Generally regarded to be the best of the classic gangster films, Scarface tells the exciting story of organized crime's brutal control over Chicago during the Prohibition era. Oscar winner Paul Muni gives an electrifying p... more »erformance as Tony Carmonte, an ambitious criminal with a ruthless drive to be the city's top crime boss. Produced and directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, Scarface was a groundbreaking film which established both Paul Muni and George Raft as major Hollywood stars, while influencing all gangland films to follow.« less
I was watching this movie during my lunch hour at work a few years ago. One of the guys from the paint shop walks by and says, "Is that Scarface? You're watching a movie about my great uncle." He brought in a big scrap book of newspaper articles the next day. Turns out his grandfather wanted nothing to do with his brother's mayhem. He even changed his last name because of it. Then became a lawman and a famous sharp shooter. And then famous for rounding up bootleggers across the West coast states.
Bill, the short little Italian guy with the short fuse I'd worked with for years, had memories of sitting on the famous bear rug of his great uncle up in Mercer, WI. Every year, Capone's henchmen would go door to door, paying everyone in town hush money. I'd taken a vacation as a kid up in Mercer, swam in the crawfish filled lake, had my first run in with a Muskie. No idea of the history of that place. Not much going on up there. Good place to hide.
So, just goes to show, you never know who's working next to you, do you?
The Quintessential Gangster Film of The 30's!
Bertin Ramirez | San Ysidro, California United States | 07/31/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A gritty, fast-paced gangster film that ranks among the best. Made with a purpose in 1932, take into consideration for example the complete title; 'Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation' and the beginning credits that ask you 'what are you going to do about it?', very straightforward but naïveté aside this is one of the best gangster films of all time. Paul Muni delivers a powerful performance, he is a driving force throughout the movie. Muni plays Tony Camonte, a character that is more than 'loosely' based on Al Capone. He easily dominates every scene he's in except one or two scenes that get stolen by Ann Dvorak as his sultry little sister. George Raft is equally impressive as Tony's best friend and partner in crime. Boris Karloff, fresh from the success of 'Frankenstein' just one year earlier, also appears as one of Tony's competitors. Ann Dvorak is excellent as Tony's sultry sister who is also in love (or is it lust?) with Tony's best friend (Raft). Scandalous at the time particularly because of the unhealthy relationship between Tony and his sister. Those hints of incest are still kind of shocking today. Some of the elements were taken from real life like the 'St. Valentine Day Massacre' for example and the name 'Scarface' is directed at Al Capone himself. The ending is a knockout. An intense and brutal gangster drama that's brilliantly directed by Hawks. A remake was attempted in the 80's with Brian DePalma and Al Pacino in the role of Tony Montana, but was much more graphic and violent not to mention overlong. This remains the best of the Scarface films. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film an 8!"
A "TALKY" THAT CARRIES QUITE A WALLOP -- for 93 MINUTES
Heather L. Parisi | St. Augustine, FL USA | 03/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
----- * IN A NUTSHELL: NO GLAMORIZING OF PUBLIC ENEMIES HERE -*
A dark and dank insight into the depraved and exciting world of bootlegging gangsters at their worst.
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT: [WARNING -- CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS BELOW]
Tony Camonte [Paul Muni], is the lead, and a character patterned after Al Capone (also called "Scarface")but not in every way. The obviously amoral Camonte gradually seizes control of the bootlegging racket, from Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins), his boss, through a series of barbaric murders which eventually include Johnny Lovo. Apparently, Camonte's ambition is translated into brutality as his sole constructive force, which is hardly constructive at all. There is no bargaining, communicating or making deals, Camonte simply kills everyone that stands in his way even if it is really not needed. I think I counted 26 murders in the film, but others have stated that they counted 28.
BACK TO THE ACTION:
After bumping off his boss Lovo, with the aid of henceman Guino Rinaldo [George Raft], Camonte took up with Lovo's mistress, Poppy [Karen Morley]. Though he has lusted after Poppy from the start, Tony has shown oddly incestuous interest in his own sister, Cesca [Ann Dvorak] that seemed more emotionally deep than that for his newly found trophy girl. There were hints about the incestuous nature of their relationship throughout the film with their mother, who Tony never implied was anything more than a domestic servant, constantly warning Cesca about Tony's intentions in veiled but unmistakable language.
Believe it or not, there is actually humor woven into "Scarface" throughout, with one of the best examples being the murder of Gaffney, [Boris Karloff] while he was bowling. The camera pans to Gaffney's bowling ball knocking down all the pins which is a strike, and one of the many examples of the "X" being used to indicate a murder being committed throughout the film. This reduced the explicitness of the violence, but was perhaps more effective and thought provoking through the implicitly clear outcome.
In the end, Camonte got what he had coming and took it like a weasel, which was required by the censors, but it also removed the romanticism that frequently was given to the many violent criminals of the day, especially Capone. His sister died with him, actually before him. At which point he became a defeated man, ready to throw in the towel, but not before he provided proof that he was no hero and unworthy of anyone's respect, which the police had told us to expect.
ABOUT THE TONE OF THE FILM AND ITS TIME:
Hughes had all kinds of problems with the censors of the day, and we are told that two versions of the film were released. One without the censors approval and one with. Also, that a moral prologue had to be added at the beginning of the film, and added several times during it, to make clear that this was a bad thing we were seeing, [the ruthless life of a killer] and that it was not okay to emulate. In essence, to make clear that the message of the film was NOT to encourage this kind of lifestyle.
MY TAKE ON THE MESSAGE:
To me, the lead character, Tony Camonte, is a vicious swine whose courage came in the form of a gun in his hand. His lusts' and interests' were both perverted and dispicable, making him an unsympathetic character, and a blight in any civilized society. Good - because that is how he was meant to be seen. That, in no way, diminishes the potency of this film. Instead it punctuates and highlights the right from the wrong, the good from the bad. We may not be sure what the good and right is, after seeing this film, but we can be sure what is bad and wrong, because we have seen it for 93 minutes by the time the film ends.
-----*- PRINCIPAL ACTORS -*
Paul Muni - Tony Camonte Ann Dvorak - Cesca Camonte Karen Morley - Poppy George Raft - Guino Rinaldo Boris Karloff - Gaffney Osgood Perkins - Johnny Lovo
-----*- PRODUCTION CREW -*
Howard Hawks - Director / Producer / Screenwriter Howard R. Hughes - Producer W.R. Burnett - Screenwriter Ben Hecht - Screenwriter John Lee Mahin - Screenwriter Seton Miller - Screenwriter Fred Palsey - Screenwriter Armitage Trail - Book Author
ABOUT THE VIDEO:
The video quality was variable, but it was watchable from beginning to end. The sound was even better, with very little of the background hiss that we can expect from a 74 year old film.
An excellent film and an excellent companion for the more recent remake of Scarface,1983, Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Al Pacino. When one recalls that Scarface was made in 1932, before film-noir, and actually during prohibition [1920-1933] it reminds us of what a gem this "talky" is.
An early gangster film and a cinema landmark
calvinnme | 05/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I see reviews here dating back to the year 2000. This review is for the Universal Cinema Classics release of Scarface that came out in May 2007. First off, the video and audio on this print are excellent. There is no hissing in the audio, and there are very few artifacts in the video. The extras are another matter. First there is an introduction by TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne who provides the same excellent short introduction that he would were Scarface playing in prime time on TCM and he were introducing it there - no more, no less. The only other extra is an alternate ending scene for Scarface. There is no commentary track, which is a shame considering this film, along with "Little Caesar" and "The Public Enemy" form the founding trio of the gangster film in the sound era of the motion picture.
As for the movie itself, it is based on real events that happened in the criminal career of Al Capone, although Capone's criminal career had already ended with his conviction on charges of tax evasion six months before this film was released in April 1932. You know you're watching a Howard Hughes production when, during the first scene, a bar employee is sweeping up after a party held by one of Chicago's big gangsters and finds a bra among the confetti. The film shares some aspects with its gangster film predecessors - Tony Camonte is motivated by a desire for power just as Edward G. Robinson's Rico was in "Little Caesar", and also like Rico takes over the gang from a boss he perceives as weak. However, Camonte doesn't seem to have the pent-up rage of Public Enemy's Tom Powers. When Tony performs acts of violence it is usually related to gangland business. The actual deaths are strictly business, but the execution of the killings themselves are something Tony takes pride in - a sort of work of art on his part. Like Tom Powers, Tony Camonte is given a family background, but unlike Tom Powers, Camonte's family is a completely dysfunctional one. What is unique in this gangster picture is Tony's trio of love interests. He wants his boss' girl, Poppy, as a status symbol. He also seems to have a love affair going with the machine gun, acting like he has discovered America the first time he shoots one. Finally, Tony is in love with his own sister Cesca. Tony's only true fits of rage occur when he sees her with another man, and it is this loss of emotional control over this one issue that is ultimately his downfall. George Raft, an ex-gangster of sorts himself, is terrific as the smart and level-headed Guino Rinaldo, Tony's right-hand man. Finally there is Vince Barnett as Tony's extremely inadequate secretary in a bit of comic relief turned tragic at the end of the film. This film is truly a classic. I just wish Universal had put in a commentary track, for such a cinema landmark is certainly worthy of one. Highly recommended."
Chilling gangster tale that still packs a punch
Simon Davis | 05/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Scarface", belongs to the trio of classic gangster films with "Public Enemy", and "Little Caesar", of the early thirties that defined forever what a gangster or crime tale should like like.Even all these years later "Scarface" cuts a vivid and often frightening picture in its depiction of one ruthless crime boss and the means he uses to make his way in the world. Being of the pre code era "Scarface", in some respects has a surprisingly modern and non sentimental feel to it which makes it really entertaining viewing even today.Paul Muni had one of his most memorable screen roles in "Scarface' as Tony Camonte a small time hood who by most often ruthless methods, manages to climb up the crime ladder to be one of the crime bosses involved in everything from paybacks to illegal bootlegging. The film chronicles his seedy rise from small time thieving and intimidation to where he undermines his old "boss" and takes over all his underworld operations, to where he becomes the crime boss of the city while destroying everyone who loyally supported him on his rise. Loosely modelled on the Al Capone character Tony Camonte is a highly unlikeable character and it's to Paul Muni's great credit that he manages to instill in the character as much dimension as is possible in an individual that possesses few redeeming qualities. He begins as a cocky nobody out for anything he can get, developing into a more polished crime lord till his fall when he becomes the sniverling pathetic individual that was always lurking beneath the surface. It is a terrific performance which cemented Muni's stardom for the decade and placed him forever with the all time gangster greats like Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Paul Muni would go on to create many memorable pieces of work in such diverse films as "I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang", "The Story of Louis Pasteur", and "The Good Earth",among others, but this performance is the one he would always be most remembered for.The film has a gritty hard look about it and never compromises on showing the violent, unsafe and indeed terrifying underworld and the ruthless individuals that peopled it. Murders, incest, betrayal and illicit sex are all portrayed here with few attempts to gloss over the truth. "Scarface" contains many memorable performances, first and foremost in one of his best performances George Raft as the ruthless sidekick to Tony, Guino Rinaldo who pays the ultimate price for crossing Tony in his plans and falling for his little sister. His supposed real life gangster connections give Raft a glowing realism here and his trademark tossing of a coin was unforgettably sent up years later in Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot". Ann Dvorak as Tony's over sexed sister Cesca who also has a vividly incestious realtionship with her brother is another memorable and no holds bared character who would never have been allowed in films in just a few years after this film was made. She is a very sexual creature that holds her brothers love above all else and is even willing in the end to help kill for him. Karen Morley strikes an unforgettable impression as the cold as ice moll of first Johnny Love Tony's gangster boss, and when he outlives his usefullness, of Tony himeslf. She is slick, cold blooded and someone who revels in violence and hard company. Her's is an unforgettable performance and one of the best female characters to appear in any of the 1930's gangster films as she is her own boss and decides what she wants to do herself with no help from any man. The film has many violent scenes of gang warfare, mass killings, car chases, characters outliving their usefulness to Tony and being eliminated, and seduction. It's a vivid tale that will stick in your memory long after the fantastic final shoot out when Tony meets his richly deserved end.These pre-code efforts by studios like Warner Bros. and Universal hold up very well even today and "Scarface" has justly been considered a memorable classic since its release in 1932. Weakly remade in the 1980's, the Howard Hawks version starring Paul Muni is still the one to see. With its warts and all, no holds barred look at the seamy side of a gangster's life it is unsurpassed. For a slice of underworld life I highly recommend that you sit back and savour the delights of the violent yet extremely entertaining 1932 version of "Scarface"."
Wonderful Noir Gangster Film
Nicoletta Carlone | Los Angeles | 08/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The original scarface, so much different the 1970's remake. The two movies are night and day. This is a true pre-code noir gangster film made by Howard Hughes, loosely based on the life Al Capone who was terrorizing the streets of America at the time, the use of shadow and subtle violence in this movie makes it a very good example of early noir."