Cape Fear (1991)

R | 128 mins | Drama | 13 November 1991

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HISTORY

The film is bookended by scenes in which “Danielle Bowden” recites a reminiscence of the incident at Cape Fear that she wrote for a school assignment.
       A 31 Jul 1990 HR news item announced Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment would produce a re-make of Cape Fear (1962, see entry) with Robert De Niro starring as “Max Cady.” Martin Scorsese and Robert Redford were said to be “extremely interested.” While Redford did not ultimately sign on for the role of “Sam Bowden,” Scorsese was persuaded to direct by Spielberg and De Niro, as stated in a 17 Feb 1991 LAT article. Prior to Scorsese’s involvement, Stephen Frears and Donald Westlake reportedly collaborated on an earlier version of the script. Screenwriter Wesley Strick was brought on, despite initially arguing he was not the best writer for the project.
       According to a 31 May 1999 People item, actress Reese Witherspoon auditioned for the role of Danielle Bowden before Juliette Lewis was cast. Actors Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam, all of whom appeared in the 1962 version, were cast in cameo roles. Peck reportedly took a break from filming Other People’s Money (1991, see entry) in Los Angeles, CA, to shoot his scenes in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
       Principal photography began 19 Nov 1990, as stated in the 30 Oct 1990 HR production chart, with a shooting schedule of seventeen weeks, according to production notes in AMPAS library files. The 17 Feb 1991 LAT noted Cape Fear was Scorsese’s first film to be shot in 2.35:1 “scope” aspect ratio.
       In South Florida, a ten-acre estate ... More Less

The film is bookended by scenes in which “Danielle Bowden” recites a reminiscence of the incident at Cape Fear that she wrote for a school assignment.
       A 31 Jul 1990 HR news item announced Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment would produce a re-make of Cape Fear (1962, see entry) with Robert De Niro starring as “Max Cady.” Martin Scorsese and Robert Redford were said to be “extremely interested.” While Redford did not ultimately sign on for the role of “Sam Bowden,” Scorsese was persuaded to direct by Spielberg and De Niro, as stated in a 17 Feb 1991 LAT article. Prior to Scorsese’s involvement, Stephen Frears and Donald Westlake reportedly collaborated on an earlier version of the script. Screenwriter Wesley Strick was brought on, despite initially arguing he was not the best writer for the project.
       According to a 31 May 1999 People item, actress Reese Witherspoon auditioned for the role of Danielle Bowden before Juliette Lewis was cast. Actors Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam, all of whom appeared in the 1962 version, were cast in cameo roles. Peck reportedly took a break from filming Other People’s Money (1991, see entry) in Los Angeles, CA, to shoot his scenes in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
       Principal photography began 19 Nov 1990, as stated in the 30 Oct 1990 HR production chart, with a shooting schedule of seventeen weeks, according to production notes in AMPAS library files. The 17 Feb 1991 LAT noted Cape Fear was Scorsese’s first film to be shot in 2.35:1 “scope” aspect ratio.
       In South Florida, a ten-acre estate served as the location for the “Bowden” home, and Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, FL, was shut down for three days of exterior filming, as noted in a 14 Dec 1990 HR item. On 16 Feb 1991, production moved to Miami, FL, where courthouse interiors and exteriors were shot. The climactic houseboat sequence was filmed last on a soundstage built for the production, with a ninety-foot water tank and two full-size “mock-ups” of the houseboat. The sequence was initially expected to take two weeks, but production notes stated it required four weeks.
       Makeup artist Ilona Herman worked with filmmakers and Robert De Niro to select Bible verses for “Max Cady’s” tattoos. Verses included “The Lord is the avenger” and “Vengeance is mine,” as noted in a 24 Nov 1991 LAT brief. A specialist in jailhouse tattoos was consulted on lettering, and the tattoos took an hour and a half to apply.
       The budget was cited as $30 million in the 14 Dec 1990 HR. However, the 17 Feb 1991 LAT later reported production costs of $34 million.
       The film utilized Bernard Herrmann’s original score for the 1962 Cape Fear, adapted, re-orchestrated and re-cued by Elmer Bernstein.
       According to a 25 Oct 1991 HR item, a work-print version was screened at ShowEast, where exhibitors had a “tremendous reaction” to it. On 6 Nov 1991, the film premiered at a black-tie benefit screening at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theater. The event raised money for the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.
       Cape Fear opened Wednesday, 13 Nov 1991, on ten screens in New York City; Los Angeles, CA; Toronto, Canada; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. The 18 Nov 1991 HR “Hollywood Report” column stated the release would expand to 921 screens on 15 Nov 1991, and 1,400-1,500 screens by the following weekend. To correspond with the release, MCA/Universal Home Video repackaged the home video version of the 1962 original, with an estimated 400-500 copies set to be ordered by Tower Video, according to the 10 Nov 1991 LAT.
       Despite mixed critical reception, the 23 Dec 1991 DV announced Cape Fear had surpassed The Color of Money (1986, see entry) to become Martin Scorsese’s top grossing film, to that time, with box-office earnings of over $53 million. The film’s final domestic box-office gross was cited as $79 million in the 20 Jul 1992 LAT.
       Robert De Niro and Juliette Lewis received Academy Award nominations for Actor in a Leading Role and Actress in a Supporting Role, and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.
       In a 2 Dec 1991 LAT editorial piece, screenwriters Nicholas Kazan, Robin Swicord, and Michael Tolkin came to the defense of writer Wesley Strick, whose work on Cape Fear was discussed in a 17 Nov 1991 LAT story that included interviews with Martin Scorsese and actress Jessica Lange. Scorsese claimed to have hated the script the first three times he read it and to have insisted on twenty-four drafts, while Lange asserted she and Nick Nolte improvised a lot of their scenes because “the roles really weren’t there.” Kazan, Swicord, and Tolkin argued that Scorsese would not have continued to work with Strick on so many drafts if he did not have faith in him, and lamented the frequency with which Hollywood screenwriters were “routinely discredited.”
       End credits include “Special Thanks” to the Florida Film Bureau and the Broward Economic Development Council, Inc.-Film & Television Office, and note the following music video and film clips were used: “‘The Bog,’ performed by Bigod 20, courtesy of Sire Records Company; ‘The Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon,’ performed by The Cramps, courtesy of Enigma Records; ‘Been Caught Stealing,’ performed by Jane’s Addiction, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.; ‘Problem Child’ and ‘All that Heaven Allows,’ courtesy of Universal Pictures.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1991.
---
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1991.
---
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1991
p. 2, 10.
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1991
p. 5, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Feb 1991
Calendar, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1991
Calendar, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1991
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Nov 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Nov 1991
Section F, p. 31.
Los Angeles Times
2 Dec 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jul 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
13 Nov 1991
p. 17.
People
31 May 1999.
---
Variety
11 Nov 1991
p. 53.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Amblin Entertainment in association with
Cappa Films and
Tribeca Productions presents
A Martin Scorsese picture
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Best boy
Rigging gaffer
Elec
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Rigging grip
Addl cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Loader
Underwater dir of photog, 2d unit "burn shoot" and
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Lead set dresser
Standby set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Propman
Const coord
Const foreman
Head scenic artist
Scenic foreman
Standby painter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Greensman
Greensman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus score
Bernard Hermann's orig score adpt, arr, & cond by
Mus scoring mixer
Mus consultant
Mus ed, Triad Music, Inc.
Asst mus ed
Orch contractor
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Supv dial ed
Re-rec mixer
Foley supv
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Sd eff rec
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Sd cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title seq by
Title seq by
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Miniature spec eff supv by
Miniature spec eff, Filmed at
Prod, Miniature spec eff, The Magic Camera Company
Dir of photog, Miniature spec eff, The Magic Camer
Art dir, Miniature spec eff, The Magic Camera Comp
Prod mgr, Miniature spec eff, The Magic Camera Com
1st cam op, Miniature spec eff, The Magic Camera C
2d cam op, Miniature spec eff, The Magic Camera Co
Matte paintings and spec opt eff
Matte paintings and spec opt eff, Illusion Arts
Matte paintings and spec opt eff, Illusion Arts
Matte artist, Matte paintings and spec opt eff, Il
Matte photog, Matte paintings and spec opt eff, Il
Opt photog, Matte paintings and spec opt eff, Illu
Prod mgr, Matte paintings and spec opt eff, Illusi
Matte spec rigging, Matte paintings and spec opt e
Opt eff by
MAKEUP
Mr. De Niro's makeup and hair
Mr. Nolte's makeup and hair
Ms. Lange's makeup
Ms. Lange's hairstylist
Hairstylist
Spec eff makeup
Spec burn makeup
Asst spec burn makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Scr supv
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Post prod accountant
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst to Mr. Scorsese
Asst to Ms. De Fina
Asst to Mr. De Niro
Asst to Mr. Nolte
Mr. De Niro's personal fitness trainer
Speech and dial coach
Speech and dial coach
Field research
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Marine coord
Transportation capt
Co-capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Paramedic
Paramedic
Tech coord, 2d unit "burn shoot" and live action u
Principal casting asst
Unit pub
Title prod supv
Craft service
Post prod facilities
Tatoos by
"Benjamin" owned by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double for Mr. De Niro
Stunt double for Mr. Nolte
Stunt double for Ms. Lange
Stunt double for Ms. Lewis
Stunts
Stunts
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
COLOR PERSONNEL
Lab coord, Technicolor
Col timing
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the screenplay Cape Fear by James R. Webb (Universal-International Pictures, 1962) and the novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald (New York, 1958).
SONGS
“Tipitina,” written by Alice Byrd, performed by Professor Longhair, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Don’t Mess With The Voodoo,” written by Graham Drout, Bob Hamphill, Nick Kane, and Joe Smith, performed by Iko Iko, from “Snowstorm In The Jungle,” on Kingsnake Records
“Per Te D’Immenso Giubilo,” from the opera Lucia Di Lammermoor-Donizetti, courtesy of Everest Records
+
SONGS
“Tipitina,” written by Alice Byrd, performed by Professor Longhair, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Don’t Mess With The Voodoo,” written by Graham Drout, Bob Hamphill, Nick Kane, and Joe Smith, performed by Iko Iko, from “Snowstorm In The Jungle,” on Kingsnake Records
“Per Te D’Immenso Giubilo,” from the opera Lucia Di Lammermoor-Donizetti, courtesy of Everest Records
“Do Right Woman-Do Right Man,” written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman, performed by Aretha Franklin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Patience,” written and performed by Guns N’ Roses, courtesy of Geffen Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 November 1991
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 6 Nov 1991 at Ziegfeld Theater; Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 Nov 1991
Production Date:
began 19 Nov 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc., & Amblin Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 December 1991
Copyright Number:
PA545932
Physical Properties:
Sound
Spectral recording Dolby Stereo SR™ in selected theatres
Color
Widescreen/ratio
2.35:1
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
128
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31467
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After serving fourteen years for assault, Max Cady is released from prison. He goes to the small town of New Essex, North Carolina, in search of Sam Bowden, the public defender who represented him at trial. Cady begins to stalk Sam, his wife, Leigh, and their fifteen-year-old daughter, Danielle. One day, Sam Bowden plays racquetball with an attractive colleague named Lori Davis. After the match, they flirt, but Sam reminds Lori he is a married man. In the parking lot, he is confronted by Cady, who menacingly recounts how many years he spent in prison after his case was lost. As he walks away, Sam overhears Cady mutter, “You’re gonna learn about loss.” That night, Sam suggests a trip to the family houseboat on Cape Fear River, but Leigh reminds him that Danielle, who was caught smoking marijuana at school, must attend summer school as a consequence. He jokes that marijuana is not such a big deal, and the two make love. Later, Leigh awakens to the sound of fireworks. She peers outside and sees Cady sitting on the wall that borders their property. She alerts her husband, but Cady is already gone when Sam looks for him. In the morning, Sam files for a restraining order against the ex-convict. He tells his colleague, Tom Broadbent, about the harassment, and confesses to burying evidence in Cady’s case: a report showing that his teenage rape victim was a promiscuous girl. Tom reprimands Sam for denying his client the best defense, but Sam argues the nature of the crime was so heinous that Cady deserved the worst possible punishment. Although he is worried Cady could have uncovered the buried report, ... +


After serving fourteen years for assault, Max Cady is released from prison. He goes to the small town of New Essex, North Carolina, in search of Sam Bowden, the public defender who represented him at trial. Cady begins to stalk Sam, his wife, Leigh, and their fifteen-year-old daughter, Danielle. One day, Sam Bowden plays racquetball with an attractive colleague named Lori Davis. After the match, they flirt, but Sam reminds Lori he is a married man. In the parking lot, he is confronted by Cady, who menacingly recounts how many years he spent in prison after his case was lost. As he walks away, Sam overhears Cady mutter, “You’re gonna learn about loss.” That night, Sam suggests a trip to the family houseboat on Cape Fear River, but Leigh reminds him that Danielle, who was caught smoking marijuana at school, must attend summer school as a consequence. He jokes that marijuana is not such a big deal, and the two make love. Later, Leigh awakens to the sound of fireworks. She peers outside and sees Cady sitting on the wall that borders their property. She alerts her husband, but Cady is already gone when Sam looks for him. In the morning, Sam files for a restraining order against the ex-convict. He tells his colleague, Tom Broadbent, about the harassment, and confesses to burying evidence in Cady’s case: a report showing that his teenage rape victim was a promiscuous girl. Tom reprimands Sam for denying his client the best defense, but Sam argues the nature of the crime was so heinous that Cady deserved the worst possible punishment. Although he is worried Cady could have uncovered the buried report, he has doubts because he was illiterate at the time of the trial. Later, as Sam walks downtown, Cady drives alongside him in a convertible. The ex-convict informs Sam that he learned to read in prison, and after studying several law books, represented himself in appeals court. Sam suggests Cady wants a bribe and offers him $10,000 to go away, but Cady argues that money could never compensate for him getting raped in prison and being cut off from his young daughter. He remarks that Sam cannot comprehend his loss, then drives away. Back at his office, Sam gets a frantic call from Leigh, who informs him their dog has been poisoned to death. Behind a two-way mirror at the police station, Sam identifies Cady as the suspect. When Cady is strip-searched, Sam is disturbed by the tattoos covering his muscular body, many of them Bible quotes relating to vengeance. Cady is fined for poisoning the dog. Back in town, he stalks the Bowdens at a parade. Sam misses a racquetball date with Lori Davis, who gets drunk in an attempt to forget about him. At a bar, she is seduced by Cady, who claims he was arrested while protesting a nuclear power plant. She takes him back to her apartment, where he brutally beats and rapes her. In the morning, Sam visits a disfigured Lori at the hospital. Although he urges her to testify against Cady, she is too embarrassed to admit the details of her drunken night, or her unrequited love for Sam, in front of colleagues in court. Sam hires private investigator Claude Kersek to follow Cady. Meanwhile, Leigh’s suspicions are aroused when she learns Cady’s rape victim was Sam’s female colleague. She confronts her husband, who has been unfaithful in the past, but he insists there was no affair and tells her Cady is trying to drive the family apart. The next day, Cady approaches Leigh outside the Bowdens’ home to return her dog’s collar. When she realizes who he is, she tells him he is repulsive. Danielle appears in the yard, and Cady speeds away. That night, Cady calls Danielle, pretending to be her new drama teacher. He guesses that she is struggling with her burgeoning sexuality, and her parents’ unwillingness to treat her like an adult, and encourages her to use those emotions in her acting. He tells her that the class has been moved to the theater. The next day, she shows up at the theater, but finds only Cady onstage. Danielle cautiously approaches, and he offers her the marijuana cigarette he is smoking. She takes a puff from the joint, and confesses that she thought a lot about what he said on the phone. Eventually, she realizes he is the man who has been following her family. However, Cady promises not to hurt her and lures her in for a kiss. That night, after learning Danielle was approached by Cady, Sam takes Claude Kersek up on his offer to hire three thugs to attack him. However, when they jump him in a parking lot, Cady easily overpowers them. After secretly wiretapping himself, Cady uses a recording of Sam’s threats to obtain a restraining order. His attorney, a top criminal defense lawyer named Lee Heller, suggests Sam should be disbarred. Abandoning his faith in the legal system, Sam works with Kersek to devise a scheme to lure Cady to the house, since it would be lawful to shoot him if he were to break in. Sam pretends to leave town on a business trip but hides inside with Kersek, who rigs trip wires to the windows and doorknobs and stands guard overnight. When a wire is tripped, Kersek goes to investigate, but is relieved to find the maid, Graciela, in the kitchen. However, it is Cady dressed in a wig and Graciela’s clothes. Cady strangles Kersek, whose gun goes off. Sam, Leigh, and Danielle run downstairs to investigate and find both Graciela and Kersek dead. Sam takes Kersek’s gun, loads the family in the car, and drives to Cape Fear. Unknown to Sam, Cady is strapped to the car undercarriage. From a payphone, Sam calls police lieutenant Elgart and informs him of the murders and his family’s whereabouts. The Bowdens load groceries onto their houseboat and sail down the Cape Fear River. That night, a storm hits, and Sam goes to check the anchor. Cady pounces on him from the roof of the houseboat and strangles him until he loses consciousness. Cady goes below deck, where Danielle tries to stop him by hurling boiling water in his face. Unfazed, Cady locks her in a lower compartment, where she finds lighter fluid and hides it in her waistband. He handcuffs Leigh to a railing, and drags Sam, now conscious, into the kitchen. When he brings Danielle back into the room, Leigh tries to discourage him from raping her. As he lights a cigar, Danielle douses Cady with lighter fluid and his head catches on fire. He screams and jumps into the river, but pulls himself back on the boat. As the storm intensifies, he accuses Sam of burying the victim report, and Sam admits to it. At gunpoint, Cady instructs Danielle and Leigh to strip their clothes and get on their knees. The boat is rocked, and Cady is thrown. Leigh and Danielle escape by jumping into the river. Sam gets hold of Cady’s handcuffs and cuffs him to a pole. Cady fires two shots at Sam but misses. The boat is smashed to pieces, and Sam is thrown overboard. He washes up on the riverbank and sees Cady, still cuffed to a large chunk of the boat. He goes to smash Cady’s head with a rock but misses. The tide carries Cady back into the river, where he drowns. Later, Danielle says she and her parents do not discuss the incident, claiming that to live in the past is to “die a little every day.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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