“Get outta my way Johnny, I’m gonna spit!”

Paul Muni, a Polish Jewish actor from Austria-Hungary, starred as Antonio “Tony” Camonte in Howard Hughes’ 1932 American gangster classic Scarface (directed by Howard Hawks & Richard Rosson). Muni’s performance (loosely based on Al Capone) is the groundwork and blueprint for the gangster archetype, which not only permeates every mob and crime film to date, but influences virtually every artistic medium expressing gangsterism as well, including hip hop music. Scarface (The Shame of a Nation) is adapted by Ben Hecht, Seton I. Miller, John Lee Mahin, and W. R. Burnett, from the 1929 novel written by Armitage Trail (Maurice Coons).

Anyone who has seen De Palma’s 1983 remake starring Al Pacino, and has not seen the foundation left by Hughes and Muni, commits crime. Despite being a remake, I am amazed after recently watching it again, how much both De Palma and Pacino feed off the source material. Nearly everything is the same, only being De Palma’s Scarface is in color, the ethnicity are different, and most notably, the endings are unique yet similar. Howard Hughes fought the censors committee, who rejected the original ending with Tony handing himself over to authorities, then being killed, felt the criminal did not pay enough for his sins. After being rejected twice, Hughes took the initiative and screened his film in states with less censorship, after restoring its original ending.

Both De Palma’s remake and Hughes’ original differ in their endings slightly. Camonte, a whimpering, cowering chicken when cornered, outnumbered, and all alone, and Tony Montana, a paranoid coke addict, who hides fear and vulnerability by consuming large quantities of cocaine (yayo).

Abdul Salam Mumuni, a Nigerian cross-cultural filmmaker based in Ghana, also remade Scarface in 2007. His version titled Crime to Christ, stars African actor Majid Michel as Sammy. Crime to Christ is a unique film, which shows its lead actor mimicking Tony Montana, and centers heavily on Christianity and moral redemptive values. It is distinct from its predecessors in that the gangster (thug) ends up being forgiven for his transgressions.


Score: 4 of 4 stars


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