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Cape Fear Blu-ray

United States
Universal Studios | 1991 | 128 min | Rated R | Oct 18, 2011

Cape Fear (Blu-ray)

Codec: VC-1
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French: DTS 5.1

English SDH, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)
Mobile features

Region free

List price: $19.98, Price history

Amazon: $13.49 (Save 32%)
New from: $10.39 (Save 48%)
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Movie rating
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Blu-ray rating
Video 4.1 of 54.1
Audio 4.0 of 54.0
Extras 3.5 of 53.5
Based on 4 user reviews

Movie appeal

Psychological thriller67%

Cape Fear


Cape Fear Blu-ray delivers great video and audio in this excellent Blu-ray release

A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.

For more about Cape Fear and the Cape Fear Blu-ray release, see Cape Fear Blu-ray Review published by on where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.

Starring: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Joe Don Baker, Robert Mitchum
Director: Martin Scorsese

» See full cast & crew

Cape Fear Blu-ray, Video Quality

  4.0 of 5

After many Blu-ray disappointments with Universal catalogue titles, I'm happy to report good news on Cape Fear. But let's pause a moment for a look back. Cape Fear occupies a significant place in Martin Scorsese's resumé, because it was the first film he shot in 2.35:1 ratio. Scorsese has said many times (and again in the documentary on this disc) that he had refrained from using the wider frame, because he didn't want the images destroyed for TV broadcasts by panning and scanning. By 1991, though, he expected to see widescreen televisions adopted shortly, allowing home viewers to experience his original compositions. For his first venture into anamorphic widescreen, Scorsese chose two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis (Glory and Sons and Lovers), with whom he worked closely in creating the film's framing.

Scorsese's hopes for the quick adoption of widescreen home video turned out to be wildly optimistic, and he ended up overseeing the 1.33:1 version personally. I wish I'd kept a copy, because it's a fascinating artifact, in which Scorsese seems to be going out of his way to draw attention to the panning and scanning, as if to say: "Do you see what your square screen is forcing me to do?"

Purists could buy the widescreen laserdisc, which was heartbreaking, because analog NTSC video was no match for Freddie Francis' detailed imagery. At least until the latter half of the film, when most scenes were dark enough to conceal the flaws, Cape Fear on laser was an orgy of aliasing. Sam Bowden's wire-rim glasses were a constant distraction. Instead of watching the strain in his eyes, you studied the flicker across his forehead.

Ten years after the film's release, a two-disc DVD edition finally gave home viewers something approximating Cape Fear's true look. The aspect ratio was correct, the aliasing was tamed, and the only real flaw was the lack of sufficient detail to let you appreciate the late Henry Bumstead's meticulous production design and the increasingly chaotic action, especially in the sodden third act. That failing has been remedied on Universal's 1080p, VC-1-encoded Blu-ray, which demonstrates that Universal is fully capable of doing a catalogue title justice, when it wants to.

Images are detailed, smooth and film-like throughout. Traces of grain remain in the image, but in minor amounts and without visible evidence of high-frequency filtering, transfer-induced ringing or other inappropriate digital tampering. Black levels are strong, which becomes increasingly essential as the action shifts to darkened interiors and hours after dark. The palette of Cape Fear is an interesting study in the subliminal use of color. When we first meet the Bowden family, much of the clothing, furnishings and general surroundings are beige, pale and pastel; the color scheme reflects the tame surface of a family where feelings are being held in check. Max, who holds back nothing, is associated with brighter and more saturated colors; he drives a red car, and the shirt he's wearing when he encounters Lori is a deep red. When Leigh Bowden first sees Max, he's sitting on a wall with fireworks exploding behind him in intense CGI-generated hues that, as noted in the documentary, real pyrotechnics are incapable of producing. (No one ever accused Scorsese of being subtle; Leigh has just experienced bland sex with her husband, and the imagery suggests that Max would offer something different. As Max tells her later in the film, "A few minutes with me, darlin', and you'll be speaking in tongues." Unless, of course, he bites it off.)

I've watched the concluding sequence on the storm-tossed houseboat many times, but this is the first time I can remember feeling that I was really seeing everything while it happened. Despite the confusion, Scorsese's shots and Thelma Schoonmaker's editing do show you how everyone ends up where they are. But now you can finally see all of it, even with the water pouring in. ("No more water pictures!" Scorsese told an interviewer, shortly after the film wrapped.)

Cape Fear Blu-ray, Audio Quality

  4.0 of 5

Cape Fear was released in Dolby Surround and later remixed for discrete 5.1, which is here presented in DTS lossless. Water is the dominant presence in the surrounds, and it makes itself heard immediately during the opening credit sequence, a mini-movie by Saul and Elaine Bass featuring image after image of rippling water and mysterious reflections. Whenever anything in the film relates to water, whether as rainfall or river flow, the sound expands into the surrounds. Even the anticipation of water triggers surround activity; as the Bowden family drives toward Cape Fear, faint sounds of water and river birds can be heard in the surrounds, as if we are inside their heads experiencing their anticipation. And, of course, once they're on the boat, the surrounds are never silent.

The end credits are unusual, because they continue this motif. There is almost no music, but thunder, flowing water and bird cries continue to echo around the room. Keep listening to the very end, and you will hear something that sounds like an amusement park ride, complete with squealing patrons. In their original version, the credits concluded with an ad for the Universal Studios theme park, and that sound cue accompanied the ad. Even with the ad gone, the cue remains.

Leaving aside the sounds of water, the front soundstage is fully occupied with the powerful Bernard Herrmann score (as rearranged and "punched up" by Elmer Bernstein) and various amped-up sounds that jolt both the characters and the audience at key moments, whether it's a telephone ringing, Max's laughter, or the sound of racketball. The dialogue sounds natural at some times, and at others it too sounds slightly amplified -- not, I suspect, as a result of poor ADR, but because it had to be balanced with the barrage of other "subjective" sounds of which the film's sonic dimension is composed. Overall, it's a powerful and distinctive soundtrack, and the presentation does it justice.

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Cape Fear Blu-ray, News and Updates

Cape Fear Blu-ray - July 27, 2011

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear. The 1991 thriller (a remake of the 1962 version) stars Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis. A release date of October 18th has been ...

Cape Fear Blu-ray, Forum Discussions

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