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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Cape Fear (1961): 40th Anniversary Edition

Cape Fear (1961): 40th Anniversary Edition

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Released 27-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Making Of-28:00
Gallery-Production Photographs
Theatrical Trailer-2:07
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
DVD-ROM Extras-Inter-Actual
Notes-DVD Newsletter
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 101:34
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By J. Lee Thompson

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Gregory Peck
Robert Mitchum
Polly Bergen
Lori Martin
Martin Balsam
Jack Kruschen
Telly Savalas
Barrie Chase
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Bernard Herrmann

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes, cigars!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Some films should never be remade. Some should, especially when they are remade in a different style - I really enjoy the spaghetti Westerns remakes of Japanese films, for example - A Fistful of Dollars is a marvellous remake of Yojimbo (I could have done without the second remake, though - Last Man Standing); I also rather liked the Cruel Intentions remake of Dangerous Liaisons. But some remakes are unnecessary - the original told the tale, and did so well. Consider Psycho - does anyone really think the 1998 remake is an improvement on the Hitchcock original? Maybe the rule should be that the remake must have a new name, and be in a different style?

    So it was with interest and trepidation that I started to review the two versions of Cape Fear. This is the original, and hence is the benchmark against which we'll measure the remake - you'll find the remake review here.

    This film was conceived by Gregory Peck, after reading the John D MacDonald novel The Executioners. He was working on The Guns of Navarone at the time, and he was impressed with that film's director, J Lee Thompson, so he asked him to direct this film. Peck considered "The Executioners" a bad title for the movie, so he decided to choose a geographic title. He spotted the Cape Fear River on a map, and considered it a perfect title - difficult to dispute that.

    The most important character in the film is the villain, and Peck remarked to his director that whoever got the part would steal the movie from him. Again, hard to dispute that, although a lesser actor than Robert Mitchum would probably have done it with less finesse. Besides, Gregory Peck does manage to hold his own, just.

    The story is fairly simple. A lawyer, Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), is confronted one day by an ex-convict, Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), against whom Bowden testified - Cady served over eight years in prison, and blames Bowden for it. Cady threatens Bowden and his family, and his threats are not idle - he is a violent and vicious man. Cady is hauled in by the police. Bowden is on excellent terms with the police, particularly the police captain Mark Dutton (Martin Balsam). Cady is persecuted by the police, and calls in a bleeding heart lawyer (Jack Kruschen) who threatens the police with publicity and harassment charges. The police captain recommends hiring a private detective to follow Cady and get the goods on him. Bowden hires Charley Sievers (Telly Savalas with hair!), who spots Cady with a girl, Diane Taylor (a beautiful Barry Chase), and recommends dobbing him in on a charge of lewd vagrancy (no, I don't know what that is either - I suspect it is something that no longer exists). When the police arrive they discover that Ms Taylor has been beaten (there's the suggestion of sexual abuse, but it is never said). She refuses to press charges because she is afraid of what the publicity would do to her - Bowden gets the feeling that Cady can get away with anything. When his daughter is terrorised by Cady he decides he must take more direct action, even if it means going against his strict moral code...

    This film is masterfully put together. Even though there is not a single mention of sexual assault in the script, it is quite clear what is implied. Indeed, this movie builds the tension superbly, step by step. J Lee Thompson explains, in the Making Of, that he is a great admirer of Hitchcock, and was consciously trying to emulate the master. He succeeds brilliantly - this film can stand with the best of Hitchcock's work.

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Transfer Quality


    This film was made in aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The DVD is presented in that aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is quite clear, fairly sharp, with good shadow detail and no low-level noise. There is some grain on display at times, but it's light, and just adds to the ambience.

    This film is black-and-white - we get excellent blacks, good whites, and lots of shades of grey.

    There are surprisingly few film artefacts for a film over forty years old. Oh, there are a few flecks, but nothing major. There's quite a bit of aliasing, and some serious moire (there's very strong moire at 41:55 on a finely striped shirt). There's some light MPEG shimmer, but it's negligible. This is a surprisingly clean transfer, apart from the aliasing and the moire.

    There are subtitles in fifteen languages, but I only watched the English subtitles. They are accurate, easy to read, and well-timed.

    The disc is single sided and RSDL-formatted. The layer change lies at 58:42. It's rather a good layer change, difficult to spot on most players.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The soundtrack is mono, available in five languages. I listened to the English. It's surprisingly clean - not much in the way of snap, crackle, or pop.

    The dialogue is clear and distinct. There are no audio sync issues.

    The score is strident, but it suits the movie well. Bernard Herrman's score is so appropriate that the remake uses the same music, just arranged by Elmer Bernstein.

    The mono soundtrack makes no use of the surrounds or subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static and silent. It is adorned with those icons of which Universal is so fond, but it is still easy to use.

Featurette - Making of (28:00

    This is quite a chunky little piece. It contains more that the conventional fluff - quite a bit of information about how the picture came to be, how they cast it, and so forth. Quite interesting. It was made in 2001 by Laurent Bouzereau, so the participants were talking about the film from a considerable perspective. Perhaps one might suggest that they could tell the truth, because, unlike the average Making Of,  they weren't trying to promote the film.

Production Photographs (4:48

    This is an interesting montage of stills and short clips.

Theatrical Trailer (2:07

    A very good example of what the film could have been like: pops and crackles, choppy, missing frames, lots of artefacts.

Production Notes 

    Eleven pages of text about the making of the movie.

Bios - Cast and Filmmakers 

    We get three or four pages on each of:

DVD-ROM Features 

    The DVD installs the InterActual player when placed in a DVD-ROM drive. It seems to be mainly a skin for Internet Explorer. Apart from some links to Universal sites, there seems to be nothing that is not available on a DVD player. It is unable to play the movie on my system, because I don't have DVD playing software installed - InterActual is not a player (even though it looks like one) - it just invokes the installed player.

DVD Newsletter 

    Just an advertisement for .

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 sounds to be pretty much identical to this one; same features, same quality, even down to having the same cover art.


    Cape Fear (1961) is a superbly suspenseful film presented rather well on DVD, especially considering its age.

    The video quality is quite good, but there is quite a bit of aliasing and moire.

    The audio quality is very good for a mono track.

    The extras are very interesting, and quite extensive for a film this old.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, April 29, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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