Oline Cogdill

altI remember how intriguing I found the movie Scarface the first time I saw it in the theaters.

It was violent, gruesome and quite cheesy. The dialogue was often silly as was Al Pacino's exaggerated accent as Tony Montana, the cocaine trafficker who becomes a ruthless gangster. Who doesn't remember Pacino yelling, "Say hello to my little friend." Despite all that, I also was wrapped up in the movie.

Yet, sadly, at the same time director Brian De Palma's movie reflected what was going on in South Florida at the time.

I remember also being glad that Scarface was a movie my parents would never see as they were always a bit nervous about me living down here at the time.

The 1980s were indeed the time of the cocaine cowboy in South Florida.

altScarface wasn't some fantasy but real life. Drugs washed up on the beaches; bodies were found almost daily in the Everglades and a machine gun fight erupted in a suburban upscale mall, a place I had shopped at. There were news stories about shipments of flowers and soft drinks containing drugs. I once attended a party in Miami with a girlfriend, saw a pile of cocaine on a coffee table and we both promptly walked out.

No matter how anti-drug one was, the influence of drug dealers was all around us. I don't mean to suggest that every time you walked out of your home you were bombarded with drug dealers, but it was there and one would have to be blind not to see it.

Living in Fort Lauderdale kept that drug culture at bay somewhat, but not completely.

Scarface was like a traffic accident -- repulsive yet fascinating. And while it has recently been in rotation on the AMC network, there is nothing like seeing the spectacle that is Scarface on the big screen.

Audiences across the country will get a chance to see Scarface with restored high-definition picture and enhanced audio on Aug. 31 when it will be shown in more than 475 movie theaters nationwide. Check here for movie houses close to you. The screening also will show a 20-minute special feature with interviews with filmmakers and actors discussing Scarface.

Despite its flaws -- and it has many -- Scarface redefined the classic gangster movie. Its gritty, no-holds barred violence gave a view of gangsters and the drug culture that hadn't been explored before. No longer were drugs affected only users, but the aftermath of violence seeped into the lives of innocent bystanders.

Scarface also showed the underbelly of Miami.

Unfortunately, it made the world think that every refugee who came over during the controversial 1980 Mariel boatlift was a gangster in the making.

That could not be further from the truth.

Many professionals, doctors, lawyers, skilled workers, political prisoners who had fought against Castro and ordinary people came over during Mariel, seeking a better life away from Castro. They took advantage of the opportunity to leave Cuba unnoticed. Yes, Castro opened up his prisons, putting criminals on that boatlift, but they were in the minority; it's been estimated that only 2 percent of the Mariel refugees were "undesirables." The good people who came over on Mariel have added much to the United States and should not be tainted because of Castro's actions.

Scarface may not be a good movie, but it is one of those that is unforgettable. A guilty pleasure for many of us. Tony sitting behind a mound of cocaine that was bigger than he. Tony's creepy obsession with his sister. That gaudy, tacky mansion. Pacino gets through most of the movie with a sneer and a gun. And, oh, that over the top ending.

Scarface was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards (including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Score), and was named one of the Top 10 Gangster Films of All Time by the American Film Institute.

The Aug. 31 showing is to promote the first Blu-ray release of Scarface on Sept. 6. For a limited time, the Blu-ray will include a DVD of the original 1932 Scarface.

Photo: Al Pacino in Scarface. Universal Studios photo