by Gary Susman
Have you thought much about Martin Scorsese's remake of "Cape Fear" in the 25 years since its release (on November 13, 1991)? The film was the biggest hit Scorsese had directed at the time, but it's since become a footnote in the filmmaker's celebrated career. Here are more second-tier Scorsese works worth dusting off and checking out.
'Who's That Knocking on My Door?' (1967)
Scorsese's debut owes a huge stylistic debt to John Cassavetes, with its shadowy cityscapes, off-the-cuff performances, and button-pushing plot of romantic and racial conflict. But the lead turn by then-unknown Harvey Keitel, and the exploration of Italian-American tribalism, point the way to the director's future.
'Boxcar Bertha' (1972)
One of the rare Scorsese movies about a woman, this is one he made for drive-in-movie king Roger Corman, a Depression-era outlaw tale meant to ride the coattails of "Bonnie and Clyde." It's fascinating, not just for Barbara Hershey's hungry lead performance, but also because it resembles nothing else Scorsese ever did.
'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore' (1974)
'New York, New York' (1977)
In the musical that, today, is most famous for its title tune ("If I can make it there..."), De Niro and Liza Minnelli play a squabbling couple, both rising musicians in post-World War II Manhattan. Scorsese's frequent themes are on evident display, but what's fascinating about this flop is how, for once, his grand ambitions exceeded his grasp.
'After Hours' (1985)
Griffin Dunne plays the Alice in a nightmarish night-time Manhattan wonderland. Following dream girl Rosanna Arquette down the rabbit hole, he ends up lost and broke downtown (in the era before ATMs, cell phones, and gentrification) and pursued by a mob of kooky, paranoid locals. It's a slight but vivid comedy, maybe the only one in Scorsese's whole career.
'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988)
Not everything works (what's with the outer-borough accent of Keitel's Judas?), but the film is still a sincere wrestling with faith for the Catholic director, anchored by Willem Dafoe's earnest and intense portrayal of an all-too-human Jesus. Worth seeing now, three decades removed from the controversy surrounding its release.
'Cape Fear' (1991)
For all his expertise at playing the psychopath, De Niro's still not as heart-chilling as Robert Mitchum in the 1962 original. And there's a lot of cheap exploitation in Scorsese's thriller jolts. The film is tawdry but effective, especially whenever Juliette Lewis' believably confused, blossoming teen is on screen.
Here's another sincere exploration of the mysteries of faith from the "Last Temptation" director. Maybe a little too sincere; as a bio of the Dalai Lama, it's thoroughly pious and lacking in irony or context. Still, it's an immersion in a fascinating, colorful realm -- a spiritual refuge from a world of power, politics, and brutality.
'Bringing Out the Dead' (1999)
Imagine the druggy, speed-driven climax of Scorsese's "Goodfellas" expanded into an entire film, and you'll grasp the feel of this hallucinatory, insomniac, propulsive dramedy. It centers on a burned-out Manhattan ambulance driver (Nicolas Cage) seeking redemption. Its bleary-eyed pageantry feels like a farewell to the New York streetscape nightmares Scorsese had been conjuring up since the dawn of his career.