Blu-Ray Review: Beloved ‘Scarface’ With Al Pacino Joins HD Catalog

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CHICAGO – We’re heading into that time of year when people buy gifts for loved ones of things they already have. Sorta. As we get closer to the holidays, catalog titles get the upgrade with new transfers and special features to make the fact that you already own your favorite movie on a now-useless DVD easier to bear. HD catalog additions this year include “Star Wars,” “Ben-Hur,” “The Lion King,” “Jurassic Park,” “West Side Story,” and much more. But the first is arguably the greatest with a stellar Universal release of the wildly-influential, controversial, and infamous “Scarface.” Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

The first question I usually ask when a catalog title hits my shelf on Blu-ray is a simple one — How has the movie itself held up? It’s always about the actual movie. We talk about HD quality and special features, but most people buy Blu-rays for the actual movie itself. Has it aged? Is it as good as you remember?

Unless you’re one of those folks who can quote it line-by-line and will be most excited about the collectible postcards included in the new Blu-ray edition, “Scarface” has actually held up better than you remember. If you’re like me and hadn’t seen it in years, you should try and watch it again free from the posters and catch phrases. Not only does it feature one of the best performances from one of our best actors but it is one of the most visually-striking films of its day. I particularly love a shot that goes from a bathroom to the street and back to a scene of unimaginable brutality. There may be bikini girls on the beach, but there’s evil in the windows that overlook it.

Scarface was released on Blu-ray on September 6th, 2011
Scarface was released on Blu-ray on September 6th, 2011
Photo credit: Universal

If you think about it, “Scarface” is one of those amazing confluences of timing in which so many people involved were at or near their prime — Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, director Brian De Palma, writer Oliver Stone: What they contributed to “Scarface” easily stands as one of their best accomplishments.

With the larger-than-life personality at its core, it can be easy to forget (I did) how visually striking a film “Scarface” can be. From its bright costumes to its lavish locations to its blood-soaked fight scenes, this is a movie that had held up not just because of its story but because of the power of its imagery.

Scarface was released on Blu-ray on September 6th, 2011
Scarface was released on Blu-ray on September 6th, 2011
Photo credit: Universal

And that imagery has never been more powerful than with Universal’s stellar HD transfer. They are easily one of the best studios out there when it comes to HD video and audio quality. The bright reds don’t look TOO bright. The film has been balanced perfectly. Honestly, I had never seen “Scarface” like this — I probably hadn’t seen it since VHS or cable — and it’s a spectacular way to watch the movie.

As for special features, “Scarface” comes with two U-Control features. The first is “Scarface Scorecard,” which tallies the F-bombs and deaths with running meters that appear on-screen. The more “intellectual” of the two features is a fantastic “Picture-in-Picture” function that includes interviews and behind-the-scenes details as the film plays. The footage comes from decades of “Scarface” coverage, including interviews with key players that were clearly produced ages ago along with some more current ones. But they’re almost all interesting. These are smart people and they make fantastic interview subjects. And sometimes the P-i-P can even make you laugh, as in when it shows the network version of the infamous bathroom scene. It’s amazing to me that they EVER showed “Scarface” on TV. If you’re curious how they pulled that off — “p**sy” actually becomes “pineapple” at one point — you can watch a pretty funny bit that shows you the new version of a few key scenes.

The package, which comes in a stand-out steelbook edition, also includes a great variety of stand-alone special features, the highlight of which is “The Scarface Phenomenon,” a 38-minute piece on the lasting power of the movie that includes new interviews with most of the major players and an unusual array of fans, including everyone from Eli Roth to Cypress Hill. It is a spectacular collection of bonus material (including the ENTIRE 1932 original on another disc) for one of the best Blu-rays of the year. If this is a sign of what’s to come during this holiday season, you better start saving for Christmas shopping now.

Special Features:
o The Scarface Phenomenon
o U-Control - Scarface Scorecard and Picture in Picture
o Deleted Scenes
o The World of Tony Montana
o The Rebirth
o The Acting
o The Creating
o Scarface: The TV Version
o The Making of Scarface: The Video Game
o DVD of the original Scarface (1932)
o Pocket Blu
o BD Live Enabled
o Digital Copy Of Feature Film
o 10 Collectible Art Cards

“Scarface” stars Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, and Steven Bauer. It was written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian De Palma. It was released on Blu-ray on September 6th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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