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Scarface: Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray + Digital Copy Review

Scarface (1983) movie poster Scarface

Theatrical Release: December 9, 1983 / Running Time: 170 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Brian De Palma / Writer: Oliver Stone

Cast: Al Pacino (Tony Montana), Steven Bauer (Manny Ribera), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elvira Hancock), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Gina Montana), Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez), Miriam Colon (Mama Montana), F. Murray Abraham (Omar Suarez), Paul Shenar (Alejandro Sosa), Harris Yulin (Mel Bernstein), Angel Salazar (Chi Chi), Arnaldo Santana (Ernie), Pepe Serna (Angel), Michael P. Moran (Nick the Pig), Al Israel (Hector the Toad), Dennis Holahan (Jerry the Banker), Mark Margolis (Alberto the Shadow), Michael Alldredge (Sheffield), Ted Beniades (Seidelbaum), Richard Belzer (M.C. at Babylon Club), Paul Espel (Luis), John Brandon (Immigration Officer #3), Tony Perez (Immigration Officer #2), Garnett Smith (Immigration Officer #1)

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Director/actor Eli Roth does seem like the guy who would celebrate "The 'Scarface' Phenomenon." Cartman's Tony Montana shtick speaks to the film's cultural impact. Tony (Al Pacino) makes a phone call in the still-letterboxed reel of deleted scenes.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The vast extras supply kicks off with "The Scarface Phenomenon" (38:34, HD), a brand new three-part documentary about the film and its legacy. It includes new interviews with the film's talent: director Brian De Palma, producer Martin Bregman, and actors Steven Bauer, Richard Belzer, Angel Salazar, and Robert Loggia.
We also hear from authors of related works and famous fans. Among the latter: directors Eli Roth, Antoine Fuqua, and Keith Gordon, Cuban American Cypress Hill rapper Sen Dog, and TV personality Jillian Barberie Reynolds.

The three parts of this great documentary celebrate Scarface from different angles. "Say Hello to the Bad Guy!" (11:22) takes a general view, singling out the cast and having fans recall their earliest exposure to the movie. "Pushing the Limit" (13:30) deals with the movie's depictions of drug crime and the violence that earned an X rating that required multiple appeals to overturn, paying special notice to the finale (whose famous line we see alternate takes of). Finally, the very fun "The World & Everything In It" (13:42) considers the cultural impact, addressing the hip hop connection, showing homage and references from "South Park" and "Saturday Night Live", and discussing the recent wealth of tie-in merchandise, from the video games to slippers. Roth interestingly shares that he watched the movie 56 times in seventh grade so that he could memorize it and also draws parallels between Scarface's climax and that of Inglourious Basterds.

A 22½-minute reel of deleted scenes is disappointingly presented in dark standard definition, windowboxed, and without the ability to jump to a particular scene. Clapboards and "cut" calls are even included in these long, raw takes, making it tough to appreciate how they might have played in the film. Still, as unused footage of one of cinema's most iconic characters, these bits have plenty of value.

Law enforcement officers (like this Pazaic County sheriff) and men's magazine editors share different perspectives on "The World of Tony Montana." Scent of a Woman" isn't the only place to see Al Pacino avoiding eye contact in the 1990s. He does plenty of that in his featurette interviews. Tony Montana walks coolly away from a car explosion in "Scarface: The World is Yours", a video game whose making is detailed here.

Recycled extras start with "The World of Tony Montana" (11:38), a widescreen standard definition piece created for the movie's 2006 Platinum Edition DVD. It puts Tony's criminal lifestyle in focus, collecting thoughts on it from law enforcement agents and magazine editors. It's a little dry and distanced.

The next three featurettes hail from 2003's Anniversary Edition DVD, where they were re-edited from their 1998 appearance, and are presented in 1.33:1 standard definition. "The Rebirth" (10:08) gives credit to the 1932 movie as the inspiration, with Bregman, De Palma, Al Pacino, and Oliver Stone recalling the remake's origins and its assembling of behind-the-camera talent. "Acting" (15:05) logically follows that up with casting talk. Bauer adds to the other four returning commentators, as the supporting cast's assembly of him, Pfeiffer, Mastrantonio, and Loggia is discussed. "Creating" (29:35) moves to production, starting with the revelation that the objections by the Cuban American community prevented shooting in Miami. It touches upon the filming, visuals, Pacino's performance, the cocaine, the ending, the music, the battle for an R rating, and its rising reputation.

"The Making of Scarface: The Video Game" (12:04) is a little bit of an extended ad for the 2006 release Scarface: The World is Yours, but it is genuinely insightful and interesting too. The creators shed light on the violent game's premise, storyline, profanity, and designs. We also get looks at actors recording lines for it and their thoughts on being a part of it. Among the latter are Loggia, Barberie, Bauer, Ice-T, James Woods, Brenda Strong, Michael Rappaport, Cheech, Chong, Robert Davi, and Michael York.

"Scarface: The TV Version" (2:48) has Bregman talking about the task of cleaning up the film for network television. His thoughts are complemented by entertaining comparisons of the film's profane and violent scenes with their sanitized broadcastable edits, sometimes employing alternate takes.

Though that is where the disc's "Extras" section ends, aside from the option to activate D-Box motion code, two playback-enhancing modes are classified as "U-Control" features.

See Al Pacino's "Say Hello to My Little Friend" outtakes as part of the picture-in-picture mode:

The Scarface Scoreboard is a Blu-ray update on a Platinum Edition DVD feature. It keeps count of the dropping of "F-bombs" and the bullets fired. The numbers are designated with bomb and gun graphics that stay on throughout and are animated to mark each gain. The F-words take an early lead, then the gunshots catch up, then profanity comes back, until a massacre gives violence an irreversible advantage (although it's impossible to gauge its accuracy).
Nevertheless, the F-word and variants flow around one use per minute, and eclipse that tall achievement with a half-hour to spare. The scoreboard is most fun placed over the most explosive scenes, but I can see someone who has watched the movie countless times deriving enough enjoyment from these to watch the whole movie this way. In a nice touch, you can even fast-forward through the movie and see the numbers rise, adding some perspective.

The other U-Control extra is a picture-in-picture track, which is more substantive, especially if you haven't already watched all the other video bonus features. This mode plays relevant excerpts of the extras, unused material shot for them, more network TV edits of vulgar scenes, and corresponding clips from the 1932 movie in a window one-sixth the size of your screen, while the film plays around it. One can't complain with being given an alternate way to experience the material (and I'm glad Universal didn't do away with seeing the full featurettes on their own). In addition, this somewhat makes up for the curious, continued lack of audio commentary. Still, this isn't an ideal presentation. In no small part, that is the result of the PiP video being played at a much lower volume than the film itself making from jarring transitions in between the track's content. Among the more memorable bits are Bauer tearily recalling the negative critical reaction and Roth hailing this as his generation's Godfather (which may say more about his generation than about the film). Though you unfortunately can't have both the picture-in-picture and the scoreboard activated, they are easily and instantly toggled.

Possibly qualifying as an Easter egg is a 22-second ad for the two-story Scarface Suite from Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. I couldn't tell you how to access it from the menu, but the video is found among the disc's files.

As loaded as this set is, not all of the movie's DVD extras make the cut here. The movie's original 1998 DVD offered a 52-minute "The Making of Scarface" documentary, which was reworked into the three featurettes we find here. Gone but not replaced are that DVD's production notes, biographies, photo gallery, and trailers. From the 2003 Anniversary Edition, filmographies and the 20-minute "Def Jam Presents: Origins of a Hip-Hop Classic" are lost. The most recent DVD, 2006's two-disc Platinum Edition, is the only one entirely superseded by this Blu-ray release, although the tangible contents of the deluxe gift set version of that (lobby cards and gold money clip) are not offered here or even in the humidor edition.

The Blu-ray disc opens with fresh previews streamed via BD-Live. I got promos for home video formats, the Jurassic Park Trilogy on Blu-ray, Hanna, and The Big Lebowski Blu-ray. Another time, nothing. Yet another, I got home video ads for "The Office" and Fast Five and theatrical trailers for The Thing remake and Pariah. Your mileage will vary, but the one sure thing is that the disc won't give you 2011 nostalgia down the line.

All of those promos and numerous other ones (like Battleship, which really ought to be subtitled "The Movie") can be streamed via BD-Live, which the menu labels "What's New?" The section, which also promotes various BD features and also provides a few Blu-ray supplement excerpts, should be useful to fans of new movie trailers and NBC Universal shareholders.

More gung-ho than other studios about utilizing Blu-ray's technology, Universal supplies its usual video and navigable still frame tutorials for things like U-Control, uHear, the pocket BLU app, "My Scenes" and using a PlayStation 3 controller as remote. Some of it seems self-explanatory. For the rest, I feel that the typical viewer will find getting the hang of these features is more of task than they wish to pursue.

The second disc included here is a DVD holding the original 1932 Scarface. This is the same as the DVD released on its own in 2007 and still selling for over $10. Relevant full movies make for a great bonus feature and that is precisely how this one can be enjoyed. It puts the movie in far more collections than it otherwise would be and hopefully opens the minds of the Pacino movie's fans to getting better acquainted with Hollywood's Golden Age.

Scarface (1932) movie poster Scarface (1932)

Theatrical Release: April 9, 1932 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Howard Hawks / Writers: Ben Hecht (screen story), Seton I. Miller, John Lee Mahin, W.R. Burnett (continuity and dialogue); Armitage Trail (book)

Cast: Paul Muni (Tony Camonte), Ann Dvorak (Cesca Camonte), Karen Morley (Poppy), Osgood Perkins (Johnny Lovo), C. Henry Gordon (Inspector Ben Guarino), George Raft (Guino Rinaldo), Vince Barnett (Angelo), Boris Karloff (Gaffney), Purnell Pratt (Publisher Garston), Tully Marshall (Managing Editor), Inez Palange (Tony's Mother), Edwin Maxwell (Detective Chief), Harry J. Vejar (Louis Costillo - uncredited)

Buy the 1932 Scarface DVD on its own from Amazon.com

Original movies are almost always better than their remakes and since I'm not so crazy for De Palma's version you'd think I'd definitely feel that way here. And I do, although I'm not inclined to label 1932's Scarface the masterpiece many have.

This version is set in Chicago, where Italian American gangster Tony Camonte (oft-decorated chameleon actor Paul Muni) offs a South Side crime boss. Though police have their eyes on him, they don't have enough evidence to pin the murder on him. Soon, Tony and his boss, Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins, father of Psycho star Anthony Perkins) shatter the glass on the slain leader's door and take over for him.

Antonio "Tony" Camonte (Paul Muni), a.k.a. "Scarface", makes his first appearance in a barber's chair. Tony (Paul Muni) and Inspector Guarino (C. Henry Gordon) hold each other in mutual contempt.

The criminal activity going on here is kept very vague, although one gathers it has something to do with Prohibition. Made in the style of the time, five years into the sound era and just two years before the Hays Code began being enforced, this broad Scarface makes the remake seem subtle. 1930s movie gangsters crack wise, taunt cops, light matches on police badges, shoot machine guns wildly, and rarely face any real danger or moral dilemma.

Several of the remake's plot points are clearly traced back here including the titular facial scar, romantic interest in the boss' dame (Karen Morley), the incestuous overtones of sibling (Ann Dvorak) overprotection, a trusted confidante (coin-flipping George Raft), a disapproving mother (Inez Palange), rash consequences to the protagonist's temper, and a show-stopping finale, which in this case occurs in Tony's "fortress", whose windows are protected by steel shutters.

Barely running half as long as De Palma's rendition, the original Scarface holds no pretentious artistic notions (prevalent "X" symbolism, notwithstanding), but it does try to tackle what it perceives as a serious issue at the time. During production, Al Capone, on whom Tony Camonte was clearly modeled, was about to be tried on income tax evasion charges. By the theatrical release in the spring of 1932, Capone had been convicted and sentenced to eleven years in prison.

Tony's 18-year-old sister Francesca "Cesca" Camonte (Ann Dvorak) likes to entertain men, in stark defiance of her brother's wishes. Whose world is this? The world is yours, the world is yours! It's mine, it's mine, it's mine.

Scarface was the third film of Muni, whose résumé sort of resembles Daniel Day-Lewis in its brevity and high percentage of Academy Award nominations. Muni picked up his second Best Actor nomination, but it was for a different 1932 Chicago crime film, the highly regarded Best Picture nominee I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. This Scarface received no notable recognition until 1994, when it was admitted into the National Film Registry for preservation in the U.S. Library of Congress. Since then, the film has made appearances in two of the American Film Institute's sadly halted countdowns, with Camonte narrowly making the 100 Heroes and Villains cut as cinema's 47th greatest villain
and the movie ranking sixth among gangster films in 2008's genre-minded 10 Top 10 (in a rare display of official prestige, the remake claimed the tenth spot).

Those who love the 1983 Scarface and aren't as versed in classic cinema probably won't be blown away by its predecessor. Such an audience is likely to perceive Howard Hawks' filming as cheesy and tame. Even so, they'll have to appreciate the story parallels and the new perspective this lends the Pacino version.

It'd be hypocritical of me not to mention the original film's unflattering portrayal of Italian Americans. Taken within the context of 1930s cinema, it's not a big deal and other ethnic groups have gotten far worse, but from the comic relief (an illiterate dunce of a secretary played by Vince Barnett) all the way up to Tony, Italians are depicted as stupid, arrogant, and loose. Perhaps twenty years from now, a new Scarface remake can feature a Cuban American actor doing a mildly offensive interpretation of a Tony of a different nationality (maybe Muni's Austro-Hungarianism?).

TCM host Robert Osborne introduces the original "Scarface." This judge (played by Robert Burress) removes his glasses to throw the metaphorical book at Tony in this alternate ending. The original "Scarface" uses a minimum of menu screens.

Black and white, Scarface is presented in 1.33:1 "full screen" (preserving its original Academy aspect ratio) and Dolby 2.0 mono sound, with optional English SDH and French subtitles. The movie definitely exhibits wear and tear, though not unreasonably so considering its age. The print has its fair share of lines, scratches, and blurring and the sound is typically muffled. That renders this a far cry from the stunning restorations given the milestone movies from the other end of the decade (like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz), but the presentation still bests many contemporaries.

This Scarface is joined by two bonus features. An introduction by Robert Osborne (2:22) in the style of his TCM spots focuses on this film's real-life inspiration and censorship battles. More substantial is an alternate ending, which truly lives up to that description. It runs 10 minutes and 20 seconds, of which the final three minutes are altered and the scene before trimmed. This ending lacks the power of the theatrical conclusion, vouching for due process but rendering Tony's inevitable comeuppance less fitting. In addition, its first-person point of view (apparently necessitated by Muni's absence) is incongruous with most of the film.

The Blu-ray's menu montage gives scenes a glow. The two discs and ten art cards of the "Scarface" Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray are laid out.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The Blu-ray's menu montages screen-filling clips, stylizing them with a soft glow. Inactivity on the paused movie or the menu prompts Universal's screensaver to silently take over and remind you of the distributor. The menu lets you adjust menu button sounds (off by default), deactivate the ads ticker (on by default), and change picture-in-picture window volume (insufficiently). The disc supports bookmarks but does not resume playback, which is disappointing on a film whose length could easily prevent a single-sitting viewing

As stated before, this more basic Blu-ray edition is packaged in a steelbook, as its name implies, a book made out of steel or something resembling it. The stylish primarily red tin (whose top blue banner is part of an unattached paper wrap-around) opens to reveal black and white imagery inside. The two discs are each given a hub on the right side, while the left side holds in place your digital copy directions and download code (a preferred redemption method for all those not on dial-up). It also holds a sealed pack of those ten art cards, which showcase the grand prize winner and nine runners-up in Universal's fan art contest. Presented in a ratio wider than standard postcard size, most of these are professional looking, which makes it worse that they strangely only credit their makers by first name.

Cuban refugees Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and Manny Ray/Ribera (Steven Bauer) lay claim to the American Dream. The backdrop of serene Miami sunset stands in contrast to Tony Montana's (Al Pacino) violent rage.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The violent and quotable Scarface is a cinematic landmark that shuns subtlety for larger than life excess. Despite the iconic reputation it has grown to assume over the past couple of decades, the film really isn't all that great. Its rise and fall story holds some appeal as does Brian De Palma's stylish approach, but boldness far exceeds brains and one wonders how to lavish praise on it for anything more than uncompromising entertainment value.

Universal's Blu-ray debut is a satisfyingly deluxe release, granting the film undoubtedly its most dynamic presentation to date and accompanying it with over two hours of video bonuses, two ways to spice up repeat viewings, the superior original 1932 Scarface's DVD, and appropriately stylish packaging. It's mildly unfortunate that the original trailers don't resurface here. Still, fans of the film who own a Blu-ray player have no reason not to pick this up.

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Blu-ray Steelbook / Limited Edition Humidor / 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD / Instant Video


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Scarface Songs List: Paul Engemann - "Scarface (Push It to the Limit)", Deborah Harry - "Rush Rush", Amy Holland - "Turn Out the Light", Maria Conchita - "Vamos a Bailar", Giorgio Morder - "Tony's Theme", Amy Holland - "She's on Fire", Elizabeth Daily - "Shake It Up", Beth Andersen - "Dance Dance Dance", Elizabeth Daily - "I'm Hot Tonight", Helen St. John - "Gina's and Elvira's Theme"

Buy Related CDs from Amazon.com:
Scarface: Music from the Original Motion Picture • Music Inspired by Scarface

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Reviewed September 8, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1983 Universal Pictures, 1932 United Artists, and 2011 Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
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