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Cape Fear (1991)

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

Director:

Martin Scorsese

Writers:

John D. MacDonald (novel), James R. Webb (earlier screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
1,710 ( 49)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Max Cady
Nick Nolte ... Sam Bowden
Jessica Lange ... Leigh Bowden
Juliette Lewis ... Danielle Bowden
Joe Don Baker ... Claude Kersek
Robert Mitchum ... Lieutenant Elgart
Gregory Peck ... Lee Heller
Martin Balsam ... Judge
Illeana Douglas ... Lori Davis
Fred Dalton Thompson ... Tom Broadbent
Zully Montero Zully Montero ... Graciella
Craig Henne Craig Henne ... Prisoner
Forest Burton Forest Burton ... Prisoner
Edgar Allan Poe IV Edgar Allan Poe IV ... Prisoner
Rod Ball ... Prisoner
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Storyline

Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte)is a small-town corporate attorney/"Leave It to Beaver" type family-man. Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is a tattooed, cigar-smoking, bible-quoting, rapist. What do they have in common? Fourteen years, ago Sam was a public defender assigned to Max Cady's rape trial, and he made a serious error: he hid a document from his illiterate client that could have gotten him acquitted. Now, the cagey, bibliophile Cady has been released, and he intends to teach Sam Bowden and his family a thing or two about loss. Written by James Craver

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Bowden family has moved to New Essex. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, and for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 November 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cabo de miedo See more »

Filming Locations:

Florida, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$79,100,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$103,200,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (as Dolby Stereo SR)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first film Martin Scorsese shot in the wider 2.39:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to the taller 1.85:1 ratio in which he had filmed all his previous works (excluding New York, New York (1977), which was shot in 1.66:1). For years, he held off shooting his movies in 2.39:1 in fear of pan-and-scan destroying his image. However, by 1991 he knew that widescreen home media was becoming more and more apparent. So he decided to finally shoot a movie in 2.39:1 since he knew that the movie would see a widescreen release for home media. However despite this, there was still a pan-and-scan VHS released, but along side it was a widescreen VHS and laserdisc released. And because this film saw a pan and scan VHS release, Scorsese shot his later films, The Age of Innocence (1993) & Casino (1995), in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, using the Super 35 format. See more »

Goofs

When Sam Bowden is first confronted by Max in his car, he offers to buy Max off. Max counters Sam's hypothetical $10,000 offer with, "Let's say $50,000--$50,000 into [about] 5,000 days" equals $10 per day. He meant to say 5,000 days into $50,000, which would give his daily pay rate. (The first calculation equals 1/10th of a day per dollar.) See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Danielle: My reminiscence. I always thought that for such a lovely river the name is mystifying: "Cape Fear". When the only thing to fear on those enchanted summer nights was that the magic would end and real life would come crashing in.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Later half of the credits are played to the sound of nighttime crickets. See more »

Connections

References The Case of the Howling Dog (1934) See more »

Soundtracks

Fife and Drum / Yankee Doodle Dandy
(Traditional, played during Fourth of July parade scene)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Mortal Sins
7 April 2004 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

The climaxes are emblematic of the differences between Scorcese's version and the original. In 1962, Mitchum was ordinary, ironic, sneaky. Peck was Peck. And the climax was quiet. Crickets chirped. There was no wind. Bodies crept around in black shadows or splashed together in shallow water. In this one, Nolte is a lawyer who has broken the code and DeNiro is his nemesis, tatooed, obscene, half his face burned off, a raving maniac. Not sinister, just absolutely loco. And the confrontation is situated in a howling gale, earsplitting noise, rushing rapids, the groan of fiberglass hull splitting on rocks, blood all over the place.

I don't know that one version is in any objective sense better than the other, although I vastly prefer the earlier version. I liked Mitchum's character better. He was quite ordinary in an extraordinary way. But from the beginning DeNiro seems to overplay the role. His accent, redolent of grits and red-eye gravy, seems to sit uncomfortably on him (maybe he's played in too many New York movies), whereas Mitchum's sly Southern drawl comes out oh so naturally. And that sinister grin of Mitchum's is worth a dozen lessons at the Actor's Studio.

But there is one scene in which DeNiro outdoes Mitchum in terms of sheer impact. It's when the wrecked houseboat is being swept out into the raging river with DeNiro shackled to a stanchion about to be drowned. DeNiro launches into this fit of screaming nonsense and singing gibberish hymns, insane in a way you'll never be. It's an explosive performance.

Juliette Lewis is remarkable too. Her "umms" and "ahhs" and other hesitations fit her barely nubile personality exactly. Her scene with DeNiro in the mock Schwarzwald of the high school auditorium is impossible not to admire. Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange turn in professional performances, as do the other principal actors.

I'm not sure why I like the earlier version better. Maybe because it was so awesomely simple a story compared to this one. There was good and there was evil. We all know the world doesn't work that way, but it's fascinating to watch a simple-minded tale being spun out like a well-told fairy story. This one invites us to think about things. Unlike Lori Martin in 1962, Juliette Lewis gets a temporary case of the hots for the well-read and manipulative ex-con. And unlike Peck in 1962, Nolte has committed sins. He held back information that might have helped his client, DeNiro, because he was convinced that DeNiro was guilty and should be put away. I can't figure out what Jessica Lange or the dog did, but everybody has to be redeemed anyway because of original sin. Scorcese's Catholicism may be showing.

Overall, this is flashier in every respect than the original -- more guns, more blood, more "force majeur" -- and maybe that's part of the problem. At times it looks as much like pandering to an audience of kids raised on MTV's quick cuts and sexy bodies and on Sly Stallone's action movies. I mean that at times it felt like the movie was talking down to the audience.

Still, it's an interesting movie in its own right. Not badly done. But I wish they'd stop pushing out remakes of classics. Leave well enough alone because otherwise you're liable to find yourself in Dante's Purgatorio.


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