The movie year is 1983.

The Oscar contenders include "The Big Chill," "Yentl" and "Silkwood."

The winner is "Terms of Endearment."

Across the country, all the good little boys and girls line up to see "Return of the Jedi," with its furry Ewoks.

Hollywood's idea of an action movie is "Octopussy," starring tea-sipping Roger Moore.

Then, in December, like a 20-ton hunk of crack plopped in the placid millpond of American movies, comes "Scarface."

Chainsaw slaughter. Giant mounds of cocaine. Former pin-striped "Godfather" Al Pacino dropping F-bombs in a Cuban accent, spraying Miami with gunfire, getting high on his supply, going out in a blaze of gory.

A typical review: "Wallows in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours."

Maybe so, but nearly 30 years later, nobody's rereleasing "Terms of Endearment" in hundreds of theaters nationwide, and nobody is wearing "Big Chill" denim and rhinestone jackets, or preordering another special edition of "Octopussy."

"Scarface," on the other hand, is more popular than ever. Last week brought a one-day-only theatrical reissue, Tuesday brings a special-edition Blu-ray (Universal, $35) and a wealth of merchandise still sells online.

"Scarface" lives, and if it happens to live in infamy, that would please Tony Montana, played fearlessly to the hilt by Pacino. The actor's performance as the gun-wielding, coke-snorting Montana is among his most memorable.

Pacino said at a recent Los Angeles party to celebrate the Blu-ray's release that during the nine months he was shooting the film, his character practically inhabited him. When a friend's yappy little dog lunged at him, Pacino said he cocked back his fist instinctively, as if threatening a punch.

"So I love Tony Montana, man, because I couldn't do that!" said Pacino.

Actor Steven Bauer (Manny in the movie) remembers being mesmerized by Pacino's full-tilt interpretation of Tony.

"When we were on the set, even when we were reading the script, we thought this could be momentous. But when we were shooting it, there was also a feeling of dread, and it came from the way that Al attacked that character," said Bauer, who hung out with Pacino in his RV, first in Miami, then in Los Angeles, where the production moved after the crew received death threats.

Part of the charm of the film, Pacino said, is that it wasn't initially a hit.

"It's one of my favorites because of its whole evolution," he said. "It [was] sort of eviscerated after it opened by the press. ... Nobody was fond of it, except it had good audience participation."

He said "it's almost a miracle" audiences continue to discover and appreciate the film. He wanted to make it after being inspired by Paul Muni's performance in the 1932 original. Sidney Lumet suggested he make the main character Cuban instead of Italian.

Bauer's personal investment in the movie was immense. He was an untested actor with a few TV spots who had passed on a starring role ("Running Brave," later made with Robby Benson) for an outside shot to play Manny.

Bauer (given name Esteban Echevarria) was the only main "Scarface" actor who was actually born in Cuba -- brought to the United States at age 3 -- and he believed that his cultural input was essential.

Looking back, he thinks it's the reason producer Martin Bregman essentially reserved the part for him, when the studio faced pressure to hire John Travolta or Eric Roberts.

Bauer said the cast and crew weathered the bad reviews, and took much satisfaction from the fact that "Scarface" did well at the box office (16th among movies released that year).

Still, it was many years before Bauer realized that "Scarface" had carved a special niche for itself in American culture.

"I was watching TV one night and I heard Chris Berman announcing a home run, and he uses Tony's line, 'Say hello to my little friend!'"

In the months and years to come, he learned that just about everybody had seen "Scarface" -- the movie was to VHS and DVD what "Dark Side of the Moon" was to record albums.

"People start telling me about all the hip-hop guys who use the dialogue in their lyrics, all the rappers on 'MTV Cribs' who've turned their homes into 'Scarface' shrines."

Bauer laughed at the movie's outrageous change in fortune.

"For a long time, it was like the movie had leprosy. Now it's a classic. So this is a really beautiful time."

  • The Associated Press contributed to this report.