Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cape Fear (1962 and 1991)

Adapted for the screen twice from John D. MacDonald's novel The ExecutionersCape Fear tells the story of a convicted rapist being released after a lengthy prison term who makes it his life's mission to track down the attorney who sent him up the river (in the earlier version in was a witness who testified against him, the latter his own counsel who withheld evidence) and make his life a living hell. J. Lee Thompson directed the 1962 film which is surprisingly gritty for its time and most notable for Robert Mitchum's terrifyingly believable yet naturalistic performance (it made me wonder how close this role was to his actual persona) as the vile Max Cady. Gregory Peck is strong in the opposing role, but the character is always in the right and pretty uninteresting as a result, as are the female characters who are played by absolutely horrendous actresses. Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake serves as an improvement in almost every way: the heightened direction, photography, a screenplay involving new dynamics concerning the family, and fine performances by Nick Nolte (who takes over the Peck role), Jessica Lange, and Juliette Lewis. However, Robert De Niro as Cady is so over the top and the film ultimately turns relentessly unpleasant.