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Cape Fear is a 1962 film directed by J. Lee Thompson. It tells the story of Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), a lawyer whose family is threatened by a convicted rapist. The rapist, Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), wants vengeance for having been imprisoned on Bowden's testimony after the latter witnessed him attempting to rape a woman. After a lengthy game of cat and mouse between the two, Bowden takes his family to their houseboat on Cape Fear, hoping to set a trap for Cady that will lead to his re-imprisonment. Needless to say, this does not go as planned.

The film was remade in 1991 by director Martin Scorsese, with Nick Nolte and Robert De Niro portraying Bowden and Cady. De Niro and Juliette Lewis received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for their performances. In this version, Cady is out to get Bowden because the latter, while defending Cady on a rape charge, allowed possibly-exculpatory evidence about the victim to remain secret, leading to Cady's conviction.

Both films contains examples of:

The 1991 remake contains examples of:

  • A God Am I: Cady claims that he is equal to God, and more than human.
  • Amoral Attorney: Gregory Peck's cameo as Cady's lawyer.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Cady is a fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian and often quotes the Bible with wide-eyed furor.
  • Ax Crazy: Cady, even more so than in the original. Particularly towards the end.
  • Badass Boast/Blasphemous Boast: Cady gives one to Bowden after beating up the thugs to a hiding Bowden.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Cady dresses as the housekeeper so he can ambush Kersek
  • Chekhov's Gun: The piano wire, the gun, and the lighter fuel.
  • Composite Character: Robert De Niro’s Cady combines the original with another famous villain played by Robert Mitchum; Sinister Minister Harry Powell.
    • Claude Kersek is a mix of Charlie Sievers and Deputy Kersek.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Cady says this after driving the thugs to Bowden.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: De Niro paid a dentist $20,000 to mess up his teeth to play long-term prison inmate Cady. Afterwards, it cost him $25,000 to have the damage fixed.
    • De Niro also had Cady's tattoos done for real (with vegetable dye, which would have faded after shooting was complete) and bulked up until he looked more physically imposing than Nick Nolte.
  • Forgotten Trope: Viewers can be somewhat mystified by the premise for why antagonist Max Cady (Robert De Niro) felt slighted by protagonist Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). At the time of release, the prior sexual history of a rape victim was a valid defense that would have lessened Cady's sentence, or might have even kept him out of jail. Nowadays, prior sexual history is inadmissable in rape cases.
  • Genius Bruiser: Cady is both in exceptionally good shape and terrifyingly smart.
  • Hate Sink: Cady.
  • Ironic Echo: In a meta-sense; where Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum played the upstanding lawyer and the sadistic rapist in the original, their cameo roles in the remake essentially place them on the opposite sides, with Mitchum playing a police detective sympathetic to Bowden's plight and Peck playing Cady's attorney.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Cady bites off a piece of Lori’s face.
  • Large Ham: De Niro, in fine form. He really lets loose the ham after being burned alive.
  • Made of Iron: Max gets beaten on for quite a while by some thugs, but as soon as he gets a weapon away from one of them, he takes them all down with ease. Later, Danielle throws some boiling water in his face, and he doesn't even blink.
  • Mauve Shirt: Graciella gets minor characterization, and her death at Casy’s hand is more impactful on the Bowden’s than a Red Shirt’s would.
  • Police Are Useless: When Bowden suspects that Cady is stalking him, the first thing he does is go to the police, but they can't do anything because they lack any evidence of wrongdoing.
  • Professional Wrestling: There wasn't any of it in the movie, but WWE based the short lived Waylon Mercy character on De Niro's portrayal of Cady.
  • Private Eye: Kersek.
  • Remake Cameo: The remake featured cameos by Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, the hero and antagonist (respectively) of the original.
  • Revenge: Cady's lust for revenge against Bowden fuels the plot and hits a lot of Revenge Tropes.
  • Slashed Throat: Cady tears Kersek’s throat open with the piano wire.
  • Tattooed Crook: Max Cady.
  • Underside Ride: Max Cady ties himself to the bottom Sam Bowden's car, causing the Bowden family to take him directly to the houseboat. This probably the most parodied element of the film.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: While it was highly unprofessional for Bowden to withhold evidence from the trial, it didn't excuse the fact that Cady had actually performed a brutal rape so Bowden felt Cady needed to serve the maximum sentence. Bowden defiantly points this out to Cady during the final confrontation. The nature of the evidence--the rape victim's sexual history--also helps with this, "shaming the victim" in such a sense being a particularly controversial defence in rape trials.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When he begins to drown, Cady begins spouting out gibberish and speaking in tongues before ranting about how he’s “bound for the promised land”.

The 1962 film contains examples of:

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