Scarface (1932)
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Customer Reviews:

  • Ahead Of Its Time
    Action-wise, this movie was 60 years ahead of its time, at least in terms of the amount of violence in it. I think it's safe to say most classic films, including the crime movies, are much slower in pace than today's fare. Sometimes that's better; sometimes it isn't.

    This movie is action-packed with few lulls and it's fun because of it, in this case. Paul Muni, as "Tony Camonte," the head gangster, is compelling and fun to watch. He's tough-as-nails until the end. The main women in here - Ann Dvoark and Karen Morely - are interesting, too. Don't be fooled by the billing of George Raft and Boris Karloff. In this film, they have very small roles.

    This is Muni's show, though, all the way and few actors could ham it up in his day like him. It's a wild ride for the full 93 minutes.


    ...more info
  • Famous film but obsolete now.
    While "Scarface" was a shattering and powerful film in 1932, time has not dealt with it kindly. Presented with a Forward that offers the film as a document to demonstrate the need for political action to curb mob violence, Paul Muni stars as a practically neanderthal gangster who shoots his way to the top of the mobs during prohibition. Muni was a prestige actor who always immersed himself in his roles almost to the point of inertia. He is at his best here, completely and totally in character, but as usual, he verges on the monotonous. His number one henchman is the novice George Raft who has little dialogue but lots of charisma. He mostly stands in the background flipping a coin. The film was the most violent of all the gangster films and there are endless shootouts including a brief recreation of the St Valentines Massacre. In fact, the Forward tells us that every incident depicted in the film is a recreation of an actual incident.

    From a cinematic viewpoint, the least dated aspect of the film is the performance of the sensational Ann Dvorak who plays Muni's teenage sister with none too subtle hints of incest. The ethnic background is also well depicted with Muni's mother less than enchanted with her violent son.

    The print of the the film is not very good. The soundtrack comes and goes as the actors move to and from the microphones. The visuals are dark and the contrast is poor so it is sometimes hard to see what is happening. The DVD includes an alternate ending which shows "Scarface" being hanged rather than simply gunned down in the street. The alternate ending allows a judge to deliver a speech about the need to eradicate the gangsters and makes a more logical book end piece to the Forward. It adds to the documentary aspect of the film but adds nothing in terms of cinematic impact.

    The fine gangster films of the 70s, including the remake of this film by Brian de Palma, have made this film obsolete except, of course, as an important component of the 30s gangster cycle. The package would have been vastly improved with an erudite commentary....more info
  • Decent Movie
    The movie was fair. If this was based on Al Capone, there are other movies based on his reign that are more detailed and better written...more info
  • The Tracking Shot
    This film deserves a first rate edition; the current issue lacks the sharpness and contrast for a good black and white film experience. Even so, the film is quite watchable.

    Check out the opening sequence an over three minute tracking shot that moves us into the narrative and atmosphere of the film with economy, assurance and humor. No crane shots (qv "Touch of Evil"), but plenty of instructive moments on how to tell a visual short story. There's dialogue, more revealing of the gangster as social climbing status seeking Successful American Wannabe, and really background to the rolling scene. ...more info
  • Wonderful Noir Gangster Film
    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. ...more info
  • the best gangster movie ive ever seen
    i just watched and taped this movie from tcm.i really liked it.i thought,like many old movies it would be long and devoid of any action.boy was i wrong!all the events in the movie were based on real life happenings.it is set in a time where one of the biggest crime bosses just went down and 10 more are jumping in to take his place.so theres someone getting shot up in every scene!it was great!of course its done in a 1932 type way so you wont see any graphic violence gow we think of it today,but it was top of the line for its time.my favorite part is when the lead character is getting the building hes in shot to pieces and he looks up for a second at his shooters and sees their machine gun.and he gets really exited like a kid at x-mas and says"they got a machine gun you can carry around!i gotta get me one of those!".i think its the best gangster movie ive ever seen and yes i have seen "the godfather"...more info
  • A "TALKY" THAT CARRIES QUITE A WALLOP -- for 93 MINUTES

    ----- * 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.


    BOTTOM LINE:

    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.

    ...more info
  • production code problems
    By today's standards it is almost a PG film due to the inherently innocent look into the graphic nature of the cinematography. But just the same, by the standards of that time period, it was a horrifically violent movie with around 30 deaths in the film. This was a record breaker in itself. Howard Hawks, under the control of the industry for which he was working had to hold off on releasing the movie more than two years because they were fearful that it was praise for criminals and the crimes they committed. Chicago alone refused to show the film for another year on top of the original two....more info
  • The Public Enemy
    "Scarface" starts off with a warning. The events depicted in the film are part of a real problem and it is up to the citizens to hold their government responsible. There were similar warnings at the beginning of "Little Caesar" and "The Public Enemy" (both released one year earlier, 1931). All three films were trying to be more than just films. They were attempting to be the public's conscience. Of the three movies though I think "Scarface" is the most preachy.

    Take for example a scene where a group of citizens debate why the local newspaper keeps putting those stories of violence on its front page. The publisher of the paper agrues the people have a right to know whats going on. By printing these stories on the front page perhaps they will be able to shame them out of their town. Soon we get a medium shot of the man, he is suppose to be addressing the people in his office but instead he is looking directly into the camera. He is really talking to YOU. He is warning the audience unless they hold their government responsible nothing will change. This kind of moral preaching seems a little pretenious to me.

    Francois Truffaut once said there is no such thing as an anti-war film because when you watch the war scenes they are exciting. That may very well be true and I think the same can be said about these gangster pictures. How can you make a movie saying violence is bad and then flood the movie with violent scenes? Honestly, weren't the shooting scenes exciting to watch? Therefore I feel the movie contradicts itself.

    But enough with all this serious talk. "Scarface" was produced by Howard Hughes (I wonder why he didn't direct this one) and directed by Howard Hawks. It is probably the best of the three films I mentioned if only because of the violence. Hughes at the time would agrue, it's not violent, it's realistic. But what an odd choice I felt for Hawks to direct. I've always associated his name with other genres, mostly comedies such as "20th Century" and "His Girl Friday". Because of this it doesn't really feel like a Howard Hawks film, at least to me.

    The movie tells the story of a small time hood, Tony Camonte, (Paul Muni, it's a shame he didn't receive an Oscar nomination) who makes his way up to the big time. At first we see Tony working for Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) a big shot on the southside of town. But Tony wants to control the northside as well, especially after he sees the way Johnny lives. Expensive clothes, expensive place to live, and a beautiful woman (Karen Morley). So Tony starts going over Johnny's head and becomes the new leader.

    A lot of people I bet are more familar with the Brian De Palma remake of this film with Al Pacino made in 1983. The two are as different as night and day. But I will not comment on which is better, mostly because they are two different movies and do not deserve to be compared.

    As you watch this original "Scarface" though you'll notice small roles for George Raft, as a friend of Tony's and Boris Korloff as a rival.

    Bottomline: Overly preachy tale of "crime doesn't pay" But is still one of the best gangster pictures of its time. Good performance from Paul Muni makes the movie watchable.
    ...more info
  • Scarface Leaves Notable Scar on Film History
    Produced by Howard "The Aviator" Hughes, the original version of "Scarface" depicts the rise of Tony, a young Italian-American gangster, to underworld power in the 1920's America. His unscrupulous, relentless and unsympathetic actions are portrayed in a bravura performance by Paul Muni, but other, mainly female players, are by no means worse. The black humour every now and then eases the tough, violent script (although it certainly is less difficult to watch than current violent movies). Melodrama and tragic overtones also occur and the finale has its particular gradation, which leaves the story as a prey to its inevitable ending. The creators evidently tried to infuse the movie with a solid piece of social commentary and they have mostly succeeded, turning "Scarface" into one of the best movies of the sound film era's dawn....more info
  • LOOK OUT I'M GONNA SPIT!!!!!
    i find it amazing to think of all of those scarface fans out there that haven't heard of or haven't seen the original. i know it's hard to get but if you can track it down watch this movie you will be glad you did.seeing the 1983 version first, the 1932 version seems condensed but it carries the same weight and the same great storyline.it is a film that definitely stands out from other films of that time period and a film that needs to be respected because it IS the original and it spawned the greatest movie of all time. A MUST SEE!!...more info
  • X
    Paul Muni the greatest character actor of all time. Paul never liked film acting, he loved the stage. His short Hollywood career was an unhappy one longing for his love for the stage. Also see Paul Muni as another tough gangster out for revenge in Angel On My Shoulder!...more info
  • Vintage Gangster Film
    Howard Hawk's Scarface will always stand as the epitome of the early 1930's gangster film. The early talkie stars Paul Muni as Tony Camonte loosely based on the real life Al Capone. The acting in the film is typical of the time period. Muni goes way over the top in his portrayal( something that DePalma tried to get Pacino to do in the 1983 remake).

    There are several performances that stand out in the film. Most notably is that of the coin flipping George Raft as Camonte confidante Guino Rinaldi. The script was written by Ben Hecht who won an academy award even though it gets somewhat preachy in order to satisfy the movie censors.

    The action is particularly well filmed even with the technical limitations of the day. Note the shootouts and car chases. Another interesting plot device is the placing of X's throughout the film when something bad is about to happen.

    This film was long unavailable on DVD but can now be found in that format as part of the Scarface Deluxe Gift Set. I'm hoping that the film will be remastered and released on its own with some additional bonus material. For now the only additional material that is available on the disc is an alternate ending Hawks shoot to get the film past the Film Review Board which has a captured Camonte led off to face trial and execution for his crimes ( a sort of crime doesn't pay message that the censors insisted on).

    Do yourself a favor and see Scarface as it was meant to be. This important film is in many ways superior to the 1983 remake but does stand as a bookend to that piece. Get out and see this great piece of gangster history....more info

  • Chilling gangster tale that still packs a punch
    "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"....more info

  • X Marks The Spot!
    One of the greatest (if not THE greatest) gangster films of all time, Scarface outdistances the 80's remake as surely as Van Sant's PSYCHO is outshined by its predecessor.

    Paul Muni stars as Tony, a ruthless neandrathal-like thug with a heater and a three piece suit who systematically takes over the illegitimate business of his goin' soft employer one burrough at a time. George Raft is the epitome of slick, wolfish cool (check out the coin flipping, which Billy Wilder had Raft scoff at years later in SOME LIKE IT HOT, in a nod to this movie) as Guino, Tony's right hand man, and Ann Dvorak as Tony's off-kilter sister is one of the most seductive women ever to be cast in light and shadow. Plus you've got Boris Karloff doing a turn as an Irish mobster...nice.

    Surprisingly fast paced and brutal (great car chases -ever see a Model T roll down a hill?), this is spectacularly captured in black and white. There is a bit of `What're YOU gonna do about it?' preaching in the middle (the DA actually points at the audience as he delivers his tirade against crime), but so what? This one hits and hits hard. A year later the film commission would never allow the incest and the violence (in subsequent showings, a scene was actually tacked on the end in which Tony was brought in alive, and a stand-in filmed from the back stood in handcuffs before a finger wagging judge who sentences him to life in the cooler -or is it execution, I forget? - for his crimes) in later American films.

    For a real hoot, pay close attention to the screen - there is a corresponding `X' somewhere in the frame every time somebody gets killed!...more info

  • A FASCINATING GEM OF THE GANGSTER GENRE.
    The life and death of a Chicago gangster in the twenties. Famous for it's silvery cinematography by Lee Garmes and it's unique stylish touches by director Howard Hawks, SCARFACE is an exceptionally intelligent, sometimes frightening, thrilling and provocative motion picture from the Hollywood of 1932. Obviously modeled on Al Capone with an incestuous sister thrown in, this is probably the most vivid of all the gangster epics of the 193O's. It's revelling in its own sins wasn't obscured by its subtitle THE SHAME OF A NATION. Produced by Howard Hughes and scripted by Ben Hecht (who won an AA) the movie made a star of Polish-born Paul Muni, and as Cesca, Ann Dvorak deservedly won kudos from the critics. Muni is perfectly cast as Tony Camonte: he moves sluggishly as if only the part of his brain which is evil generates his physical movements. Karen Morley, an underrated actress is exceptional as Poppy, the ice-cool blonde gun moll. She's a violence-craving chippie who is turned on by power and killing. The famous scene where slinky, sexy Ann Dvorak seduces George Raft - i.e. asking him whether he likes the steamy jazz music as she shimmies - was based on an actual incident: it plays beautifully. Legend says that Al Capone himself owned a print of SCARFACE and saw it perhaps a half dozen times: he was mesmorised at its authenticity in that many lines spoken by Muni and others came right out the mouths of real-life gangsters!...more info
  • crazysexycool
    Crazysexycool is the best way I can describe Paul Muni's character in Scarface. Muni,as always is excellent. He takes a ruthless,coldblooded killer and gives him likeablilty and appeal. Except for the "moral lecture" in the middle, the movie is great. That scene was added to satisfy the censors in 1932. Director Howard Hawks said that the scene made him want to puke. If you see the movie, you will see what he means. It only serves to slow down the pace of the movie. Otherwise, I love it. My favorite scene is when Tony first gets a machine gun. He's like a kid with a new toy. He's says "out of my way while I spit" and procedes to mow the place down. I also love the scene where Tony and his entourage swagger into the nightclub. He is the epitome of cool. At that moment he is a man on top of the world. At the end when he is reduced to a sniveling coward and is mowed down in the street just as he deserved to be, I still found myself liking the guy!...more info
  • A GREAT PERFORMANCE FOR 1932.
    This movie was really very good. The acting was pure and realistic. Paul Muni was actually very handsome. Maybe it's because of the bad boy image. His sister on the other hand, resembled Betty Boop. The characters played their parts very well. It was believable and exciting. This gangster movie is a true gangster flick, and is worth seeing....more info
  • Stick with Brian De Palma's version.
    Boy, does Scarface stink. It's badly acted, with inept direction from Howard Hawks, and features a musical score more fit for a comedy. That so-called "car chase" is laughably choreographed. Just watch the Brian De Palma/Al Pacino version for a true intense and epic look at the rise and downfall of a criminal....more info
  • Best of the 30's gangster movies.
    Although there were many movies similar to this one made in the 30's and 40's, I feel that this one stands out for it's realism and spark. The rise and fall of a gangster was never this well done....more info