I have another first.
This would be the first Scorsese movie that I would be allowed to see. Scorsese was a name that my mother was aware of. I was not. She kept it from me as long as she could, but she knew I’d eventually find out about him.
It was her fault.
She had seen the original “Cape Fear (1962),” with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. I’m sure she was curious about what Mr. Scorsese had to say about that story. I watched it with my mom and dad (my little brother was still too young). It was a hard movie to watch with my parents in the room.
My mother struggles with the infamous “F” word being used in movies. One thing I learned very quickly about a Scorsese picture…he likes characters that are comfortable with that word. So, for every “F,” there would be a sigh of disgust and judgment from my mother…
It was distracting…don’t mention the rape scene–that’s hard to watch without a judgmental mother in the room. #Horrifying.
In the original story, Peck plays the hero and Mitchum helms the role of one of the greatest villains to fill the screen, Max Cady. Mitchum did a good job with it…De Niro did what he always does…made it ten times better.
The story starts with Cady being released from prison. He is a monster of a man, De Niro was back in “Raging Bull” shape for this picture and now he dawns some haunting prison tattoos all over his torso. With no dialogue, we’re already aware that we need to be facing this character at all times. Cady starts to subtly creep and stalk Sam Bowden (played by the always underrated Nick Nolte) and we soon learn that all those years ago, Bowden defended Cady and fudged some of the evidence, intentionally, knowing that Cady was guilty and needed to be in prison. Cady of course, discovers this in prison when he starts to become obsessed with the state laws and has read every book that he has on the law, committing them to memory–at least the ones that will aid him in his justification and plot for revenge.
In the original, there is a brief moment in which Peck’s past judgment with how he handled the Cady defense all those years ago, upsets the unit of his family…In the Scorsese film, it is a black cloud that lingers throughout the picture and probably after…This is where the Scorsese film brings a sense of reality and tension to a new level as we have a family (Jessica Lange is Bowden’s wife and Juliette Lewis is their daughter) that is in danger together, but also does not trust each other.
Cody quickly escalates from stalker to dangerous threat when the family realizes that their dog has now been murdered…and that’s just the start of the terror. If I had to put a label on this movie, I think it would be psychological thriller; if someone labeled it horror and watched it every Halloween, I wouldn’t put up a fight.
Because of the graphic material, it was not a movie that I wanted to re-visit right away. You have to give pictures like that some time to settle. I did watch it again and I find it to be so stressful and suspenseful still, even when I know what will come next. This is a testament to the atmosphere that Scorsese developed with the screenwriters, cinematography (tone), and last but not least, everyone of the amazing performances in this film.
Remember, always face Cady when he walks through a room. #WildCard…to say the least.