Monday, March 9, 2015

Fear Itself

Since we saw the original, we felt like we should check out Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (1991). It's both very close and completely different.

It stars Nick Nolte in the Gary Cooper role of an upstanding lawyer being menaced by Max Cady, played by Robert De Niro in the Robert Mitchum role. In the original, the lawyer is a decent man, but a bit weak and maybe corrupted. In the remake, he is weaker - he is having an emotional affair (no sex yet) with court clerk Illeana Douglas (Grace of My Heart), some of his legal cases seem a bit low, and, like in the original, he tries to get Cady rousted.

But he goes further, and hires a private eye to rough him up and then act as bodyguard - and it's Joe Don Baker! All MSTies laugh at him for his work in Mitchell, but he's pretty good in this, as the sleazy, not-as-good-as-he-thinks-he-is good ol' boy.

Then there's Nolte's wife, Jessica Lange, not the Donna Reed housewife type, but a bit of a bitch. The daughter, Juliette Lewis, is also more modern - she was suspended for marijuana and has to go to summer school. This leads to one of the most upsetting scenes, where De Niro pretends to be one of her teachers and starts seducing her. Very creepy, and not really necessary. By contrast, Mitchum's scariest scene was when he beat up the b-girl. In the remake, he beats Illeana Douglas, and it just isn't as bad.

The filming styles were completely different as well. The original used a classic black and white style with lots of location shooting. The remake used a fair amount of optical effects - turning the sky purple, etc, that gave it an almost 70s look. The southern location was bleached out - mostly office buildings and the bland mini-mansion Nolte and family lived in.

The climax on the Cape Fear River goes way over the top and kind of shows up the problem of this remake. The original was tense and dramatic, but this gets almost silly. And De Niro is suitably creepy, violent and evil, but when he starts speaking in tongues, I couldn't hang.

In conclusion, the best parts were cameos for Robert Mitchum, Martin Balsam and Gary Cooper (who was actually a little stiff). And, of course, Joe Don Baker.

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