Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangster > Murder > Filmmaking > Mental Illness > Russian Revolution > Great Depression > Scarface 4K (1983/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray, 1932 version Blu-ray and Limited Edition Statue Box Set)/3 Silent Classics By Josef Von Sternberg: Underworld, Last Command, Docks Of New Yor

Scarface 4K (1983/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray, 1932 version Blu-ray and Limited Edition Statue Box Set)/3 Silent Classics By Josef Von Sternberg: Underworld, Last Command, Docks Of New York (1927, 1928/Paramount/Criterion Blu-ray Set)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B-/B/B/B/B Sound: B & B-/C+/B-/B-/B- Extras: A-/B Films: B- (R-rated version only)/B/B/B/B-

In 1905, Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery was a silent hit, one of the first films with a narrative, if not the very first. A crime film, the robbers were dressed like cowboys, so many site the film as an early Western before the genre formed, but it is also one of the first-ever Gangster films before that also became a genre. Westerns were considered B-movie fodder until John Ford's original Stagecoach in 1939 made it a full-fledged genre. Gangster films arrived fully formed sooner and three of the films that made that possible are included in this double box set review.

Crime, mystery and murder was in the earliest of silent films, but to form what we know as the genre now, certain key films had to arrive. Warner Bros. became the studio primarily known for\r making classics in the genre, but other studios in Hollywood and in other markets also contributed. This also includes directors from across the sea coming to Hollywood.

Produced independently by ultra-rich film obsessed Howard Hughes and originally distributed by United Artists, Howard Hawks' Scarface in 1932 was a critical and commercial hit, a film Director Jean-Luc Godard considered one of the triumphs of early sound cinema and a pre-Hollywood code gem as rough and rugged as anything Warner would produce. Paul Muni would play the title character, a no-good killer who wanted it all and would kill anyone who got in his way. We see his warped moral code, his eccentric ways and how dangerous he could be.

It is that gem that makes its debut on Blu-ray for the first time ever in the new Limited Edition The World Is Yours box set featuring the new 4K edition of the 1983 remake of Scarface written by then-unknown Oliver Stone and directed by Brain De Palma, with Al Pacino as an updated Cuban version of the classic criminal. However, the film, one of the last big epics of the Golden Period Hollywood had from the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s, offers new twists, turns, bold ideas, making Scarface Tony Montana somewhat sympathetic.

The film originally received an X-rating (now NC-17) for extreme violence, the first gangster film to do so, thus De Palma and company were trying to top the first two Godfather films for realism and violence. Having come from a series of often shocking and bold psychological murder thrillers, De Palma had zero problems being so graphic. The versions here are all the slightly shorter R-rated edition, but the film is still effective enough and minus its belated adoption by the Rap/Hip Hop culture, does its best to be as documentary/journalistically real and thorough as possible, placing the crimes in context to what was happening in Miami at the time. Part of that would alter the city forever.

Like other fan-favorite gangster films (including Scorsese's Goodfellas and Casino, the former of which has a shock reference to the 1905 Great Train Robbery), diehard fans can quote some or all of the movie. Some of it has become a celebrated ugliness and Pacino is the driving force of the film with his all-out performance, but today, he would not even be able to sing on for the role as at this point in time, an actual Cuban actor (for which there are many great ones) would be the only casting choice. Some were also shocked Pacino would take on another gangster role after his two celebrated Godfather turns, but Pacino was serious about this film and even had the great Sidney Lumet (Prince Of The City, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico) originally attached to direct and even was responsible for key items that made it to the final film.

Uncertain about a few things and perhaps not ready to do another epic film after The Wiz and Prince Of The City did not have the critical and commercial success they deserved, De Palma was one of the only other filmmakers of the time who could have pulled it off.

A bomb when it hit theaters, it was suddenly discovered (along with Prince Of The City and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner) with the advent of home video and Pacino now considers it the most successful film of his career. Featuring that solid Stone script, De Palma as fearless as ever and a supporting cast that includes Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, F, Murray Abraham and more, it found its way into being a permanent part of pop culture, celebrated uglinesses and all. It is also one of the most successful gangster films of all time now and the genre would not see such violence until the remarkable parade of films like it in 1990 that included Goodfellas, Coppola's Godfather III, The Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing, Phil Joanou's State Of Grace, Peter Medak's The Krays and others.

Tony's rise and fall starts with being dumped by his own country in the U.S. where he lands up dishwashing, but in a sick twist on old Hollywood melodramas, he goes form that to being a drug kingpin, yet brings all his many character flaws with him and that helps bring about his downfall (despite the revisionist take where he is a 100% victim, for the toxic masculinity crowd with zero irony) and has new takes on it as times have become rougher since it release.

Since it first hit VHS and Beta tape releases (double packs at that), you could not even see the film widescreen, then it debuted that way on the old 12-inch analog LaserDisc format finally, then the same way on DVD and eventually, Blu-ray. We have been cursed with muddy copies with only incremental improvements over the decades, but the new 4K edition renders all those copies obsolete.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image can show its age in parts, especially in older graphics and vintage historical analog video used in the beginning, but this new scan and presentation is a revelation. You can really see the actors, the real Miami, the amazing cinematography by Director of Photography John A. Alonzo, A.S.C., and unless you've seen the film in a high quality, widescreen anamorphic 35mm or 16mm film print, you have never really seen how great the film looks until you see it in 4K like this.

Clarity and color range are the biggest instant beneficiaries, the film no longer looks cheap in ways the poorer prints and transfers may show. The use of the widescreen, Panavision frame all shot with 35mm film holds up incredibly well and you even get some remarkable demo shots. You can also see the actors more clearly and all the moments people have referenced and joked about in Pacino's performance suddenly take on a new serious, honest gravity because you can really see how he transformed into this man and it is now inarguably stunning and does justice to his work, the work of one of the greatest actors of all time.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used and can look a little strained, color-challenged and depth-limited, but it was an improvement over the old DVD we covered a long time ago and gave us a better idea of how good the film looked. Still, you get some motion blur and detail issues here that are gone in the 4K version.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on the 1932 Scarface can show the age of the materials used with small scratches and minor flaws here and there, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video and is especially improved in some fine shots of clarity, other of detail and in Video Black that the DVD could not handle. More on that set in a moment.

Five years before the original Scarface hit theaters, Josef von Sternberg was on a roll at Paramount Pictures making a series of unforgettable hits and three of his films have been restored and have been gathered by Paramount and The Criterion Collection for the new 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg Blu-ray set. The first of those films here helped establish gangster films as we know them now: Underworld (1927).

Written by Ben Hecht, who later wrote Scarface and whose work the 1983 film was based, this older film is a little different, with George Bancroft as Bill Weed, Evelyn Brent as Feathers and Clive Brook as a character with a name no less that Rolls Royce, a lawyer. Weed is obsessed with Feathers to the point it gets in the way of his crime empire and causes clashes with rivals that does not help him or anyone connected to him. 'The City Is Yours' a a motif that may sound familiar to you, but it was enough to make this a hit, win Hecht an Academy Award and set the genre on its way further. This is very well shot, even by today's standards and was long overdue for restoration and rerelease.

Also on this set are the Hollywood-set The Last Command (1928) with Emil Jannings as a man desperate for work in The Great Depression, hired to play a Russian Czarist soldier before the big Revolution overturns that royal rule for Soviet Communism. Little does the loudmouth casting man or director (William Powell, distinctive and outstanding this early on) realize is that he really was such a soldier. An early portrayal of post traumatic stress disorder, Jannings is amazing in the role and it is another gem.

Finally we get The Docks Of New York (1928) with George Bancroft as a worker on the bowels of a ship with very hard labor, extremely high working conditions including blatant mistreatment, he gets shore leave and meets a sexy woman (Betty Compson) who works in a local dance hall. They are both trapped in a lower socio-economic position (made worse by (implied) The Great Depression) and the script is a bit predictable at times, but I liked the film, it keeps it short to its advantage and has cinematography by Harold Rosson, best known for his work on the 1938 classic The Wizard Of Oz, just now arriving in its own 4K restoration.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used, but they look amazing despite the wear of micro-scratches and the occasional jumped frame. We're lucky they survived at all. The Video Black is rich and in all cases, making them more palpable and effective, and all come from 35mm fine grain positive prints, save Command in a duplicate 35mm negative.

We now conclude with sound and extras for both box sets.

Though the original recording is location mono and stereo music, Universal has upgraded the 1983 Scarface for DTS: X 11.1 lossless sound (a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix for older systems) and it is the best this film will ever sound, the mixers getting the most out of the various sound stems and sound elements to make this as effective as possible. The dialogue has never been so clear and Giorgio Moroder's music score is as impressive as the one he delivered for Alan Parker's Midnight Express (1978), a unique, one-of-a-kind work like no other.

The regular 1983 Scarface Blu-ray has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that was an improvement for its time, but now shows its age versus the DTS: X on the 4K version and the sound elements never did sound too clear, so the new mix impresses more than you might expect.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on the 1932 Scarface may be clearer than I have ever heard it, but it cannot escape its age and some slight flaws here and there. Still, it was very complex for an early sound film and works very well on its own terms.

All three Sternberg films offer two music score choices in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes that are recently recorded for the most part and sound fine, but offer limited surrounds if that and none stuck with me though they are not bad. The six scores: by Robert Israel for all three films, Alloy Orchestra for Underworld and The Last Command, and Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton for The Docks of New York.

Extras for the Scarface box set include the reproduction 'The World Is Yours' statue and 1932 Scarface Blu-ray with the uncensored version and an alternate ending, both exclusive to the box. The two discs, 4K and regular Blu-ray, also sold separately without the box or 1932 film, include Digital Copy for the 1983 film, a new 35th Anniversary Reunion with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer, the goofy TV version of the 1983 film with changed dialogue that is painfully bad, a clip about Scarface: The Video Game, Deleted Scenes, trailer and featurettes: The Scarface Phenomenon, The World Of Tony Montana, The Rebirth, The Creating, and The Acting. The 1932 film had is in theatrical uncut and censored versions, with an optional intro by Turner Classic Movie's channel scholar Robert Osbourne.

Extras in the Sternberg box set include a very thick, high quality booklet featuring essays by critic Geoffrey O'Brien, scholar Anton Kaes, and author and critic Luc Sante; notes on the scores by the composers; Ben Hecht's original treatment for Underworld; and an excerpt from von Sternberg's 1965 autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, on actor Emil Jannings. Each disc adds a separate featurette including two video essays from 2010, one by UCLA film professor Janet Bergstrom (Underworld) and the other (Command) by film scholar Tag Gallagher and Dock adds a Swedish television interview from 1968 with director Josef von Sternberg

All serious film fans and especially gangster film fans will want both box sets ASAP!

- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com