Johnny Lovo rises to the head of the bootlegging crime syndicate on the south side of Chicago following the murder of former head, Big Louis Costillo. Johnny contracted Big Louis' bodyguard, Tony Camonte, to make the hit on his boss. Tony becomes Johnny's second in command, and is not averse to killing anyone who gets in his and Johnny's way. As Tony is thinking bigger than Johnny and is not afraid of anyone or anything, Tony increasingly makes decisions on his own instead of following Johnny's orders, especially in not treading on the north side run by an Irish gang led by a man named O'Hara, of whom Johnny is afraid. Tony's murder spree increases, he taking out anyone who stands in his and Johnny's way of absolute control on the south side, and in Tony's view absolute control of the entire city. Tony's actions place an unspoken strain between Tony and Johnny to the point of the two knowing that they can't exist in their idealized world with the other. Tony's ultimate downfall may be... Written by
In the alternate ending, Tony is sentenced to hang December 10, 1931. The method of execution in Illinois in 1931 was electrocution. The last judicial hanging in Illinois occurred in 1928. See more »
There's only one thing that gets orders and gives orders.
[points to Tommy Gun]
And this is it. That's how I got the south side for you, and that's how I'm gonna get the north side for you. It's a typewriter. I'm gonna write my name all over this town with it, in big letters!
John 'Johnny' Lovo:
Hey, stop him somebody!
Get out of my way Johnny, I'm gonna spit!
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"This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: "What are you going to do about it?". The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it? See more »
The early 1930's produced a whirlwind of mobster films, commenting on the real-life problem of organized crime throughout Prohibition America. LITTLE CAESAR and PUBLIC ENEMY were the first significant films of the genre, but not until Howard Hawks tour-de-force smash, SCARFACE, did the public get to see what was going on. Hawks' film came out in 1932 and has been a mainstay in filmmaker's minds and fans alike ever since. Scorsese, Coppola, and especially De Palma, have all drawn inspiration (and the '83 remake) from Hawks and Ben Hecht, the picture's screenwriter. Paul Muni was loosely based on Al Capone, and SCARFACE begins with yet another message to the government telling them to get off their butts and rid the country of Tony Carmontes everywhere. I think the picture works more as brutal, realistic entertainment than moral message. In hindsight, SCARFACE made it all look fun.
This searing flick looks so spooky and dark, you truly get the feeling of the real "underworld" and how uncompromising it was and still is. Some brilliant images grace the screen: the passage of dates on a calendar by machine gun; Muni's gruesome scar; an opening murder scene done with such subtly the mere sound of Muni's whistle triggers doom; a sideshow of possible incest between "Tony" and his tortured sister. No joke. It appears almost blatantly in varying scenes of building jealousy and murder. Many of the elements show up in De Palma's remake, such as the sister, her relationship with Tony's best friend, and his disapproving mother. The original packs more substance into a shorter film and is clearly better than the flashy remake (which I also loved).
This was one of Howard Hawks' 1st films and he continued to make pictures that differed so completely, one after the other. SCARFACE is his landmark film, a must-see that was considered by many to be unreleasable to the audiences of 1932. It is a predictable rise and fall portrait of a brooding goon, however the techniques and blunt force of the film make you come back for more. Watch it before the Pacino remake and see what you think. They are excellent representatives of Hollywood storytelling then and now. Keep an eye out for a svelte Boris Karloff in civilian clothing (a rarity) as a sinister enemy of the scarred one. He rolls quite a memorable strike in a bowling alley. A masterpiece of character, story, mood, and bullets flying.
RATING: 10 of 10
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