Friday FabOoolousness – “Vengeance is Mine”

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake.  Last month’s switch-up felt a bit uncomfortable, so we went back to our original ways—Catie reviews the original and I take on the remake.  This month we discuss Cape Fear.

Usually, I include Catie’s Homeade Summary that applies to both films.  But this time, I tweaked it just a bit to fit the 1991 release:

Sam Bowden is a small town attorney who has always relied on the legal system to dole out justice.

Max Cady  is a violent sociopath just released from prison after serving a fourteen year sentence for rape.

Cady blames Bowden for the years he lost in prison, and he’s ready to serve up some revenge.  He stalks the family, poisons the dog, and moves in on all of the women in Bowden’s life.   

But, in the eyes of the law, Bowden can’t prove Cady has done anything.  Cady has been careful to do everything but break the law.

Sam Bowden decides it’s time to make his own justice in order to stop Max Cady from destroying his family…and getting away with it.

Anytime a studio attempts to remake a classic, like it did the 1962 Cape Fear starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, they must hire the same caliber star-power.  Amblin Entertainment and Martin Scorsese did just that…

First, let’s talk about the character of Sam Bowden, played by Nick Nolte.  Sam is a lawyer in the small town of New Essex, North Carolina.  He’s married to Leigh (Jessica Lange) and they have a fifteen year old daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis).    The Bowden family seems happy in their new home, despite Dani’s normal teenage rebellion that lands her in summer school.

Sam, on the other hand, is happy for a different reason—he has a budding relationship on the side with a woman from the District Attorney’s office.  I personally found it difficult to like the patriarch in this movie—he has misrepresented a client (Cady, but more on that below), even if it was years ago; he intends to cheat on his wife, even if he hasn’t consummated the affair just yet; and he’s as arrogant as all get out.

Now, let’s talk about the character of Max Cady, played by Robert De Niro.  As always, De Niro perfects his portrayal of the crazed and vengeful Cady, angry for spending years in prison when there was evidence that potentially might have lightened his sentence.  He uses his time in jail to learn to read and fight his own appeals… and to perfect his body art.

After his release, he focuses all of his new-found knowledge on seeking revenge against the public defender who cheated him out of a fair trial.  He travels to New Essex, hunts down Sam Bowden, and plays an evil game of cat and mouse while planning his ultimate vengeance—raping Bowden’s wife and daughter.

And let me just say, there is nothing quite as creepy as a muscled-up De Niro (rumors say he worked his way down to four percent body fat for this role), hanging upside-down on a workout bar, and smiling with his mischievous grin as he talks his way into Danielle’s school day…

Catie mentions the 1962 film was controversial for its time; I wouldn’t so much say the remake was controversial, but it was dark (literally and figuratively; at times the cinematography flashed from color to x-ray or night-vision-like images), inappropriate (theater scene between Cady and Danielle), and disgusting (the “cheek” scene, for those who have already seen the movie).

As with any film, or at least it should be true of every movie, the dialogue is strong—particularly with the element of foreshadowing.

Sam to his wife… “He’s not going to do anything.  He just got out of prison.  He doesn’t want to go right back.”
Cady to Sam… “You’re gonna learn about loss.”

And then there’s the occasional line that makes you laugh, or at least say, “Huh?”

“Debauchery—it’s a three syllable word.”

Um, no; it’s not.

Then there’s the music, and much like Psycho (last months’ review), the score is creepy…

While I can’t attest to whether or not the remake is better than the original—because I shamefully haven’t seen the older of the two—the film did feature three stars from the 1962 classic: Gregory Peck, the original Sam Bowden, plays Cady’s attorney in the remake; Robert Mitchum, the original Cady, plays a police officer ; and Martin Balsam, the original Police Chief, plays a judge .  It says a great deal when the originals will come back and play a small part in a new version of a very successful film from their past—doesn’t it?

Even though I can’t claim the remake is the better of the two, Scorsese’s film is worth seeing—even if it’s for the always enjoyable Robert De Niro and young Juliette Lewis.  I vaguely remember seeing the movie in the early ‘90s when it was a new release, but I couldn’t help  but smile at the teenage pop culture references used in the film when I watched it recently—like Danielle’s Swatch telephone, the Jane’s Addiction music video, and the music of Guns N’ Roses.

Cape Fear is a great psychological thriller.  I mean, what’s worse than fearing for your own life?  Watching those around you suffer for your own actions…

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of Cape Fear?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.  And be sure to check out her blog post today – Robert Mitchum’s Life of Crime

Friday FabOoolousness: Classics That Keep Us Coming Back for More

Reading is one of the most widespread pastimes today.  Almost everyone reads something, whether it is newspapers, books in print or articles on the World Wide Web. 

Think about it – walking through the airport, what do we most commonly see? 

Someone’s nose is buried deep inside the latest fiction release or entertainment magazine, or they’re glued to one of the popular reading devices like a Kindle, Nook, Notepad, or even a smart phone.

Most works anymore are a onetime read.  But, there are materials out there that we can read over and over again – Classics.

Classics most oftentimes relate to classic works of literature, stories written decades and decades ago that most of us were introduced to in English class as mandatory reads.  Were we excited to read these stories when forced down our throats?  Maybe not.  But, do we appreciate them today?  Most of us do.

Classics can also refer to movies, particularly a few motion pictures adapted from those very same literary tales.  Of course, there are thousands of classic films that don’t retell a famous piece of literature, but for the sake of today’s post, we’re taking a look back at a few that do. 

*****

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare in the 1500’s

One of Shakespeare’s most popular works, Romeo and Juliet may be the most tragic love story ever told.  Many people have complained about reading Shakespeare, but I personally feel that his brilliant use of unrhymed iambic pentameter throughout Romeo and Juliet sends the reader back in time to the intended period and setting.  Shakespeare also connects with audiences of all generations with the universal themes of love and fate, and the destruction of the star-crossed lovers. 

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare’s tragedy was depicted into a motion picture in 1968. Sir Laurence Olivier narrated the film, while Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey played the young lovers.  The music composed by Nino Rota still gives me goose bumps when I hear it today. 

The classic was adapted again in 1996 starring two of Hollywood’s biggest young stars – Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.  This time titled, Romeo + Juliet, Shakespeare’s story is modernized while the cast still uses Shakespearean dialogue.  It’s simply wonderful. 

Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing ‘90s fun featuring Garbage, Everclear, Des’ree, Butthole Surfers, The Cardigans, and Radiohead. 

*****

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in 1861

Even though Dickens wrote Great Expectations a hundred and fifty years ago, he explores themes very prevalent to today such as social class and ambition.  The story is narrated by orphan Pip as he navigates his life from his poor childhood upbringing through a very well provided for adulthood.  He travels his journey believing that his mysterious benefactor is the wealthy and callous Miss Havisham, but later learns that it is actually the criminal he stole for as a child. 

Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule. ~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Love and tragedy represent two additional themes in Great Expectations.  Pip experiences devastation associated with every relationship in his life, whether it is with his sister, Estella, Miss Havisham, or even The Convict.   

Dickens’ novel was adapted into a British film in 1946, again into a British television series in 1989, and most recently into a modernized motion picture starring Ethan Hawke (Pip’s character was renamed to Finn), Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro, and Anne Bancroft in 1998.  While the 1998 film did not attract the same critical acclaim as its 1946 predecessor (won two Academy Awards), I personally enjoyed it. 

Much like Romeo + Juliet, the soundtrack for Great Expectations is another ‘90s great featuring artists Tori Amos, Chris Cornell, Duncan Sheik, and The Verve Pipe.

*****

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in 1960

To Kill a Mockingbird exemplifies a work beyond its time, tackling racial stereotypes, socio-economic classes, and gender roles.  The mockingbird symbolizes the loss of innocence, one of the most prevalent themes throughout the novel.   Equality amongst all men and women also carries from start to finish, a courageous act by Lee. 

I think there’s just one kind of folks.  Folks.  ~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Characters Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch captivate audiences through their bravery and strong core values.  The story not only follows the children’s acceptance of Boo Radley, a neighbor plagued with nasty town rumors, but also Atticus’ representation of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman.

Lee’s work was adapted into a film starring the great Gregory Peck, as Atticus Finch, and Robert Duvall as Boo Radley, in 1962. Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and child actress, Mary Badham was nominated for the Academy Award for best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Scout.

*****

What are some of your favorite classics that you have read over and over again?  Does your favorite work have a motion picture adaptation?  What are your thoughts on the new generation’s Romeo + Juliet and Great Expectations films?  Do you prefer the originals? Should Hollywood ever remake To Kill a Mockingbird? I’d love to hear from you!

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