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Friday, June 23, 2017

Scarface (1932)

Set during prohibition in 1920s Chicago, an ambitious thug (Paul Muni) tires of playing second fiddle to his mob boss (Osgood Perkins) and takes over the gang ..... and the mobster's girl (Karen Morley). Based on the novel by Armitage Trail with a screenplay by Ben Hecht and directed by Howard Hawks, this is the greatest of the 1930s gangster films. LITTLE CAESAR and PUBLIC ENEMY might have made stars of Cagney and Robinson, but as cinema, this is the real deal! From Hawks' beautifully staged opening to the violent finale, the movie blazes along with little spots of wit and humor (notably Vince Barnett's clueless henchman). Ironically, Muni who would rapidly become one of the worst hams in the movies manages to reign it in here when many an actor would have gone full throttle (as Al Pacino did in the 1983 Brian De Palma remake). Muni's Tony Camonte makes no attempt to be likable, his cocky arrogance seethes with malevolence. Although this was a pre-code film, it had trouble with the censors fretting about glamorizing violence but the blatant incest angle, Muni has the hots for his kid sister played by Ann Dvorak, is played out boldly. With Boris Karloff and George Raft.   

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