Cape Fear (1991): Scorsese’s Version, Starring Nick Nolte, Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange

Universal (Amblin Entertainment)

Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake is inferior in every way to the original black-and-white film made by J. L. Thompson in 1962.

Scorsese pays homage to the original, casting that film’s actors, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam, in cameo roles.

The music by Elmer Bernstein also pays tribute to the original and brilliant Bernard Herrmann score.

Judged on its own merits, the film is too excessive and baroque, prompting some critics to compare it to the work of Brian De Palma.

The plot is the same: Robert De Niro, a psychotic former con decides to take revenge on the lawyer (Nick Nolte) that prosecuted him and sent him to prison.

To that extent, he begins to stalk the lawyer’s dissatisfied wife (Jessica Lange, playing an impossible, incoherent role) and seduce his vulnerable daughter (Juliette Lewis) in what amounts to the best scene in the picture, set in school.

Production values, especially cinematography by Freddie Francis and editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, are good, and the film is quite effective in generating tension and suspense.

But overall, this is an unpleasant picture—you don’t root for or empathize with any of the family members—that takes too long to reach its excessively brutal and violent climax.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Actor: Robert De Niro

Supporting Actress: Juliette Lewis

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actor Oscar was Anthony Hopkins for “The Silence of the Lambs,” which also won Best Picture.

Mercedes Ruehl won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “The Fisher King.”