Preference Required

Yes, I always favor the earlier, black-and-white version. Whenever, whatever. But I’m also convinced in this instance that the dead-eyed expression on Robert Mitchum‘s face is somewhat scarier and more malignant than the one on Robert DeNiro‘s. Right now the 1962 Bluray version (which costars Gregory Peck in the 1991 Nick Nolte role) is available only from Amazon.co.uk.


Robert Mitchum as Max Cady in J. Lee Thompson’s Cape Fear (’62).

Robert DeNiro as Max Cady in Martin Scorsese’s's Cape Fear (’91).

45 thoughts on “Preference Required

  1. Come on, seriously?

    One is a perfectly enjoyable pot boiler, lean, efficient, entertaining.

    The other is all of that, but also a deft morality play, a parable about guilt and loss of innocence, a recasting of the devil’s seduction of man — endlessly rich, rewarding and scary as hell.

    The latter very effectively masquerades as a populist thriller and a lot of folks missed its deeper resonances on its first release. Sad to see it’s still true ten years later.

  2. I recall the L.A. Weekly review for the remake. They mentioned that Mitchum, (in a cameo playing the judge), looks like, (despite his age), that he could still wipe the floor with DeNiro with barely an effort. (or words to that effect)

    I agree.

    Less histrionics, but far more menace.

  3. I haven’t seen the remake, but I’m sure it’s better than the original in almost every way except that nobody could ever and will ever match Mitchum. Guy was a GOD who should be spoken of in reverence like Bogart or Wayne.

  4. “Hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July!”

    That plus the hilariously cool shot where DeNiro is released from prison and walks right up into frame until his nose almost hits the lens.

  5. The other is all of that, but also a deft morality play, a parable about guilt and loss of innocence, Guy was a GOD who should be spoken of in reverence like Bogart or Wayne. that he could still wipe the floor with DeNiro with barely an effort.

  6. Not even close which is better. Mitchum was far more intimidating than the theatrical De Niro could be. No one says “counselor” quite like him.

  7. The original Cape Fear scared the shit of me when I was a kid. The remake was enjoyable, but a little over baked. I was disappointed it didn’t have the same impact. Sometimes less is more. Especially in cinema.

  8. Jeff’s idea of hell is being stuck behind a laughing & smoking Max Cady in a Spielberg retrospective.

    PS- why am I ALWAYS posting behind raygo? Not related I swear!

  9. Mitchum’s rejection of the peanuts because they’re not salted in the shell is one of my favorites of many wonder Mitchum moments throughout his career. His Max Cady is his first great performance since The Night of the Hunter and the last until The Friends of Eddie Coyle, 11 years later.

  10. “Hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July!”

    That plus the hilariously cool shot where DeNiro is released from prison and walks right up into frame until his nose almost hits the lens.

  11. I think it was Chris Rock who said, a big scary-looking black guy coming toward you could be a scary guy, or he could be a grade school teacher. But when a white guy looks scary, you KNOW he’s scary.

    Mitchum is a scary white guy. DeNiro is a little wiry Italian guy fucking with you.

  12. Scorsese’s movie is superior in every single way, except the Cady role. And I take nothing away from DeNiro. I think he’s fantastic but Mitchum is Mitchum and there’s little to argue on that front. Aside from that the older version has little to recommend about it. Peck is his usual stoic to a fault self and his family is straight out of the Brady Bunch. Watching the old version is akin to watching someone unleash Freddy Kruger on the cast of Leave it to Beaver.

  13. Scorsese’s film definintely affected me in my youth. It still gives me chills. That being said, I’ve yet to see the original film. I plan to, as I have much adoration for Robert Mitchum’s work. I’ve caught bits and pieces of the original on cable.

    Okay so, I’ve had a three day brain fart…

    Term for a filmmaker who wears more three or more “hats” during production. (writer, director, producer, editor, etc) There’s a word for it, I can’t remember for the life of me! Any help would be appreciated.

  14. No fucking way. Scorsese’s Cape Fear was one of the best movies of the 1990′s. I think it’s one of his top 5 movies. I used to quote that movie for years lol.

    “Do you mind if I put my arm around you?”

    (Shy, giggling) “No, I don’t mind.”

    “How much do you want?”

    “How much do I want what?”

    “How much money do you want?”

    “Counselor, do I look destitute to you?”

    DeNiro’s Max Cady was a sadistic sociopath capable of anything. Mitchum’s was just nowhere as menacing and scary as him. I couldn’t see Mitchum’s Cady biting a woman’s face off.

  15. Mitchum, J. Lee, by a mile. don’t want to get nasy, but puh leeze….

    Nicely quoted, by the way, in the wonderful Nic Roeg pic, “Track 29.”

    Now go watch “Angel Face” and see ANOTHER great Mitchum performance for the ages.

  16. Prefer Mitchum if you want, but De Niro, despite his long run of crap films, is just as high if not higher in the acting pantheon. People are acting like we’re comparing Mitchum to Nicholas Cage.

    As mentioned near the top of this thread, Scorsese’s film is superior in every way other than the debatable lead perf. And I’d argue that De Niro’s scene with Lewis in the school amphitheater is better than anything Mitchum did in his version.

    Are you people even cinema fans? J. Lee Thompson? Have you no admiration for Marty’s Hitchcock homage (those dazzling color fades) combined with some of the most amped-up camerawork of his career? The film is fucking INTENSE.

  17. No, what we’re comparing is a tight 105 minutes to an arguably more interesting and complex 128 minute version… which, however, has lost something of the stark, scary simplicity and directness of the original.

    DeNiro is a great actor, but this isn’t Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, and Mitchum is scarier just being than DeNiro is at doing.

    That said, I do like it as his Hitchcock film (down to the drab beige backgrounds of the earlier parts, which capture Universal in the 60s to a T… admittedly something Airplane! had already done), just as The Age of Innocence and The Aviator are his remakes of The Magnificent Ambersons and Citizen Kane (and the Scorsese-produced Ransom was his remake of High and Low).

  18. I think the remake is a better, richer film for sure… (the original, it can be argued, is really a glossed-up B “shock” picture common of the time, classed-up with A list actors…)

    But Mitchum would still kick DeNiro’s ass round the block

    Again, do the Super Soul test on the above pictures…

  19. “I can out-read you, I can out-think you, and I can OUT-PHILOSOPHIZE you!” “Sliesuis, 17th CENTURY!”

    Yeah, I love both versions, but just by nature of my/(our?) general age, 1991 is about as formative a year as imaginable in HUMAN HISTORY, so everything about the Scorsese version is LEGENDARY… Starting with Nolte’s incredible performance, Juliette Lewis, and the greatest non-De Niro, non-Joe Don Baker thing about the movie:

    Gregory Peck’s riotously pompous hambone courtroom declarations: “King Solomon himself could not have adjudicated more wisely.” That always cracks me up.

  20. “Prefer Mitchum if you want, but De Niro, despite his long run of crap films, is just as high if not higher in the acting pantheon. People are acting like we’re comparing Mitchum to Nicholas Cage. ”

    Prefer De Niro if you want, but Cage, despite his long run of crap films, is just as high if not higher in the acting pantheon. you’re acting like we’re comparing De Niro to [insert shitty actor here].

    Not even joking, though. No, Cage’s recent output hasn’t been “good” in the conventional sense, and only a select handful of actors (Mitchum and De Niro included) could pull of the character of Max Cady, but NO ONE could pull off anything resembling Cage’s performance in Bad Lieutenant, (short of Klaus Kinsky learning perfectly fluent English). Throw in the mix Vampire’s Kiss, Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, The Weather Man etc. and Cage has kinda sorta proven himself to be ONE OF THE BEST ACTORS WORKING (when he wants to be).

    Even in films like Face/Off, Matchstick Men, or even Wicker Man, the dude CAN make things utterly watchable even when the material isn’t all there. (And yes, I know that more often than not, he kinda sleepwalks through his roles, see Season of the Witch, Bangkok Dangerous, and most disappointingly, Drive Angry).

    So, sorry to be a DICK, but I get kinda sick of seeing people mention Cage in that dismissive ‘what a hack!’ tone when he’s actually one of the most interesting, talented actors out there, even if, yes, he is WILDLY inconsistent and his recent output is almost parodic in how trashy it is.

    Now, I bet no one is gonna read this cuz I posted too late. FUCK.

  21. If you dismiss the original as simplistic because all you’re focused on is the stodgy values and Norman Rockwell family, you’re completely missing the point. It’s not about character depth, and it’s quite easy for a modern remake to ‘update’ characters with rougher edges for a more permissive audience.

    While Scorsese’s remake interestingly tweaks these aspects in search of an angle, the need for surface compromised morality dilutes the power of the original story’s real theme. The ’62 is all about how ‘civilized’ law is not a means of protection, can only be used to redress wrongs that have already occurred, and is easily manipulated. No matter how good and ethical a man tells himself he is, his principles are useless against a force that doesn’t play by the same rules. The film illustrates this quite cleanly, and yes, this is largely due to just how goddamned fearsome Mitchum is. The remake is technically superior and piles on the showmanship, and it has its place as a balls-out thriller. But it’s certainly not better for it, in the way that counts.

  22. Not that he’s the final word on this, but how many of you have read David Thomson’s mongraph on Robert Mitchum?

    “How can I offer this hunk as one of the best actors in the movies?” he asks and then proceeds to make the case. Very well.

    After giving a rave assessment of DeNiro up to 1993, Thomson then wrote that the actor has “gone a long way to squander his own high reputation.”

    That’s either right or easier than saying, “I think I may have been guilty of overestimation.”

  23. Mitchum is better than DeNiro. This isn’t a popular opinion, but it’s TRUTH. Although, I am really interested to see Scorsese’s Cape Fear. Nolte is way better than Peck (mostly a bland actor wildly overrated).

  24. After Mitchum blew me the FUCK AWAY in Night of the Hunter, I’m incapable of finding him anything less than superior in everything I’ve seen with him since. Just…Mitchum. Cooler than pretty much anyone else and badass in a way that only a very few other actors have ever been.

    Including De Niro. I LOVE De Niro in a bunch of stuff, and he’s probably the better actor, but more menacing or innately more fucking badass than Mitchum. Not for my money.

  25. Dance Commander said, quite rightly I thought: Watching the old version is akin to watching someone unleash Freddy Kruger on the cast of Leave it to Beaver.

    And this is why I think the first movie is more effective, because his evil is so thoroughly out of their frame of reference..

    Beyond that, for all that I love Mitchum, and I love him a lot, he is usually just pushing through the paces until he can get to his next good time. De Niro is aiming for art, pretty much every time.

    But I agree that in this one instance, Mitchum is the more interesting bad guy.

  26. SS: How is pitting a still of Mitchum-as-Cady staring down his prey against a still of DeNiro-as-Cady mocking her parents’ bathos to Juliette Lewis in any way a ‘fair’ comparison?

    It’s pretty blatant deck-stacking, even if inadvertent.

  27. Of course you’re correct, Baron. I have only two things to say in my defense:

    1. When going for the cheap laugh, sometimes credibility takes the back seat. Sometimes it rides in the trunk.

    2. In fairness, I never literally said it “proves” something, only that it “says” something. The only thing I have truly proven is that it’s possible for one to simultaneously be both stupid and correct.

  28. (Er, please don’t let my reuse of the word “correct” mislead you into thinking I was talking about anyone other than myself there…)

  29. Why is it that we have to choose just one? The original more-or-less plays it straight and appears to be content “just being” a really solid genre picture (concepts Scorsese always seems to struggle with), which I think makes it more instantly satisfying — the pacing’s better (I’ve yet to see anyone successfully defend the closing 15-20 minutes of Scorsese’s version…it’s a “slog” in every sense of that word), and it’s just more flat-out “fun” for me to watch.

    Like most film buffs, I’m usually a staunch defender of raw ambition at all costs, but you have to admit that — at least at times — this “oooh, what does it really mean” approach can misguidedly detract from the story unfolding before you (incidentally, I think this is a problem that has plagued Scorsese all throughout this decade). There’s a certain point (I’d cite somewhere a little more than halfway through the flick) where De Niro — as absolutely commanding as he is in this role — becomes more of a “symbol” than an actual character, and that’s too bad.

    Having said all that, the ’91 version is an absolute juggernaut of auteurist proportions. If you are a fan of the Scorsese/De Niro canon (and who the fuck isn’t?), there are moments here that rank right alongside some of the all-time greats. The long tracking introduction shot of Cady from behind (back when having a fully-inked torso belonged more the realm of hardened cons than dweeby hipsters), the way he returns the dog collar (passive-aggression personified…the ’90s version of the Straw Dogs cat-hanging), the loud, obnoxious laughing in the movie theater (a true sign of maliciousness to any cinephile).

    Entire articles have been written about the scene in the high school auditorium where Cady essentially steals Danielle Bowden’s sexual innocence right in front of her, and for good reason. It’s almost unbearable to watch — moreso than almost all but the goriest of horror flicks — yet replace Cady with a character of Lewis’ age, and the context of the scene wouldn’t necessarily be unromantic. It’s all about the corruptive intentions boiling just underneath the surface. I think it’s a top 5 scene for everyone involved, which is saying a ton given the talent involved.

    Incidentally, I feel the same way about the two scores (Herrmann, Bernstein) as I do the films — both are equally good in their own way, in their own era.

    Kind of bittersweet that Saul Bass had 3 of his last 4 title sequences for Scorsese (last being Casino). Speaking of that film, let’s hope Marty and Bob have another collaboration left in them — almost impossible to believe that it’s been more than 15 years since their last team-up!

  30. “Prefer De Niro if you want, but Cage, despite his long run of crap films, is just as high if not higher in the acting pantheon. you’re acting like we’re comparing De Niro to [insert shitty actor here].”

    Yeah, I agree with you. I’m glad you wrote this, because I was even later to this thread than you, and even if I wasn’t — I’m not sure I would have been able to summon up the energy to build a strong defense for Cage. Which is kind of a shame because he IS a fantastic actor capable of taking risks and giving the kinds of all-out performances that few others can.

    I think the counterargument here is that Cage “went bad” around the same time as De Niro — except the latter is a full 20 years older, and hence has one very solid decade’s (70s) worth of a head start. Compare De Niro’s ’76-’86 with Cage’s ’97-’07 (when they were both peaking as leading men), and the disparity becomes a little more apparent.

    Not that it’s Cage’s fault. He just never had his Scorsese during this period — and, if he did, it was probably Jerry Bruckheimer (which might say more about the state of modern collaborative filmmaking than anything else).

  31. “Mitchum is better than DeNiro. This isn’t a popular opinion, but it’s TRUTH.”

    Eh, hyperbole can be fun (so can CAPS-LOCK), but without getting specific, it’s a little bit useless to this discussion. Did Mitchum have an inherently more intimidating screen presence? Probably. Could he have pulled off the intensely-conflicted, existentially-confused triumverate of Bickle, LaMotta, and Pupkin. All due respect to Mitchum, but not fucking likely.

    Apples and oranges. And as to which you prefer, it has more to do with your taste buds than any sort of “TRUTH.”

  32. September 11th. It also shows how the past mistakes of the U.S government has affected our generation. Im sure most people who know their US history would agree that the invasion of Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and the U.S funding of the terrorist training camps is what ultimately lead to 9/11. bandyou forfait sans engagement forfait illimite forfait sms illimite forfait internet forfait bloque numero rio rio orange rio sfr rio bouygues rio virgin forfait bloque calcul imc

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