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Original Vs. Remake: Cape Fear

07.16.2014by: Mike Catalano
Well, I certainly got hated on for the winner selected in our last Original Vs. Remake centering on the prequels made to The Exorcist. Everyone was on the side of the slow, boring, and not scary (IMO) Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist as opposed to the better-paced Exorcist: The Beginning. Okay, I am willing to concede... that both flicks basically sucked.

For today's Original Vs. Remake, we are taking a summer vacation to the cape. Just make sure no one with evil intent is strapped to the bottom of your car. See where I'm going with this? It's time to call up your counselor and strap on your stalking boots as O Vs. R gives you CAPE FEAR! "Come out, come out wherever you are..."

Violent psychopath, Max Cady, has been released from prison after an 8-year term. He then decides to settle down in the town of the lawyer, Sam Bowden, who testified against him and sent him to jail in the first place. Cady begins slyly stalking Bowden and his family, driving then crazy. Fearing for his family's life, Bowden must come up with a plan to end Cady for good.
Very similar to the original, Max Cady gets released from prison and heads straight to where lawyer, Sam Bowden, lives. Only this time, Bowden was actually Cady's lawyer and may have lost on purpose in order to send Max to jail. This coupled with the more sadistically maniacal manners with which Cady stalks the Bowden family make for a much more thrilling viewing experience (but the original still came first).
Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum are two of the greatest actors of all time. And Cape Fear is a glowing example. The reason this film became such a creepy classic is because of Mitchum's ease of menace and Peck's blue blood demeanor that eventually unravels. The rest of the supporting cast is fine enough.
It's f*cking De Niro. And he's playing a psycho. The performance is beyond frightening, yet you're even more scared to take your eyes off him. He wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this role for nothing. He's also backed up by powerhouse performances from Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, and fellow Oscar nominee, Juliette Lewis.
Special Effects
This was not conceived as an F/X laden movie. The best effect here is the acting of Mitchum and Peck. Sure, there are a few practical cuts and bruises, but nothing too extraordinary. Even the scenes on the Bowden's boat don't aim to show off any kinds of special effects.
Thankfully, Marty upped the bloody levels for the remake. Nothing is done explicitly. All the gore on screen happens organically and feels very real. I still can't get the image of Nick Nolte slippin on the pool of his house keeper's blood out of my head. Chills. Not to mention the exceptionally hardcore storm out on the river that the Bowdens' boat must sail through.
Seeing as how this was made in the 60's, the intensity is a more subtle brand, but nonetheless very effective. This again is credited to Mitchum's commandingly creepy performance and Peck's growing fear. A perfect example would be the scene where Mitchum stalks Peck's daughter. All he really does is follow her, yet the thought of what could occur puts you right there on the edge of your seat.
Ain't nobody gonna best Marty and Bobby when it comes to bringing the intensity! The scares in Cape's update are magnificently built up till your nerves are about to explode. De Niro is just too good at menacing. The scene with the Bowdens' house all rigged with fishing wire as they wait to see if Cady will attack is so tension-laced, you may piss yourself. And the payoff after that is just terrifying.
Hot Chicks
Polly Bergen definitely makes for a pretty cute lady of the 60's. Nothing too ridiculously hot about her, but she does have a very endearing sweetness. As for Bowden's daughter, Peggy Martin is way too young to take under consideration as a hottie. Like Max Cady, it would just be too creepy.
Jessica Lange has been sizzling on the big screen for decades and her turn in Cape Fear is no exception. Her sultry southern belle act instantly attracts Cady as well as the viewer. Then there's Juliette Lewis who exploded into the mainstream as Bowden's sweet, naive, and sexy daughter. Her scene with De Niro in the school auditorium gives a whole new, adult meaning to the phrase "thumb sucker".
J. Lee Thompson certainly knows a thing or two about subtly unsettling his audience. With very little violence and a black and white look, his film delivers the chills and keeps the audience glued to the proceedings.
It's Marty! The man has been making masterful cinema for over 45 years! And Cape Fear is another fantastic feather in his cap. From Max Cady walking straight into the camera at the beginning to the complete 360 camera motion on the boat at the end, this man knows how to thrill, entertain, and enthrall. He has the greatest eye for setting up intense suspense and we're all better off for it.
Cape Fear (1991)
Oh, man, De Niro's remade Max Cady just beat the f*ck out of the original. I can just hear him shouting, "I ain't no white trash piece of shit! I'm better than that original film! I can out-fight it! I can out-think it! And I can out-last it!". Damn, I love that movie. The best thing about the 1962 Cape Fear (besides Mitchum and Peck)? That it inspired Mr. Scorsese to do the remake. However, what do you all think? Am I GUILTY of playing film favorites? Or is Scorsese's version truly hotter than a firecracker on the fourth of July? Beat them bullets below with a rope chain! And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at [email protected].



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