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Cape Fear (1991)

aka Cape Fear

Directed By: 
Details: 128 mins · English · R (USA)


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Small Max Cady
Small Sam Bowden
Small Leigh Bowden
Small Danielle Bowden
Small Claude Kersek
Small Lieutenant Elgart
Small Lee Heller
Small Lori Davis
Small Tom Broadbent
No_movie_poster Graciella
Small Judge


No_movie_poster Jack G. Taylor Jr. Art Direction
Small Martin Scorsese Director
No_movie_poster Ellen Lewis Casting
No_movie_poster Thelma Schoonmaker Editor
No_movie_poster Freddie Francis Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Rita Ryack Costume Supervisor
No_movie_poster Alan Hicks Set Decoration
No_movie_poster John D. MacDonald Novel
No_movie_poster Wesley Strick Screenplay
No_movie_poster Barbara De Fina Production
Small Robert De Niro Production
No_movie_poster James R. Webb Story Contributor
No_movie_poster Thelma Schoonmaker Editing


Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) is a lawyer in the quiet town of New Essex, North Carolina. Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is a former client whom Bowden had defended fourteen years previously when he was working as a public defender in Atlanta. Cady, who was being tried for the rape and battery of a young woman, was illiterate at the time and unable to read a report Bowden had kept hidden from the court, which revealed that the victim was promiscuous. The report might have lightened Cady's sentence or even acquitted him had Bowden brought it to light. Bowden had kept it hidden because he was appalled by the sheer violence in Cady's crime and wanted him to serve a severe sentence.

After his release from prison, Cady tracks down Bowden. The former convict learned to read and studied law in prison, and even assumed his own defense, unsuccessfully appealing his conviction several times. Cady hints strongly that he has learned about Bowden burying the report, stating that the judge and prosecutor in his case did their jobs while Bowden betrayed his own client.

Several incidents involving Cady begin to impact the Bowden family, which consists of Bowden's wife Leigh (Jessica Lange) and their teenage daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis). The family dog, Ben, is mysteriously poisoned. Cady is seen at night perched on the wall just outside the Bowden property limits. Bowden attempts to have Cady arrested, but local police lieutenant Elgart (Robert Mitchum) reminds Bowden that there is no evidence Cady has committed any crime.

At a bar, Cady meets Lori Davis (Illeana Douglas), a female colleague of Bowden with whom Bowden may or may not be having a love affair. Later at her house, Cady cuffs her hands behind her back, breaks her arm, bites a chunk of flesh from her cheek and brutally rapes her. Lori refuses to press charges against Cady, fearful that she will be publicly questioned about her sexual history. Cady next approaches Danielle at her school by pretending to be her new drama teacher and goes as far as kissing her.

Bowden, finally having had enough, hires private investigator Claude Kersek (Joe Don Baker) to follow Cady. Bowden also approaches Cady in a restaurant and gives him a firm warning to leave him and his family alone or suffer the consequences. Cady refuses to give in, and he secretly tapes the conversation with a recorder hidden under the table.

Kersek eventually persuades Bowden to hire three men to beat Cady in an effort to intimidate him but, as Bowden watches from a hiding place, Cady quickly turns the tide on his attackers and viciously beats them. Cady hears Bowden from behind his hiding spot and steadily approaches him, intimidating him with psychotic ramblings and a literary quote, but decides to leave. Cady uses the recording of Bowden's threat and an exaggerated display of his own injuries to file for a restraining order against Bowden. Cady's new lawyer, Lee Heller (Gregory Peck), also files a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar, vowing to have Bowden disbarred from practicing law.

Kersek reasons that Cady may try to enter the Bowden house during Bowden's appearance at a bar hearing out of town. They fake Bowden's departure and hide in the house, hoping that Cady will break in so that he can be shot in self-defense. As they wait, Cady, disguised as the maid Graciella (Zully Montero), attacks and kills Kersek in the kitchen. Bowden, Leigh, and Dani discover his body, as well as that of Graciella. Horrified, they flee in their car to their house-boat, which is docked upstate along Cape Fear.

Cady follows them by tying himself to the chassis of the Bowdens' car. That night, he attacks the family on the boat, beating and tying up Bowden, and prepares to rape both Leigh and Dani while Bowden watches. When Leigh offers herself in Dani's place, Dani sprays Cady with lighter fluid while he lights a cigar, engulfing him in flames and causing him to jump off the boat in order to extinguish the fire. However, Cady clings to a rope tied to the boat and pulls himself back on board.

As the boat is rocked by a violent storm, Cady ferociously confronts Bowden with a mock trial. Bowden finally admits to having buried the potentially exculpatory report but counters that the woman's promiscuity was no justification to defend a rape. An enraged Cady prepares to kill Bowden, but the storm and the river's harsh current knocks Cady off his feet, allowing Bowden to gain the upper hand once the women make it to shore.

The two men fight furiously, until Bowden finally manages to use Cady's handcuffs to shackle Cady to the boat. When the boat hits a stationary rock and is destroyed, the fight continues on shore. Bowden almost crushes Cady's head with a large stone; however, a raging tide carries Cady away, as he is madly screaming in tongues. Bowden watches as the piece of boat sinks to the bottom of the river, taking the still-shackled Cady with it, and then performs a cathartic washing of his blood from his hands before rejoining Leigh and Dani further up the riverbank.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2005-08-23

DVD : 2001-09-18