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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cape Fear (1991): Special Edition
Cape Fear (1991): Special Edition
Universal // R // September 18, 2001
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 14, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"Cape Fear" is director Martin Scorsese's remake of the 1962 original, directed by J. Lee Thompson. The now oft-parodied story (especially on a certain animated television show) still remains one of the creepiest horror pictures, whether it be the original or Scorsese's update. The film revolves around Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), a lawyer who finds his family unit breaking apart - he and his wife are not getting along and his daughter is becoming distressed at watching her parents argue.

Things get ever worse, though. A criminal named Max Cady (Robert Deniro) is just ending his 14-year stay at a correctional facility. He thinks that his defense was not all it could be, though. As a result, he comes after his lawyer - Bowden. Cady appears everywhere; at a parade, outside his house, everywhere. He doesn't actually commit any crimes or trespass, he simply pushes himself upon the family.

Scorsese could have made this simply a cat-and-mouse thriller with a few good (and very good) scares, but being the incredible filmmaker that he is, he also goes through the issues that all of the characters face and develops each one of them. It's also worth noting that the actors give marvelous performances. Nolte is at his very best as the father, a superb performance of remarkable intensity that I haven't seen from him since. Jessica Lange is also wonderful as the wife, as is Juliette Lewis as the daughter. As for Deniro, he creates a character of remarkable evil as Cady.

As good as "Cape Fear" is at times, I wouldn't consider it Scorsese's best. Apparently, the director wanted to make a thriller and found the material and characters might make for an interesting exploration. Working with a larger budget (34m), an outstanding cast and one of the best cinematographers (Freddie Francis), he succeeds well in creating a terrifying and well-done thriller.


The DVD

VIDEO: Universal presents "Cape Fear" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and the transfer is THX approved, as well. If it wasn't for a few very minor concerns, this would be one of the studio's best recent works. The presentation offers extremely smooth, sharp and detailed image quality. Freddie Francis ("Glory")'s cinematography is not only gorgeous, but uses every inch of the 2.35:1 frame. His terrific compositions are done justice with Universal's fine work here.

The only problem that keeps this presentation from perfection are a few moments where edge enhancement is visible. Otherwise, I saw no instances of print flaws, as Universal seems to have used a pristine new print free of wear. I didn't notice any pixelation or other flaws throughout the viewing experience, either.

Colors appeared terrific throughout the movie, looking well-saturated, bright and bold. Flesh-tones also appeared accurate and natural. A really, really fine work from Universal. Also, I'd like to thank director Scorsese for his promotion of the benefits of viewing films in the widescreen format.

SOUND: "Cape Fear" is presented in both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1. The film is not a particularly agressive surround-sound presentation, with only a few minor exceptions. The film really doesn't need any of that though, as the Elmer Bernstein revisiting of the Bernard Hermann score is scary enough to add tension in overwhelming amounts. That score has never sounded better than it does here. The haunting piece that plays as Deniro's character exits jail early on sounded jaw-droppingly good, especially in DTS. Some other surround effects do pop up now and then, but I was mainly pleased to hear the score have such tremendous presence, really taking hold of the listening space. Audio quality is quite good, as, again, the score sounded incredibly rich, deep and powerful, while dialogue sounded clear and clean. The DTS version seemed to render subtle details better and offer the score with greater impact.

MENUS:: The only minor fault that I have with the DVD is that the menus could have been really eerie and superbly creepy. Instead, they simply re-use the cover art and aren't animated.

EXTRAS:: I consider myself largely aware of what is coming out in terms of releases and features, but I must admit that I wasn't aware that this release was a 2-DVD Set.

Making of Cape Fear: This is a newly created 80 minute documentary is a terrific exploration of the production of the picture. As with all of the efforts done by DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau, this is a great and informative piece that explores the arc of the project. We first learn more about what attracted the director to the project as well as the original people involved (we learn that Spielberg was once considering directing), working with the actors and the issues regarding production itself. There's not a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage, but there is some and also the occasional production stills. Interviews are included with the Scorsese, Nolte, producer Barbara De Fina, Lewis, production designer Henry Bumstead and many other folks. The documentary is mainly made up of interviews and certainly, they aren't "promotional", they really bring a great deal of insight and understanding into how the picture came to be.

Deleted Scenes: These are deleted or extended snippets that are available to view, unfortunately without additional commentary by director Scorsese. I'd be willing to guess that they're simply deleted due to time and pace issues.

Parade Sequence: This is a very interesting little featurette that combines clips from the scene in the film with behind-the-scenes snippets of the scene being prepared and filmed. Very well-edited and often seamless, this is really superbly done.

Houseboat: This is another short featurette that shows the actors goofing around in rehearsal, then doing the houseboat sequence for real, with full-on water involved. It's always interesting to see what these scenes actually looked like on-set, though.

Matte Paintings: A fascinating montage, this shows several scenes before-and-after background plates were added in.

Also: Photograph montage, theatrical trailer, production notes, cast/crew bios, DVD-ROM features, DVD Newsletter and Recommendations.

Final Thoughts: "Cape Fear" is a great effort from Scorsese, a well-performed and horrifying psychological thriller. Universal has also gone through all the stops for the DVD edition, providing a well above-average presentation and superb supplements. Highly Recommended.

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