Return To Home Page
September 20, 2011
Scarface Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
22/3/198431/8/2011UniversalBrian De Palma
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1R18+Al Pacino

Click To Enlarge Image
Al Pacino as Tony "Scarface" Montana.

Over the years I have seen Scarface many times, from the heavily edited TV versions, to the DVD and now Blu-Ray release and the more I see it, the more impressed I get with the film. Perhaps it's that I'm getting older and can see that while this is a movie, it's a very realistic depiction of real life on many fronts. Universal know the significance of this film and have produced a Blu-Ray worthy of the title.

Scarface is a rags to riches tale of Cuban immigrant Tony "Scarface" Montana (Al Pacino) who finds wealth, power and passion beyond his wildest dreams... at a price he never imagined.

There's no doubt that Scarface sees the three main contributors at the peak of their game - Oliver Stone's script is astounding, Al Pacino's acting is simply mesmerizing while Brian De Palma's direction is tight and unrelenting. Indeed when this film hit cinemas in 1984 it struggled to get rated due to the strong language, violence and drug themes and even today, while there's a lot worse in cinema, this film still has a lot of impact. Themes present are still relevant including immigration and drugs and the cinematography still looks wonderful today.

Click To Enlarge Image
Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Elvira.
Coming straight off her starring role in Grease 2 Michelle Pfeiffer is impressive as Elvira, the girlfriend of Tony Montana. It certainly wasn't an easy role with many other actresses apparently turning down the part including (according to IMDB) Rosanna Arquette, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Melanie Griffith, Kim Basinger, Kathleen Turner and Jodie Foster. Other supporting cast are also at the top of their game including Steven Bauer as Manny, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Tony's sister Gina, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, and F. Murray Abraham to name a few.

Scarface has changed from a critically panned to culturally significant and loved film the world over. The idea of a man rising up from an absolute desperate situation to become a leader - albeit in the drug trade - is one which anyone can admire - well unless you totally despise extreme language and violence.

For those unfamiliar with the movie the opening scenes would be of some concern with some low-resolution images of Cubans on boats fleeing to America. We believe, however, this is authentic footage from the events of the period. Soon after this though, when the film starts proper, things really do improve with a gorgeous, nigh on pristine transfer that shows off a remarkable sharpness and image quality with realistic colours throughout be it during the indoor or outdoor scenes.

Click To Enlarge Image
This scene in Scarface is chilling.
There isn't too much else to fault here. There is some light image wobble in the footage when zooming into the house in Bolivia at the 59:02 mark. These issues are few and far between and it must be remembered that the film is now almost 30 years old!

If every movie studio lavished their catalogue releases with such a gorgeous remastering and transfer as this then there wouldn't be such a backlash over quality and stagnant sales as a result. Scarface looks sensational - and dare we say it - has never looked better even in its original theatrical run. Sensational.

When Scarface was released in cinemas it was presented in a 4-track Stereo and was one of the last releases in the format which dates back to the 1950s. It's somewhat surprising then just how stunning this release is sonically. The movie has been remixed over the years and is presented on Blu-Ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (24-bit/48Khz) track that offers as much clarity as one would expect. There are some moments where the sound, and in particular the speech, is slightly muffled and some of the gunshots lack the punch of major "Hollywood" films of today. Still, there's no doubt that Scarface is a very impressive release sonically on Blu-Ray.

Click To Enlarge Image
Scarface looks gorgeous on Blu-Ray.
Besides the primary lossless audio track this disc does include English, Spanish and Frenc DTS 2.0 tracks encoded a 768kbps which would more accurately represent the audio on the original theatrical release. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French.

It's great to see Universal lavish this film with a swag of extras, including some new content. It must also be noted that a Digital Copy of the film will be made available on a second disc in the set.

The Scarface Phenomenon (38:34/HD): Presented in three sections ("Say Hello To The Bad Guy!" (11:22), "Pushing The Limit" (13:31), and "The World & Everything In It" (13:40)) this is a new documentary which looks back at the release of the film and how opinions have changed over the years from a movie which received little praise to one which now has a cult following, and has changed the opinions of critics many of whom originally criticised the film. It also looks at the lasting legacy, how the hip-hop world has embraced the film, and other tie-ins including the video games and the documentary Cocaine Cowboys.

Click To Enlarge Image
Scarface - just chillin' on the beach!
Deleted Scenes (22:29/HD): Sadly only presented in Standard Definition, these scenes, many of which are extended or alternate takes, are still quite impressive with plenty of meaty content in the 22 minute runtime.

The World of Tony Montana (11:38): Copied from the DVD release this is a more EPK styled extra with plenty of participants talking about the film, but also how it relates to the real world criminal underground.

The Rebirth (10:08): Also recycled from the Special Edition DVD this extra looks at recreating the original Scarface film from 1932 and updating it for a modern audience.

The Acting (15:05): This featurette, again from the DVD release, is a decent look at the acting and actors in the film. The director talks about getting the best from the actors.

Click To Enlarge Image
Not a sight you want to see...
The Creating (29:35): The lengthiest of the returning featurettes this one looks at the creation of the film from real-world locations, to issues with the perception of the films content with the Cuban community, filming the action sequences (including concerns with exploding mirrors), set design, including humour, and battles with MPAA over the ratings.

The Making of Scarface: The Video Game (12:05): A nice look at creating the video game based on the film, Scarface: The World Is Yours on PS2, XBox and Wii. It's a few years old now but still interesting especially as the game was a decent tie-in.

Scarface: The TV Version (2:48): This is a brief, but very interesting look at how they tried to edit the film for release on TV networks including getting around the 160+ swearwords. Classic stuff "This town is like a great big pussy waiting to get fucked" changes to "This town is like one big chicken waiting to get plucked". Hehehe... classic.

Click To Enlarge Image
Tony Montana gets interrogated.
U-Control/Scorecard/Picture-in-Picture: Universal's U-Control is back and there are a couple of interesting things here. First up is the Scarface Scorecard which keeps count on the number of "F-Bombs" dropped during the film as well as the number of bullets fired in the movie. The other option is the Picture-in-Picture track which contains plenty of information about the creation of the film including clips from the original Howard Hawks' original to compare the two films.

One of the most significant films of all time Scarface won't be for everyone - just as it was back in the day when released in cinemas - but with a large following it's great to see Universal create a Blu-Ray disc with a gorgeous transfer and decent extras.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Universal. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.