The Film Cape Fear

This paper is a personal essay comparing two versions of the film, “Cape Fear”, a first film in 1962 directed by J. Lee Thompson in the style of Hitchcock, and the second in 1991, directed by Martin Scorsese.

This paper relates that the first “Cape Fear’s technical uses of camera angles caused many film critics to call it Hitchcockian, but this broad designation neglects another: Hitchcock’s use of suspense and his simultaneous embrace of the grotesque. The author believes that American director, Martin Scorsese, shares Hitchcock’s use of humor; but technically, Scorsese is less apt than Hitchcock to use sharp camera angles. Scorsese’s camera is more apt to linger, as well as to jump-cut. The author contends that the second Cape Fear is more horrific than the first film because the modern viewer of the 1990s and beyond is so much more apt to identify with the difficulties and complexities exhibited by the characters, as opposed to the more ‘perfect’ setting that is intruded upon in the first film.
This is not to deny the impact of J. Lee Thompson’s unique style. Scorsese and J. Lee Thompson differ from each other in that the earlier filmmaker was always apt to cast a mythological tone to his use of narrative. In contrast to both Hitchcock’s suspenseful humor and Scorsese’s suspenseful characterization and brutal view of common humanity, Thompson prefers to view the world as a morality play. Thus, the starkness of good and evil in the film is not due to the filmmaker’s naivet, but the way he reads Beauty and the Beast’s influence on the modern day justice system. ”