Film scores

Soundtrack review: Scarface (Giorgio Moroder – 1983)

scarface

Every film music collector has a (usually) short list of so called “Holy Grails”. These are the scores each of us dreams about having in some sort of official / complete / expanded release. Some of them haven’t been released in any form (like “Top gun”), others are in dire need of an expansion and other might have a bad sound quality. A film music fan will never truly be happy…

My biggest holy grail is Giorgio Moroder’s “Scarface”. You all know the movie, Brian De Palma’s saga about the rise of Toni Montana (one of Al Pacino’s best roles ever) in the world of drugs. I hope we will get a proper release for this because the material is just unbelievable. Until then I have to make do with the various bootlegs I got my hands on. I am so used to the sound of these bootlegs that even if I get a proper release I might have trouble adjusting to it. The worn out sound of the bootlegs and the constant background noise like the needle of a pickup player spinning a record are as familiar as the sound of my own voice.

Moroder is a synthesizer god and the 80s were his decade. I love the 80s and there are a lot of unbelievable scores from then that are very high on my favorites list…There’s “Bloodsport”, there’s “Rocky IV”, there’s “Rain man” and “Black rain”…but still…somehow…”Scarface” is my favorite. The synth and electronic material is pure bliss. I don’t know how Giorgio Moroder did it, but the themes from Scarface are unbearably beautiful and eerie. They are so intense that they silence everything around me. I know I saw this movie when I was a kid as well and the sounds might have crawled inside me for good…the notes hit me even when I’m watching the movie and I am mesmerized.

I have rarely heard music so hypnotic,  so heartbreaking and sweet in the same time, so determined, so lonely and, yes, so perfect. I’ve never done drugs but the rush I get from this score surely is better. It’s like Moroder textured his score with the most powerful of drugs and I got hooked from the first moments. For me this is one of the most moving soundtracks ever. Before the age of orchestra, before Braveheart this was the most moving composition.

From the disco opening titles, raw and powerful to the blissfully unforgiving end credits “Scarface” is a moody trip which will stir different feelings in all of you. The themes for the main characters are perfect: “Tony’s theme” is pounding and intrusive like the man himself; it has an unforgettable rhythm. “Elvira’s theme” (who can forget Michelle Pfeiffer’s fiery debut) is sharp and innocent, while “Gina’s theme” shows all the tenderness, care and love that Tony felt for his sister. “Calling on mama and Gina” reflects the moments of humanity when the drugs and lieutenants and rivals didn’t exist. This haunting piece of music is pure magic and a sanctuary where a bad man showed his heart.

My favorite motif from Scarface is “The world is yours”. These are the couple of minutes where all the magic dust from the score concentrates. A good synth and ambient track gets to me, I admit. But this one is not just good. For me it’s probably the best of its kind and stands there proudly even after more than 30 years.

I am still waiting for a proper release of every single note written for this movie. I hope Giorgio Moroder and one of the many soundtrack record companies will make this happen someday. Until then it’s back to my old and imperfect bootlegs…

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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