In 1976 Martin Scorsese directed TAXI DRIVER - an intense character study of a loner constantly threatening to one day burst with violence. The film was fuelled by an unrelenting performance from Robert De Niro as obsessive psychopath Travis Bickle, quietly plotting with unswerving focus to some day change the world forever.

In 1980, Scorsese directed RAGING BULL - arguably his finest film - and once again De Niro took centre-stage in a brutally unapologetic essay on former heavyweight boxing champ Jake LaMotta. De Niro's unflinching performance of this despicable character won him the Best Actor Oscar, and Scorsese was nominated for Best Director.

Little surprise then, that the two should meet again for the remake of J Lee Thompson's classic shocker CAPE FEAR.

De Niro turns the insanity up to 11 as Max Cady, a convicted rapist who has just been released from prison after serving 14 years of his sentence. During his stint on the inside, Cady has taught himself to read, trained his physique into a finely-toned pain-resistant machine, and covered his torso in tattoos that serve as a constant reminder of what Cady wants .... revenge.

Upon his release, Cady tracks down lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). A few mild confrontations later, it becomes clear that Cady - like Bickle - is a man possessed by a psychotic single-mindedness. He positively will not stop until he feels justice has been served. Bowden, you see, with-held vital evidence from Cady's trial while representing the accused, that could have significantly reduced his sentence ...

And so an elaborate (and hugely enjoyable) game of cat-and-mouse begins.

One of the most exciting elements of this remake is the makeover the Bowden family have been given. Sam is on the verge of having an affair with a colleague, his wife Leigh (Jessica Lange) is quick to criticise her husband at every turn - and daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis) is so naive, petulant and unwittingly flirtatious that it's hard not to forget that Lewis has since become one of the most irritating young actresses out there. The keenly observed family scenes are amongst the best moments in the entire film.

But as much as Wesley Strick's screenplay impressively updates the story and gives it a really identifiable edge, and as much as Scorsese clearly has a ton of fun playing around with big-budget follies such as a storm-bound finale and several intense set-pieces (such as the beating Cady receives in a darkened car park - which owes as much to Scorsese's superb build-up and editing as anything else), this film remains riveting on repeated viewings thanks to the acting.

Who would expect anything less than great performances though? Aside from De Niro, Nolte, Lange and Lewis, we have a supporting cast any other director would kill for: Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Joe Don Baker, Martin Balsam ...

And the technical side is just as impressive too - Steven Speilberg producing, Scorsese directing, horror veteran Freddie Francis acting as Director of Photography, Saul Bass on credit duty, original score by Bernard Hermann .... even Strick had struck gold previously, writing the likes of WOLF and ARACHNOPHOBIA.

CAPE FEAR is a great example of big-budget 'mainstream' horror at work. And of big-budget mainstream horror that works. It brings a relentlessly cruel and calculated figure into the lives of a "normal" family, then has tremendous amounts of fun keeping us on the edge of our seat as the violence veers more and more toward Grand Guignol proportions. As an antidote to later anemic mainstream offerings such as WHAT LIES BENEATH, this is perfect. The UK box set also includes the original black-and-white version of CAPE FEAR, with Robert Mitchum as Cady (a little more subtle yet no less chilling than De Niro) and Gregory Peck as Bowden.

Aside from the central plot, Bowden's family ties and the showdown taking place on Cape Fear, there are quite a few differences between the two films - and Scorsese's definitely comes off the better. Though that's not to say the original didn't titillate too - and lest we forget, director Thompson was later responsible for the spunky 80s shocker HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

As for the actual box-set? Well ...there are 3 discs, housed in two separate keepcases ... CAPE FEAR (the original) comes in it's own keepcase and has been rated 15. It's presented in it's original 1.85:1 ratio and looks superb for a film over 40 years old. Even the mono sound holds up well. Extras include a making-of featurette, production photographs, the original theatrical trailer and cast/crew bios.

It's the Scorsese remake that is the main draw here though, and thankfully it's been given the royal makeover with it's own 2-disc special edition keepcase.

Disc 1 houses the film in anamorphic 2.35:1, and it simply couldn't look better. The 5.1 audio is utilised to superb effect, and there's a consistent balance in sound so you're not constantly hovering over the volume control between dialogue and score!

Disc 2 offers a fantastic Making Of documentary that is a whopping 80 minutes long. Featuring interviews with all principal participants (Scorsese, De Niro, Strick, Nolte, Lewis, Lange, Peck etc), this is an essential watch for anyone with even a passing interest in this film. At feature-length, it's one of the best documentaries out there - and effortlessly covers every aspect of the production. Priceless. There's a selection of Deleted scenes shown in non-anamorphic widescreen that will appeal to completists. You also get treated to two featurettes specific to the filming of certain scenes in the film (admittedly brief at 2 mins each) and a great tribute to the late Saul Bass - a collection of opening credits sequences he choreographed, including VERTIGO, PSYCHO, SPARTACUS and CASINO. Elsewhere you'll find the original trailer (pretty cool), photo gallery, matte painting gallery, cast/crew bios, production notes ... so, Universal haven't skimped here, y'know?!

The 2 disc special edition of CAPE FEAR (remake) will be available as a stand-alone release shortly. But undoubtedly it will retail for more than this box-set can currently be bought for on various sites and/or at high-street stores at present.

So, the wise money says: buy this outstanding collection - if only for one of the best 2 disc editions out there (well, the film's great and the 'making of' exceeded all expectations!) - and if the original CAPE FEAR can be seen as another extra, then ... Jesus, this release is pretty fucking definitive!!

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Universal/ Columbia Tri-Star
Region 2 - Pal
Rated 18
Audio - English
Extras :
Laods...see main review