Scarface (Blu-ray) (1983)
R Dir: Brian de Palma | Universal | 170 min.

Review By: Matt Brighton | January 28th, 2012

Plot: What’s it about?

As much a remake as it is an original movie, “Scarface” is the same in name, though the plot isn’t. Extremely violent for its time and was criticized (as was the remake) for it. Patterned after the life of Al Capone, it showed the rise and fall of a man and lends truth to the phrase “Power corrupts”. When the remake came around some fifty years later, there needed to be a fresh story. Enter Oliver Stone. Stone wrote the screenplay and did a damn good job of it, though he had directed a few movies, their less than successful track record left him to be just the screenwriter and not the director. Brian De Palma took the reins after Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men”, “Network”) signed off after seeing how violent the film was. After seeing this and “Carlito’s Way” it’s hard to imagine a more powerful pair than De Palma and Pacino.

Roger Ebert comments in his review of the movie that: “The movie has been borrowed from so often that it’s difficult to understand how original it seemed in 1983, when Latino heroes were rare, when cocaine was not a cliché, when sequences at the pitch of the final gun battle were not commonplace. Just as a generation raised on “The Sopranos” may never understand how original “The Godfather” was, so “Scarface” has been absorbed into its imitators.” This is true, of course, and though we’ve grown up with violence, it had to start somewhere. The movie is essentially the life story of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as we see him from lowly Cuban immigrant that is transformed into the king of the world. He has a fascination with his sister, though controlling and not of incest, and of drugs and power. Together with his friend Manolo (Stephen Bauer), they rise and fall together.

The central theme of “Scarface” shows the ruins of power, money, greed and essentially every other negative human emotion. Some have compared this version to a modern-day version of “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” in that once the money (in this case, cocaine) starts to accumulate, that human nature takes over and the power corrupts. No amount of cash, violence or women can satisfy the urge that Tony Montana feels and we know that nothing will ever truly satisfy him. Though a different character than that of Michael Corleone, they are almost one and the same. They’re both bad, though they believe in their hearts that they are doing the right thing and helping those who wouldn’t be helped otherwise. A victim of his own product, the world crumbles around Tony and his empire. This is what some say is Pacino’s greatest role and sports a cast of then unknown actors. Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michelle Pfeiffer to name but a few. “Scarface” is almost required viewing if you consider yourself a film buff.

Video: How does it look?

“Scarface” has seen the light of day on DVD on a few occasions and for its debut on Blu-ray, we get a pretty decent-looking 2.35:1 VC-1 HD transfer. First and foremost, the movie is just shy of its 30th anniversary and can and does show its age on more than one occasion. That’s ok. It’s to be expected. The movie, like “Casino”, has a vast array of costume changes and like DeNiro’s candy-colored suits so too does Pacino’s wardrobe encompass the spectrum. Detail is something that I immediately noticed and though the film does have a harsh look to it, I found it to look a bit more smooth than previous DVD versions. The film was shot to look a bit on the rough side and we can tell by the deep blacks that give Tony his unique look. The slightest bit of grain is present, though not distracting. Overall it’s a nice effort, though not the most shining example of what Blu-ray is all about. Still, it’s hard to argue that this is the best the film has ever looked on any format.

Audio: How does it sound?

Again, the film is nearly three decades old and as such we can’t and won’t be too impressed by the DTS HD Master Audio mix. Still, there are some sequences, namely in the nightclubs and a few of the shootout scenes, that really do take full advantage of the lossless mix. Dialogue is at the heart of this movie and I found it to be clear and coherent. Though it might be a bit difficult to understand Pacino’s accent at times, it’s no fault of the audio. While the film really can’t hold a candle to the modern soundtracks, this sounds as good as can be expected for a movie of its age.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As I mentioned earlier, “Scarface” has had two releases on standard DVD and now we move into HD territory. We start off with a very interesting feature called “Scarface Scorecard” and this feature actually keeps a tally of the number of times the “F” bomb is dropped as well as the number of times bullets are actually fired in the film. Now there’s a job I wouldn’t want to have, count the number of bullets that are fired during the course of “Scarface.” No thanks. Still, it’s a rather interesting feature and one that fans will surely enjoy. Next we move onto the featurettes and there’s really nothing new here in regards to supplements as they’re all taken from the previous DVD versions of the film. Nonetheless we begin with “The World of Tony Montana” in which some members of law enforcement are interviewed in regards to the world of drug trafficking. “The Rebirth” tells us of the script with the producer, director (Brian de Palma) and screenwriter (Oliver Stone) and how they crafted this modern masterpiece. This leads us into “The Acting” and finding the cast to work with Pacino. “The Creating” finishes us off showcasing the different locales as well as some of the production design of the film. “The TV Version” shows us what was cut for the film to be shown on television. “The Making of ‘Scarface’: The Video Game” shows us the story behind the game, the graphics and a few other intricacies. There are some 20+ minutes of deleted scenes as well as the original 1932 version of “Scarface” and while not Blu-ray is a nice little bonus to this set. Also included is a digital copy of the film for your portable device.

For this Blu-ray release we also get a nice little Picture-in-picture track that can be watched while viewing the film. Admittedly some of it is recycled from the featurettes that appear on the disc, but it’s a pretty interesting watch. We also get “The Scarface Phenomenon” which is a very intriguing retrospective look back by some of the filmmakers and other celebrities talking about the love for the film.

Disc Features
  • (2.35:1) Aspect Ratio
  • Video Codec: VC-1
  • Audio: DTS HD Master
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy
  • 2 Disc Set
Scarface (Blu-ray)

must own!