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Universal/1983/170m/WS 2.35

     Scarface is director Brian DePalma at his best. The glossy photography and slick camera movements blend perfectly into an operatic send-up of the American dream. DePalma makes the most of the major assets at his disposal, notably an extraordinarily effective, over the top, Al Pacino, and an entertaining and driving screenplay from Oliver Stone. It is a tribute to the filmmaker that despite a running time of almost three hours, Scarface never drags and seems no longer than the typical 100 minute Hollywood production.
     The first half of the film depicts the rise of Pacino's Cuban immigrant undesirable, Tony Montana, from North Miami Detention Center buried under a cloverleaf of expressways to a life in opulent palatial decadence atop a white cocaine mountain. Laced with violence often bordering on the offensive, it is nevertheless an integral element of this despicable dissection of life in the land of the drug lords.
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Tony Montana awash in an ocean of cocaine. ŠUniversal

     Pacino's performance is obviously central to the success of the film and it is his fascinating interpretation(accent and all)of amoral depravity that grips the audience by the throat and carries it along his march to the top. When the inevitable fall begins the film stumbles, never quite recovering the force of earlier sequences. Pacino performance likewise suffers the fate of the entire production, although the film, viewed as a whole is immensely successful.
     Pacino has excellent support from what the future has proven to be an virtual all-star cast, from Michelle Pfeiffer's empty paramour Elvira, to a glowing Mary Elizabeth Mastrononio as Tony Montana's sister. Steven Bauer, Robert Loggia, Harris Yulin, and F. Murray Abraham are all excellent as well.Further support is achieved through a thoroughly appropriate score by Georgio Moroder.

         Sadly, the DVD is an absolute disaster. Colors are bleeding all over the place, bright images bloom indiscriminately. The occasional scene is sharp, but the image is mostly soft. It's doubly frustrating since this film was beautifully lit and photographed by John Alonzo. The disc looked so bad I stopped the play to check that something hadn't thrown my projector convergence out of wack. Straight edges jump and ring excessively. Check out the marquee or the interior ceilings at The Pelican Club. The segment at Tony's mother's house is mass of jumping wires and picket fence elements. The sound quality is even questionable. Dialogue seems distorted in the opening scenes at North Miami Detention Center. What's truly eye-opening is once you get a look at the included out-takes. They look far better than the finished film as presented here. Out-takes simply never look better than the finished product. On the positive side, the out-takes are excellent, giving some alternative views of scenes in the movie and additional insight into the character of Tony Montana and the theme of Scarface. This special edition DVD also includes a nicely made making of documentary.