Case Number 10216: Small Claims Court


Universal // 1983 // 170 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // October 24th, 2006

The Charge

He was Tony Montana. The world will remember him by another name...Scarface.

The Case

For those of you who haven't seen the movie or read Judge Byun's comprehensive review of the Scarface 20th Anniversary Edition, the story goes like this. Scarface details the meteoric, ruthless ascent of Tony Montana (Al Pacino, Heat) from dishwashing political refugee to pool filter repairman. Tony's right-hand Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer, The Lost City) and gal pal Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer, I Am Sam) follow in his wake. Respectively diddling his sister and snorting his coke, the pair tries to hang on as Tony curses, shoots, and vogues his way through the drug underground that made Miami so fabulously wealthy.

The history of Scarface on DVD is as convoluted as Pacino's forehead. Scarface was initially released on March 31, 1998 with a 2.0 track and minimal extras. This initial release was repackaged in the Al Pacino Collection on Nov 2, 1999. Scarface then went underground for four years, only to re-emerge with a bang on September 30, 2003. Consumers could choose from a dizzying array of releases, including the 20th Anniversary Edition in Full Screen or Widescreen, both of which contained a Dolby and DTS surround tracks and roughly two hours worth of extra features. September 30, 2003 also brought us the Scarface Deluxe Gift Set, which tacked on a display box with the 1932 Scarface, lobby cards, and a gold money clip. There is a mystery release listed for January 17, 2006, which has no information listed on Amazon or IMDb.

Finally, there is this latest Platinum Edition released on October 3, 2006. Like every release before it, this DVD clocks in at 170 minutes. It has dropped the Def Jam presents The Origins of a Gangsta featurette from the 20th Anniversary Edition, retained the four "Making of" featurettes and deleted scenes, and added two new featurettes.

The first of these, "Making of Scarface: The Video Game," is a thinly veiled commercial masquerading as an extra. It shows clips of the Scarface cast looping dialogue for the video game, along with Ice-T putting in his two cents. If you are really passionate about the video game and want to see the rubber stamping by some of the original cast, this featurette is for you.

The second new featurette is, fortunately, more substantive. DEA agents and cultural pundits discuss Scarface in the context of the real drug world and hip hop culture. Each interviewee seems intimately familiar with the movie, and appreciative of it in varying levels. The cops are naturally less enthusiastic, although they mention how often they see Scarface posters in the homes of drug lords. It is interesting to hear how Tony Montana would fit in with the real drug trade. Meanwhile, the cultural pundits bolster Scarface's gangsta legend with obvious enthusiasm. Clips from the movie punctuate the featurette. This featurette isn't in itself a reason to rush out and "upgrade" your copy of Scarface.

The feature itself also has a couple of changes. The first is the oh-so-clever "Scarface Scoreboard," which is simply a subtitle track that counts bullets and F-Bombs. The second is a digitally remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Considering that the video transfer is the same as the last release (and rather bleary, grainy, and low in contrast and detail when compared to recent restoration efforts of other '80s films), this track is the only reason you should consider an upgrade. One word: bass. The 20th Anniversary Edition had a wide sound stage and rich surrounding detail, but was anemic in its dynamic range. In fact, the bullets and other loud sound effects lacked any oomph at all. This edition has subtly corrected this problem. The dynamic range is greatly improved, even if the improvements are not overwhelmingly obvious in any given non-shootout scene. With the additional low end and improved clarity in the discrete cannels, gunshots have some impact. Pacino's mumbled, campy-Cuban-accent-riddled, priceless gangsta soundbytes come through well enough for us to decipher what the hell he's saying without engaging subtitles. That alone may be reason enough for you to upgrade.

With the same movie, same transfer, and essentially the same extras, the Scarface (Platinum Edition) defines the term "double dip." Universal has doled out an upgraded audio track that subtly, but definitely, improves the surround experience. If you have the 20th Anniversary Edition, I would not recommend you upgrade to the Platinum Edition unless you are desperate to reward Universal for their quadruple-dip. If you don't have the 20th Anniversary Edition in either of its widescreen incarnations, this is the release you should purchase. Unless, of course, you have the patience to wait for the next release, which will undoubtedly have an improved transfer and a retrospective from actual hip-hop artists, drug lords, and Floridian tailors.

Review content copyright © 2006 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 170 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Scarface Scoreboard
* Deleted Scenes
* Making Of Scarface: The Video Game
* The World Of Tony Montana
* Scarface: The Rebirth
* Scarface: Creating
* Scarface: Acting
* Scarface: TV Version Montage

* IMDb

* DVD Verdict Review of Scarface: 20th Anniversary Edition