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Brian De Palma
Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F. Murray Abraham , Paul Shenar
Writing Credits:
Armitage Trail (novel), Ben Hecht (1932 screenplay), Howard Hawks (1932 screenplay), Oliver Stone

The world is yours ...

Starring Academy Award winner Al Pacino in an unforgettable performance as one of the most ruthless gangsters ever depicted on film and co-starring Academy Award nominee Michelle Pfeiffer, Scarface is the rags-to-riches story of Cuban immigrant Tony "Scarface" Montana, who finds wealth, power and passion beyond his wildest dreams ... at a price he never imagined. From acclaimed director Brian De Palma and Oscar-winning writer Oliver Stone, this action-packed Blu-ray features an all-new eye-popping remastered picture, explosive 7.1 audio track and never-before-seen bonus features. One of the most influential gangster epics of all time, the Scarface Limited Edition Blu-ray also includes collectible SteelBook packaging, a digital copy of the film, a DVD of the 1932 version of Scarface plus 10 original art cards for a limited time only.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.597 million on 996 screens.
Domestic Gross
$45.598 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English DTS Stereo 2.0
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 170 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 11/1/2011

• U-Control Interactive Features
• “The Scarface Phenomenon” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• “The World of Tony Montana” Featurette
• “The Rebirth” Featurette
• “The Acting” Featurette
• “The Creating” Featurette
• “The Making of Scarface: The Video Game” Featurette
• “Scarface: The TV Version” Featurette


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Scarface [Blu-Ray] (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2012)

Funny how opinions change over time. When Scarface first came out in 1983, it didn't do much at the box office and it received a largely negative reaction from the critics. However, nowadays it seems to be regarded as something of a classic and many see it as one of Brian De Palma's best films.

I only saw Scarface on video back in the mid 1980's, and I didn't think all that much of it. Since I'd seen critical reaction to the film change over the past few decades, I thought I might find some merit in the flick’s “cult classic” status.

Now that I've watched the film again, I can frankly say that I don't understand its appeal. I found Scarface to be a bloated, superficial, and simply dull excuse for an action drama.

My greatest complaint with Scarface involves its frightfully one-dimensional characters. Not a one shows any signs of development over the film's nearly three hours, and most don't register much of an impact. Oh, we see a lot of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), our lead character, but I never felt like any real insight into his personality was presented. This is a guy who we see go from small time hood to millionaire drug boss in fairly short order, but we don't learn a whole lot about him. It seemed improbable to me that Montana would succeed like he did. He doesn't appear especially smart or clever, and while his will seems strong, we see no indications that he's any more committed than anyone else in his line of work. Nonetheless, he reaches the top with little apparent effort.

Pacino's received a lot of praise over his career, and many find his portrayal of Montana to be one of his best pieces of work. That list does not include me. His acting is way over the top and enters the realm of caricature. That "Jose Jimenez"-caliber Cuban accent didn't help, either. Pacino used to be a good actor, but he tends toward the hammy side of the street, and this performance demonstrates that bent.

Cartoony though he may be, at least Montana registers strongly with the audience. The same cannot be said for most of the other characters. Manny Ray (Steven Bauer) is Montana's second in charge, and Bauer receives significant screen time. However, the character's a virtual cipher; I've seen lint that made a more powerful impression. When he's onscreen, he might as well be back in his trailer, because his presence carries absolutely no weight.

Michelle Pfeiffer fares better in her woefully underdeveloped role as love interest Elvira, but not much better. She offers an appropriately jaded and bitter turn in the role, but she seems to be in the film as a symbol more than as a participant; Elvira's there just as a token to represent Tony's level of achievement. Once she disappears toward the end of the film, we don't hear from her again; alone among the main characters, her ultimate fate is a complete mystery to us. Poor writing? Partially, but also I think the story needed her no longer; if she wasn't visible as Tony's prize, then to hell with her.

Ultimately, I think that Scarface fails as a film not just because of the weak characters or the sketchy script but mainly because I never feel in the least bit involved in the story. Stuff happens, lives progress, and so what? I never experience any interest or investment in anything that occurs. Tony's rise to power simply seems like such a de facto occurrence, with so little action or interest along the way, that I don't care when he receives his inevitable comeuppance.

When Scarface first came out, a lot of the controversy and negativity that surrounded the film mainly involved the allegedly graphic nature of the picture. As De Palma discusses in the supplements, the studio had to wage a bitter struggle to keep the movie from receiving an "X" rating due to the violence and the language. Maybe I was just too bored to notice, but I didn't think the movie seemed overly offensive. Yeah, I guess we do hear lots of profanity, but since it made sense within the film's world, it doesn't offer any shock value; it's just there. The violence wasn't anything overtly shocking, either; most of it is implied rather than shown, and those scenes occupy a relatively small portion of the movie anyway.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Scarface appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The image provided a mixed bag but had more good than bad.

That was a pleasant surprise given Universal’s track record with their catalog titles, however; I expected the worst from this transfer. On the positive side, sharpness was usually good and occasionally great. Much of the presentation looked tight and concise.

However, some softness crept in at times, and that issue was exacerbated by moderate edge haloes; those cropped up throughout a fair amount of the movie. I also noticed a bit of shimmering and digital noise reduction; the latter sometimes gave the film a bit of a smeared look, especially during interiors.

With its Miami setting, much of the flick took place in bright-lit exteriors, and those tended to look pretty terrific. They boasted lively, dynamic colors and delivered the best clarity. Interiors were more erratic; many looked fine, but the noise reduction and haloes created the most obvious problems in those.

Blacks were usually fine; they occasionally seemed a bit dense, but they mostly appeared solid. Shadows fell into the same category; despite a few murky shots, low-light elements came across fairly well. The presentation lacked print flaws. The transfer’s issues almost knocked it down to “C+” level, but so much of it looked really good that I thought it deserved a “B-“.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Scarface also had its ups and downs. The biggest weakness came from the quality of the audio – in particular, speech could be iffy. Much of the dialogue seemed reasonably natural, but more than a few lines appeared edgy and rough. Effects lacked distortion but seemed somewhat “canned” and unnatural at times; they didn’t display the greatest level of realism, though they were fine given their age.

The synthesized score worked better. The music showed pretty good pep and dimensionality, though it also could appear somewhat stiff. Still, the score became the strongest aspect of the mix.

A little too strong in terms of soundfield, however. The mix used all five speakers to an active degree, and that was a negative when it came to the music, as the surrounds became too prominent in terms of the score and songs. This was mostly evident during club scenes, but all aspects of the score featured too much activity from the back speakers.

Otherwise the soundscape seemed positive. Effects occasionally came across as a bit too “speaker-specific”, but the five channels provided a lot of discrete material that blended well enough overall. We got vehicles that moved neatly around the room as well as the appropriate pyrotechnics in the action sequences. The track’s negatives left it as a “B-“ mix, but it was still pretty good for its era.

When we shift to extras, we find two options under U-Control. The more interesting comes from “Picture-in-Picture”, a running commentary of sorts. This mixes interviews, scenes dubbed for the profanity-free TV version, a few outtakes and corresponding sequences from the original film.

During the interviews, we hear from producer Martin Bregman, screenwriter Oliver Stone, director Brian De Palma, Cocaine Cowboys filmmaker Billy Corben, rapper Sen Dog, filmmakers Antoine Fuqua, Keith Gordon and Eli Roth, stunt coordinator Jophery Brown, Scarface Nation author Ken Tucker, TV hostess Jillian Barberie Reynolds, Scarface: The Beginning author LA Banks, and actors Al Pacino, Maria Conchita Alonso, Angel Salazar, and Steven Bauer. The remarks cover the origins and development of the 1983 version, story/script/character subjects, research and some facts behind the movie’s fiction, cast and performances, music, reactions to the film and its legacy, stunts, the film’s depiction of violence and ratings issues.

“PiP” offers a generally good but somewhat frustrating piece. On the positive side, it runs nearly constantly – we find none of the extended gaps that often mar these programs – and comes with a fair amount of good information about the film. I especially like Corben’s notes on the Miami of the movie’s era.

On the negative side, I think we hear too much from people unrelated to the flick. Some of their reflections are useful but I’d like to get more material from the filmmakers themselves. Still, the “PiP” works fairly well as a whole.

The other “U-Control” option provides a “Scarface Scorecard”. This offers a little ticker that keeps track of the movie’s “F-bombs” and shootings. It’s a cute idea but not especially useful.

Next comes a documentary called The Scarface Phenomenon. Split into three parts, it fills a total of 38 minutes, 34 seconds with notes from De Palma, Bauer, Bregman, Reynolds, Roth, Corben, Tucker, Gordon, Sen Dog, Banks, Alonso, Salazar, Fuqua, film critic Julie Salamon, Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano, and actors Robert Loggia and Richard Belzer. The pieces look at reactions to the movie and thoughts about its various elements.

We get a little about the production, but most of “Phenomenon” goes over opinions of it. This continues what we saw in “PiP”; indeed, some of the same clips repeat here. I like the show when it discusses the movie’s controversies and reception in 1983, but much of “Phenomenon” ends up as general praise for the flick. We get some decent notes but it’s not a great discussion.

16 Deleted Scenes go for a total of 22 minutes, 29 seconds. Don’t expect a lot from these, as they’re closer to outtakes than to true deleted scenes. They add some little character bits but not much else. The movie already runs way too long, so it’s not a surprise that the leftovers aren’t particularly interesting. I’m sure the flick’s legion of fans will still be happy to check them out, though.

A few featurettes fill out the disc. The World of Tony Montana goes for 11 minutes, 38 seconds and includes notes from Maxim entertainment editor Eric Gillin, XXL lifestyle editor Branden Peters, former DEA undercover agent Jerry Speziale, and DEA special agents Dan Simmons and John Fernandes. They discuss the Miami of the early 1980s and how Scarface reflected reality. Some of these topics showed up earlier – mostly via comments from Corben – but this is a decent discussion of the subjects; at least it brings us new participants, some with law enforcement backgrounds.

In the 10-minute, eight-second The Rebirth, we hear from Bregman, Pacino, De Palma, and Stone. “Rebirth” looks at the adaptation of the original film and the development of the 1983 version. Some of this material appears in the “PiP” feature, but “Rebirth” creates a more coherent look at the film’s early stages. It gives us a tight little glimpse of the flick’s path to the screen and its script.

The Acting goes for 15 minutes, five seconds and features De Palma, Bregman, Pacino, Bauer, and director of photography John A. Alonzo. The show investigates cast, characters and performances. It delivers some useful insights into the topics involved.

For the longest of the featurettes, we get the 29-minute, 35-second The Creating. It offers statements from De Palma, Bregman, Stone, Alonzo, Bauer, and composer Giorgio Moroder. This one looks at sets and locations, visual design, camerawork and makeup, research and influences, stunts, action and the depiction of violence, characters and performances, music, and ratings issues.

“Creating” is a bit of an odd beast because it acts as a bit of a conglomeration of topics. It’s the closest the Blu-ray has to a standard “making of” program, but it mostly focuses on areas not detailed much elsewhere. Rather than break into all these featurettes, I’d have preferred one comprehensive documentary, but we still learn a fair amount here.

The Making of Scarface: The Video Game lasts 12 minutes, five seconds and includes info from Loggia, Bauer, Reynolds, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group VP Bill Kispert, Vivendi Games executive producer Pete Wanat, Radical Entertainment senior producer Cam Weber, game screenwriter David McKenna, lead character artist Scott Lee, and actors Ice-T, Michael York, Brenda Strong, James Woods, Robert Davi, and Michael Rapaport. The piece looks at notes about the game’s story and characters as well as aspects of its creation. We find a few decent details here but this is mostly just a long ad for the game – which seems a little odd since it came out five years ago.

Finally, we get Scarface: The TV Version. This two-minute, 48-second piece features an intro from Bregman before we see “original/altered” shots from the film. We already checked out a lot of this during the “PiP”, but it’s nice to get the clips on their own.

Every decade or so, I give 1983’s Scarface a look to see if I can figure out its continued appeal to a pretty big cult audience. As of 2011 – nope! The movie continues to seem bloated and absurd too much of the time. The Blu-ray provides erratic but generally pretty good picture and audio along with a fairly nice set of supplements. This becomes a satisfactory release for a tedious movie.

To rate this film visit the original Collector's Edition review of SCARFACE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main