Monday, January 11, 2010

66. Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (1932)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Howard Hawks
Written By: Ben Hecht, Fred Pasley, Seton I. Miller, John Lee Mahin, W.R. Burnett, from novel by Armitage Trail
Main Cast: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, George Raft, Osgood Perkins, Boris Karloff


The first of eleven Howard Hawks pictures in the "1001" book, Scarface offers up an outstanding performance by Paul Muni and a gritty look at the crime world in the Prohibition days of Chicago.

Muni plays the title role of Tony "Scarface" Camonte, a gangster on the rise in the underworld and destined to make it big. The film starts out with Tony knocking off big time gangster and leader of all wrong doing, Lou Costillo. This opens up the door for Tony's current employer, Johnny Lovo, to take control of all Costillo's operations and with Tony as his muscle, he can't lose. Muni plays Scarface so well, with his "I'll get whatever I want" attitude and you really believe that this guy could kick an ass or two, if need be.

Johnny Lovo eventually takes full control of the bootlegging racket and adamantly shoots down all of Tony's risky suggestions, such as moving in on the Northside and taking over the bootlegging in that region. When Tony gets fed up with his boss' lack of backbone, he and his sidekick, Guino Rinaldo, take matters into their own hands, moving in on the Northside racket, killing the Northside king and all the while, taking his inspiration from a sign outside his apartment window that reads, "The World Is Yours". Tony even, throughout the movie, constantly flirts with Lovo's main squeeze, until eventually she cracks to his charm and leaves Lovo in the dust. Another constant storyline throughout the picture, is the over protecting attitude that Tony shows toward his sister, first paying her off to stay away from other men, and then eventually resulting to physical violence to teach her a lesson.

As I've said in the past, gangster flicks really aren't my specialty, but with a few really good ones coming up in the book recently, I've really been able to enjoy this genre in a whole new light. First Cagney swings in with his portrayl of Tom Powers and now Muni takes the screen and makes it his with his portrayl as Tony Camonte. While I just saw Muni in "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang", I kept watching this movie and saying "That is not the same guy!", eventhough I knew very well that it was. It's not that Muni looks any different physically, it's that he's playing a totally different character and his acting is so top notch, that he gives the illusion of looking physically different. He's truly an amazing actor and I really hope I haven't seen my last Muni movie in the "1001" book. Everyone else turned in great performances too (as that seems to be the latest trend, as I've watched some really steallar casts recently), the two main female leads, Tony's sister, Cesca and Tony's love interest, Poppy are both great and I have to mention Angelo played by Vince Barnett who provides us with a little bit of comedy throughout the movie. While, in my opinion, there are still a few dull spots throughout the film, all in all, with the great acting and everything that's going on plot-wise, Scarface is a really good flick.

RATING: 7/10 Howard Hawks starts off with a bang and I can't wait to see more films, from a director that I've heard so much about, yet haven't seen enough from.

NEXT UP: Shanghai Express...Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich team up once again and hopefully "Shanghai Express" is as good as "The Blue Angel"...Review should be up around this time tomorrow.

January 11, 2010 2:31am

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