When the boat hits a rock and is destroyed, the fight continues on shore, but a raging tide carries Max away and he drowns
speaking in tongues Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is a practice in which people utter words or speech-like sounds, often thought by believers to be languages unknown to the speaker. One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of sp ...
and singing the hymn "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand". Sam washes the blood from his hands before he rejoins Leigh and Danny, who realize that things will never be the same again for them.


Cast


Production

The film was adapted by Wesley Strick from the original
screenplay ''ScreenPlay'' is a television drama anthology series broadcast on BBC Two, BBC2 between 9 July 1986 and 27 October 1993. Background After single-play anthology series went off the air, the BBC introduced several showcases for made-for-televi ...
by James R. Webb, which was an adaptation from the novel '' The Executioners'' by John D. MacDonald. It was originally developed by
Steven Spielberg Steven Allan Spielberg (; born December 18, 1946) is an American director, writer, and producer. A major figure of the New Hollywood era and pioneer of the modern Blockbuster (entertainment), blockbuster, he is the most List of highest-grossi ...
, who eventually decided it was too violent and traded it to Scorsese to get back ''
Schindler's List ''Schindler's List'' is a 1993 American epic historical drama A historical drama (also period drama, costume drama, and period piece) is a work set in a past time period, usually used in the context of film and television. Historical dram ...
'', which Scorsese had decided not to make. Scorsese eventually agreed to do ''Cape Fear'' because Universal did support '' The Last Temptation of Christ''. Spielberg stayed on as a producer, through his
Amblin Entertainment Amblin Entertainment, Inc., formerly named Amblin Productions and Steven Spielberg Productions, is an American film production company founded by director and producer Steven Spielberg, and film producers Kathleen Kennedy (producer), Kathlee ...
, but chose not to be credited personally on the finished film. Despite having worked with Nolte in '' New York Stories'' (1989), Scorsese did not have him in mind to portray Sam Bowden and wanted
Harrison Ford Harrison Ford (born July 13, 1942) is an American actor. His films have grossed more than $5.4billion in North America and more than $9.3billion worldwide, making him the seventh-highest-grossing actor in North America. He is the recipient o ...
to play the part instead. Ford, however, agreed to do the film only if he was going to portray Max Cady. Nolte, who was interested in portraying Bowden, managed to convince Scorsese to cast him for the part. In addition,
Drew Barrymore Drew Blythe Barrymore (born February 22, 1975) is an American actress, director, producer, talk show host and author. A member of the Barrymore family of actors, she is the recipient of List of awards and nominations received by Drew Barrymore ...
and
Reese Witherspoon Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon (born March 22, 1976) is an American actress and producer. The recipient of List of awards and nominations received by Reese Witherspoon, various accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Awa ...
both auditioned for the part of Danielle Bowden and Spielberg reportedly wanted
Bill Murray William James Murray (born September 21, 1950) is an American actor and comedian. He is known for his deadpan delivery. He rose to fame on ''The National Lampoon Radio Hour'' (1973–1974) before becoming a national presence on ''Saturday Nigh ...
to portray Cady. The 6'0" Nick Nolte is taller than the 5'9" Robert De Niro, but for the movie, Nolte lost weight and De Niro developed muscles until he appeared to be the stronger man. The work of
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English filmmaker. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema. In a career spanning six decades, he directed over 50 featur ...
was also influential on the style of ''Cape Fear''. As with the 1962 film version, where director J. Lee Thompson specifically acknowledged Hitchcock's influence, strove to use Hitchcock's style, and had Bernard Herrmann write the score, Scorsese made his version in the Hitchcock manner, especially through the use of unusual camera angles, lighting, and editing techniques. Additionally, Scorsese's version has opening credits designed by regular Hitchcock collaborator
Saul Bass Saul Bass (; May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996) was an American graphic designer and Academy Awards, Oscar-winning filmmaker, best known for his design of motion-picture title sequences, film posters, and logo, corporate logos. During his 40- ...
, and the link to Hitchcock is cemented by the reuse of the original score by Herrmann, albeit reworked by Elmer Bernstein. Portions of Bass's title sequences are reused from the unreleased ending to his film '' Phase IV''.


Reception


Box office

''Cape Fear'' collected $10.5 million during its opening weekend, ranking in first place at the box office, beating out '' Curly Sue''. It would be overtaken by '' The Addams Family'' a week later, but still made another $10 million while staying ahead of ''
Beauty and the Beast ''Beauty and the Beast'' (french: La Belle et la Bête) is a fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740 in ''La Jeune Américaine et les contes marins'' ( ...
''. The film was a box-office success, making $182,291,969 worldwide on a $35-million budget.


Critical response

On
review aggregator A review aggregator is a system that collects reviews of products and services (such as films, books, video games, software, hardware, and cars). This system stores the reviews and uses them for purposes such as supporting a website where users ...
website
Rotten Tomatoes Rotten Tomatoes is an American review aggregator, review-aggregation website for film and television. The company was launched in August 1998 by three undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley: Senh Duong, Patrick Y. Lee ...
the film holds an approval rating of 74% based on 53 reviews, with an average score of 7/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Smart and stylish, ''Cape Fear'' is a gleefully mainstream shocker from Martin Scorsese, with a terrifying Robert De Niro performance." On
Metacritic Metacritic is a website that review aggregator, aggregates reviews of films, TV shows, music albums, video games and formerly, books. For each product, the scores from each review are averaged (a weighted arithmetic mean, weighted average). M ...
, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by
CinemaScore CinemaScore is a market research firm based in Las Vegas. It surveys film audiences to rate their viewing experiences with letter grades, reports the results, and forecasts box office receipts based on the data. Background Ed Mintz founded Ci ...
gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert Roger Joseph Ebert (; June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013) was an American Film criticism, film critic, film historian, journalist, screenwriter, and author. He was a film critic for the ''Chicago Sun-Times'' from 1967 until his death in 2013. In ...
gave the film three stars, commenting:


Awards and honors


In popular culture

The film was parodied in the 1993 '' Simpsons'' episode " Cape Feare", with
Sideshow Bob Robert Underdunk Terwilliger Jr., Doctor of Philosophy, PhD, better known as Sideshow Bob, is a Character (arts)#Regular, recurring and guest characters, recurring character in the animated television series ''The Simpsons''. He is voiced by Kel ...
in the role of Cady. They also pay homage to another
Robert Mitchum Robert Charles Durman Mitchum (August 6, 1917 – July 1, 1997) was an American actor. He rose to prominence with an Academy Award nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor for ''The Story of G.I. Jo ...
film '' The Night of the Hunter'' in which Sideshow Bob's knuckles (scaled down for a cartoon character with one fewer finger on each hand) say "Luv" (Love) and "Hāt" (Hate, with the
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter (alphabet), letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek (, "distinguishing"), from (, "to distinguish"). T ...
al mark providing the long vowel). This parody was itself the basis for Anne Washburn's play '' Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play'', which imagines post-apocalyptic theatre troupes attempting to recreate the episode, and by extension the two films and the novel. The film was parodied as ''Cape Munster'' in the premiere episode of '' The Ben Stiller Show'', with
Ben Stiller Benjamin Edward Meara Stiller (born November 30, 1965) is an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker. He is the son of the comedians and actors Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Stiller was a member of a group of comedic actors colloquially known as ...
playing an adult Eddie Munster. The film was the inspiration for
professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a form of theater that revolves around staged wrestling matches. The mock combat is performed in a ring similar to the kind used in boxing, and the dramatic aspects of pro wrestling may be performed both in the ring or ...
Dan Spivey's character Waylon Mercy in the
World Wrestling Federation World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., doing business as, d/b/a as WWE, is an American professional wrestling promotion. A global integrated media and entertainment company, WWE has also branched out into other fields, including WWE Studios, fil ...
(now WWE) in 1995, and subsequently for professional wrestler
Bray Wyatt Windham Lawrence Rotunda (born May 23, 1987) is an American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler. He is currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the SmackDown (WWE brand), SmackDown brand under the ring name Bray Wyatt. Rotunda is ...
's original
The Wyatt Family The Wyatt Family was an American professional wrestling Stable (professional wrestling), stable in WWE originally composed of Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, and Brodie Lee, Luke Harper. The Wyatt Family debuted in WWE's then Farm team#Professional wre ...
character in WWE in 2012.


See also

* List of films featuring home invasions * List of 1991 box office number-one films in the United States * ''Night and the City'', another remake also starring De Niro and Lange


References


Further reading

* Thain, Gerald J. 2001. "Cape Fear, Two Versions and Two Visions Separated by Thirty Years.
''Law and Film: Representing Law in Movies''
edited by S. Machura and P. Robson. Cambridge:
Blackwell Publishing Wiley-Blackwell is an international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons. It was formed by the merger of John Wiley & Sons Global Scientific, Technical, and Medical business with Blackwell Publish ...
. .


External links

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