Under the Radar

Scarface: Say Hello to Blu-ray

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Brian De Palma's Scarface remake has finally been released on Blu-ray and the results are spectacular. The high-def transfer gives the movie's over-the-top art direction and cinematography a new impact. Even if you've watched Scarface a hundred times on late-night cable or a well-worn VHS tape, this version's visuals are so intense that this edition can seem like a brand-new film.

The Scarface Limited Edition comes in a shiny red metal case and also includes an all-new documentary called The Scarface Phenomenon, ten "collectible art cards," a bonus DVD of the original 1932 movie starring Paul Muni, an on-screen F-bomb tracker plus a whole host of extras recycled from previous DVD versions. If you're really aching to add to your collection, there's a $1K version that comes with a high-end humidor for your cigars and whatever.

There's also a digital copy you can load onto your smartphone or tablet device, but the resolution on that version is just another reminder of how much quality you're sacrificing when you watch movies that stream online or from your home media setup. There's no comparison between the downloaded version and the awesome masting on the actual Blu-ray. Hell, Best Buy could use the new version as the demonstration disk to sell their most expensive TVs if they could actually get away with showing it in stores without freaking out the customers.

All the scenes that freaked out critics and audiences in 1983 seem even more graphic in this transfer, even though the bloodletting now seems sort of tame compared to the torture scenes in contemporary horror films. This movie is the moment where Al Pacino went totally off the chain: all the over-the-top mannerisms and tics that characterize his recent performances first turned up here. In the accompanying documentary, all the major players freely admit they were aiming to make a incredibly commercial film and De Palma talks about how badly he needed a hit after the commercial failure of the awesome Blow Out.

The movie got terrible reviews and made a little money on its initial release, but Scarface's real impact has come through its influence on hip-hop culture, an impact so huge that it's almost the rap world's version of Star Wars. Plus it has even more quotable lines than Top Gun.

So, if you've never seen Scarface and aren't going to be completely disgusted by its glorification of drugs and violence and the movie's refusal to make Pacino's Tony Montana show regret for his crimes, then this version is a fantastic place to start. If you're already a fan but been disappointed after you  paid for a Blu-ray upgrade on other movies you love, this is one high-def transfer that's worth the cost.

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