Counting down the 12 days until Christmas with the 12 greatest (I know they’re all great) Joe Don Baker films! 12 high points in the Texas born actor’s great stable of performances all the while celebrating the true spirit of Christmas along the way! So grab a bottle of Wild Turkey and prepare to have some Christmas spirit fed to you from the sweet supple teat of JDB!
The 6th Day of Joe Don Baker: Cape Fear (1991)
The BK Basement
What is it? Poor remake of a classic where recently released convict Max Cady is out to get revenge on Sam Bowden, the lawyer who put him away!
Who’s in it besides Joe Don Baker? Robert De Niro (Max Cady), Nick Nolte (Sam Bowden), Jessica Lange (Leigh Bowden), Juliette Lewis (Danielle Bowden) Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck have cameo’s and Directed by Martin Scorsese.
What is Joe Don Baker Doing? With his family in trouble Bowden turns to private detective Claude Kersek (JDB) and his ‘stake out special’ to protect them.
Why is it on day 6? I really dislike this movie, the acting, the camera work, the tone, none of it works for me. Scorsese really went all out with the camera work and style in Cape Fear and it doesn’t mesh well with the cold, dirty film he’s trying to make. The early 90’s optical effects don’t hold up well and Cape Fear feels more like a bad Sam Raimi film than a Martin Scorsese one. I like that Scorsese got Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum to show up, but their presence just reminds me of the better original film with them in it.
Robert De Niro is disgusting in Cape Fear, his Max Cady is just the nastiest, white trashiest character committed to celluloid. The entire cast of every Rob Zombie film combined doesn’t match the ‘ick’ factor De Niro brings to the film. This kind of works, but like the rest of the film, just doesn’t mesh with the style Scorsese attempted. Robert Mitchum was so successful with his portrayal of the character because it was against type; he was a romantic, heroic lead, seeing him be a psychotic killer was frightening. Robert De Niro isn’t that kind of lead, most of his characters are dark and murderous, and so his portrayal of Cady seems just like another role for him. There’s no real surprise to his character, yes it’s done very well and effectively, but it’s nothing we haven’t really seen him do before. This film went through several directors, multiple script drafts and after all that it’s no better than the original, more gruesome and graphic, but not better.
Just watch the terrible trailer, not only does it give away almost the entire movie it shows the terrible style the film has:
Joe Don Baker is private detective Claude Kersek, hired to protect the Bowden’s from Cady. Booby trapping doors and windows with trip wires to alert him, Kersek spends the night at the Bowden’s keeping watch while they sleep; Sam Bowden has a nightmare/ sees Cady in his sleep and wonders if he’s been in the house all along. SPOILER! He is and dressed like the maid. Sneaking up behind an unsuspecting Kersek he strangles him piano wire and forces Kersek to shoot himself in the neck.
Though JDB has a small role in the film (he’s the cop in every horror movie, the calming figure who seemingly offers relief from the killer/ monster/ etc… only to get gruesomely killed by the thing he was protecting the main characters from) he has his charm tamed perfectly down to a T.
This film and this role specifically are important to bring up at the JDB timeline, not only has his character evolved into the ‘southern’ authority figure, he’s protecting walking leather husks of Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange from Robert De Niro in a Martin Scorsese film! You’ve seen him give decent performances in films like Charley Varrick, Junior Bonner and rise to stardom in Walking Tall, but this is a modern big budget Hollywood film! And he’s in it! And it’s not Leonard part 6! You may say that’s not too surprising, seeing his decent work in the five films before this, but Cape Fear has been chosen to prepare you for the next films coming in this little marathon. They won’t be as forgiving as these first six; Cape Fear is the light at the end of the tunnel for those movies. Letting you know that even though JDB made some of the upcoming treasures, his impact let him play bit parts for big directors.
Best Joe Don Baker moments:
- His standoff with a teddy bear while he waits for Caddy is pretty great.
- The ‘stake out special’ as we’ve begun to call it (Pepto-bismol and Jim Bean, YUM!) Kersek’s ‘daddy’s’ favorite drink when he was on stakeouts.
- JDB’s death (Spoiler, again, sorry) is gruesome and shocking and very well done.
(The Monkey would like to share with you this spoof from The Ben Stiller show. If you have ever seen the film. Janeane Garofalo’s Juliette Lewis is just pitch perfect.)