Directed by Brian De Palma. USA. 1983.

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Remade by Universal Pictures in 1983, Scarface was hailed for Al Pacino’s towering performance and Brian De Palma’s masterful direction. Originally released in 1932 by producer Howard Hawks, Oliver Stone wrote the updated and action packed screenplay.  

However, the global success of the release surprised many. De Palma had failed with his ambitious thriller Blow Out only the year before. This marked his first attempt at cinematic respectability after a career spent in horror and commercial thrillers. During this time, many of De Palma’s contemporaries were enjoying success of epic proportions. Francis Ford Coppola had directed The Godfather I and II, Steven Spielberg had received overwhelming success with Jaws and Martin Scorsese had delivered classics such as Mean Streets and Taxi driver. 

The Godfather series had redefined the genre in the early seventies, leaving both producer Martin Bregman and Pacino needing a director capable of a saga which would not be seen as a cheap clone. The decision to choose De Palma was somewhat surprising, given the limited success of his past releases. Fortunately, De Palma prevailed and helped deliver a classic ‘rise and fall’ story of a criminal overlord. 

Pacino takes the lead as energetic Cuban immigrant Tony Montana, whose intelligence, guts and ambition skyrocket him to the top of a criminal empire. The charismatic screen legend gives what can only be described as a simply unforgettable performance. He tears into the dialogue with raw emotion and gives an almost animalistic delivery, on some of the most memorable dialogue ever heard. With classic lines: “Say hello to my little friend” and the reciting of his personal morals and philosophies, Tony Montana is one of the most outrageous and entertaining creations in Hollywood history.  

Despite critics questioning the credibility of the film, De Palma’s decision regarding the setting was vital. It was during the early eighties that Castro emptied Cuban jails, allowing those released to move to America, the same time that cocaine was on the rise.  

The film is widely considered as an accurate portrayal of the darker side of the American dream. Although some deem the film highly controversial (as it features a total of twenty eight deaths and nineteen car crashes) there is no denying its role as a dynamic gangster classic. 

This special two disc DVD release in 2003 contains a number of never before seen extras. These include a thirty minute production of the ‘Creating of Scarface’, over twenty minutes of deleted scenes and a short documentary of how the editors were forced to sensor the foul-mouthed film in order to make it passable for TV. 

With an A-list Hollywood support cast including Steven Bauer and Michelle Pfeiffer, Scarface remains one of the most stylish and provocative gangster films ever made. From its original release over seventy years, Scarface is arguably one of the most shocking and powerful gangster movies of all time. 

Jack Gibson
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