RARA-AVIS: Re: Cape Fear (1962, 1991)

From: Chris Schneider ( chrisaschneider@earthlink.net)
Date: 13 Jun 2003

> on 6/12/03 9:40 PM, William Denton at buff@pobox.com wrote:

> Is De Niro as menacing as Mitchum [in the "Cape Fear" remake]?

      He's just as "menacing," yes, but the thing is that we *expect* De Niro to be menacing, so the shock of it all isn't nearly as great.

      One of the best scenes in the '91 "Cape Fear" is when De Niro is
"making nice" -- i.e. threatening -- with the lawyer's daughter (Juliette Lewis) at her school. It's in the school's auditorium, where they've been rehearsing a stage version of "Little Red Riding Hood," and we can see the set representing Grandma's House in the background. De Niro is, clearly, The Wolf and Lewis is Threatened Innocence -- or are they? That's the sort of level on which the scene works.

> Are the endings the same? In the 1962 version, the lawyer beats Cady in the
> climactic fight, but doesn't shoot him: he saves him for the police
> and for justice.

      Without giving away too much information about it ... De Niro is given an operatic death-scene of his own, although that death is attributable to neither the lawyer (Nick Nolte) nor to a triumph of justice. And then, after the death, we return to some "voice-over" narration from Lewis, narration that's deliberately non-emotional in the manner of young Linda Manz in Malick's "Days of Heaven."

                                 * * *

      I've always been fond of the '62 "Cape Fear." When the remake came around, though, and people started clucking their tongues, my position became: The first one was good, yes, but it definitely had room for improvement. Hence the virtue of the '91 version's having Scorses, a master, rather than a hack like J. Lee Thompson at its helm.

      In a lot of ways, Version #1 could be seen as Hitchcock Once Removed, since it had the same studio (Universal) and composer (Bernard Herrmann) and editor (George Tomasini) as well as at least one actor (Martin Balsam) as
"Psycho." And the look of both films was, of course, early-'60s b&w.

      You could also, for that matter, compare the two of 'em to another
"early'60s b&w" thriller: Blake Edwards' fine "Experiment In Terror." In that case, it's young Stephanie Powers as a *sister*, rather than a daughter, who's being threatened ...

                                * * *

       I'll continue to express affection for the Scorsese "Cape Fear" because, among other things, the audience gets more of a sense of the tensions eating away at the lawyer's family before Max Cady shows up.
(Translation: less screen-time devoted to hokey "innocence.") That, plus the mere presence of blessed Illeana Douglas in the Barrie Chase role, is enough to make this viewer happy.


    P.S. A Chastening Thought: The wife in the '62 "Cape Fear," Polly Bergen, turned into the villainess of John Waters' "Cry-Baby." Try contemplating, if you will, the distance between those two points.

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 13 Jun 2003 EDT