Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mister Scarface (1976)

          Filmed in Italian and then dubbed into English for its American release, the mob flick Mister Scarface—also known as Rulers of the City—offers a passable mixture of action, humor, intrigue, and violence. Like many substandard crime pictures, the movie has too much plot and not enough character development, so after a while it gets hard to follow who’s doing what to whom, and why, except in the broadest strokes. Plus, nominal leading man Jack Palance plays a secondary role as the titular villain, while German hunk Harry Baer (issuing a voice provided by some random American actor) is the true star. Nonetheless, the fast-paced Mister Scarface has some mildly exciting fight scenes, a smattering of physical comedy, and even eye candy in the form of attractive starlets occupying the periphery of the storyline. The movie is also executed with more care than the usual grindhouse-level fare, excepting a narrative that goes off the rails halfway through, so it’s possible to find a measure of mindless enjoyment—that is, for viewers willing to overlook the major obstacle created by voices that don’t match the lip movements of onscreen actors.
          Baer stars as Tony, a Mafia loan collector with an easygoing attitude. During the movie’s lighthearted first half, Tony goes about his daily business, charming attractive women and unleashing wisecrack-laden martial-arts violence on victims. Tony’s boss, Luigi (Edmund Purdom), gives Tony the thankless task of collecting a debt from high-level mobster Manzara, also known as “Mister Scarface” (Palance). To avoid revealing his identity to Scarface, whom Tony knows to be vengeful, Tony arranges a complex rip-off scheme and successfully reclaims Luigi’s money. Scarface does the math, however, and has Luigi killed before vowing to annihilate Tony. In the movie’s darker second half, Tony and two low-level Mob buddies—Napoli (Vittorio Caprioli) and Ric (Al Cliver)—simultaneously avoid Scarface’s goons and draw Scarface into a deadly showdown. While action fans won’t encounter anything in Mister Scarface they haven’t seen a zillion times before, there’s still fun to be had watching Palance scowl with a cigarette holder in his lips, or watching Baer romp through impressive fighting scenes. Chances are the Italian-language original version is even livelier, but searching for that probably isn’t worth the trouble.

Mister Scarface: FUNKY

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