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Customer Review

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "TALKY" THAT CARRIES QUITE A WALLOP -- for 93 MINUTES, March 26, 2006
This review is from: Scarface [VHS] (VHS Tape)
----- * 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.
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Location: St. Augustine, FL USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 76,818