Scarface (1932)


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Rating: The Good – 84.8
Genre: Gangster
Duration: 93 mins
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley

Howard Hawk’s original gangster masterpiece is a less romanticised and more accusatory piece of story-telling than Brian De Palma’s worthy remake but just as dark. Paul Muni stars as the ruthless hood who murders his way to the top of Chicago’s mob world. It’s a terrific performance as he exudes menace and low brow sensibilities with every heavily accented word and crooked smile. The scope of Ben Hecht’s adaptation (of Armitage Trail’s story) is impressive but thanks to the outstanding writing, it still manages to give us a more intimate perspective than such scope would suggest possible. Moreover, the characters are well drawn out and there’s even some rich humour to be found sprinkled throughout. Hawks pulls out all the stops in giving us levels of street violence that at the time were unprecedented and even today are quite impressive. Moreover, the shootings and bombings come across as much more realistic and cold-minded than modern day movie villainy. The photography is sumptuous and combined with the seedy characters and first rate story, it’s hugely memorable – as that excellent Valentine’s Day Massacre sequence is testament to. Overall and despite the monumental performance of Pacino in the 1980’s version, the original Scarface probably remains a more substantial and satisfying experience than the remake.

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