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Scarface

Scarface (1932 film)

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Directed by Howard HawksRichard Rosson
Produced by Howard Hughes
Written by
Scarface by Armitage Trail
Screenplay by Ben Hecht
Starring Paul Muni
George Raft
Ann Dvorak
Karen Morley
Boris Karloff
Cinematography Lee Garmes &  L.W. O’Connell
Editing by Edward Curtiss
Distributed by United Artists
Release date April 9, 1932
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English & Italian

Firstly this is the original Scarface – AKA Scarface Shame of a Nation, not the 1983 version featuring Al Pacino. This is the 1932 version featuring Paul Muni and George Raft and directed by Howard Hawks. It is probably one of the most celebrated gangster films of the 1930s, with Paul Muni giving a great, charismatic performance as the ambitious villain Tony Camonte. His performance is perhaps the equal of James Cagney’s in Public Enemy or Edward G Robinson in Little Caesar, although he seems to be rather forgotten today. One criticism of the picture I have is that I do think that Boris Karloff was horribly miscast as the rival gangster Gaffney. It is very hard to believe that someone with a proper English gentleman’s voice (and what a voice) would be a hard-nosed gangster from Chicago.

This was a very controversial film in its time, with the censors demanding lots of cuts and even am alternative ending because it was felt that this movie glorified the life of gangsters. Fortunately the film was being financed by the richest man on Earth at that time, Howard Hughes, and he was able to make these changes to the picture, although when the censors still would not pass the movie he just released the original version in states that had very relaxed censorship regulations.

There were also several accidents on set with Gaylord Lloyd, brother of silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd, losing an eye after being shot by live ammunition!!!

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M

Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Seymour Nebenzal
Written by Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou, Paul Falkenberg & Adolf Jansen
Starring Peter Lorre
Otto Wernicke
Gustaf Gründgens
Ellen Widmann
Inge Landgut
Theodor Loos
Friedrich Gnass
Music by Edvard Grieg
Cinematography Fritz Arno Wagner
Editing by Paul Falkenberg
Distributed by Vereinigte Star-Film GmbH
Paramount Pictures (US)
Release date Germany: 11 May 1931
United States: 3 May 1933
Running time 117 minutes
99 minutes (US)
Country Germany
Language German

Fritz Lang’s M is an interesting 1931 German film. For much part it seems almost like a silent movie. It wasn’t uncommon for film makers in the late 1920s and early 1930s to add sound elements to what started out as silent movies, Hitchcock did this with Blackmail as did Howard Hughes with Hell’s Angels, as they tried to catch up with the boom in talkies in the aftermath of The Jazz Singer.That said, M has long stretches of silent scenes but as sound, or a particular tune, plays an important part in the picture it must have originally been conceived as a talkie.

The plot concerns the hunt for a serial killer who has been murdering young children. The police have hit a dead-end and have started targeting the criminal underworld in the hope that this will help them find the killer. What it really does is cause the criminals to take matters into their own hands so that they can get the police off their own backs and get back to business.

Peter Lorre is quite impressive as the serial killer even though he really doesn’t do much until near the end of the film when he is on the run from, and subsequently captured by, the underworld. It’s interesting to hear the emotion in his voice when he is pleading for his life and stating that none of his accusers know what it is like to be him.It is worth watching this film for his performance alone.