Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scarface (1932), Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson.

Boris Karloff plays Gaffney, a big Harp who is about to get X'd, if you know what I mean.

This may take another look, but I felt like Muni's Scarface was a slightly moronic Italian caricature.   Having watched I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang this week as well, each scene of which was unbearably taut yet refreshingly natural, this one comes off as a little dated and unfocused.  Like everyone, I consider the big three of the initial flicks in the gangster genre to be  Scarface, Public Enemy and Little Caesar.  Cagney is so compelling and charismatic in Public Enemy but Muni by contrast (often a highly enjoyable and even sympathetic actor, like Cagney) is more of a puzzle and his characterization suffers from a lack of background detail.  Why does Muni trust the half-baked dope he's got as his right hand man, and not (criminally underused) George Raft? What did he do to his mother for her to resent her own son so badly?  C'mon!

Even the ending was operatic, in the grand Italian tradition:  shootings!  secret relationships!  brother sister action!  

Question: where were any of the 30s Jewish racketeers?  Was it because they were playing the parts and running the studio, that they didn't want to draw attention to that particular type of 30s gangster?

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