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In subsequent years, however, audiences finally began to spark to its tale of lurid excess and it has become one of the signature cult films of its era.

At nearly three hours, it can be a little wearying at times but it is never less than compulsively watchable due to some spectacular set-pieces (such as the infamous chainsaw torture sequence and the final attack on Tony's compound that finds him so coked up that he barely notices the bullets tearing him up), Pacino's singular performance—it may be one-note but man, what a note.

With a script by Oliver Stone and Al Pacino in the central role of Cuban tough guy Tony Montana, a quiet and reflective drama was probably never in the cards but no one expected the super-violent and wildly over-the-top spectacle that De Palma offered viewers.

At the time, the combination of blood and blow put off as many moviegoers as it attracted and while it was reasonably successful, it was far from the hit that observers had expected.

Needless to say, I happen to fall squarely in the first camp and to both defend that position and celebrate the release of his latest film, the highly impressive "Passion," I have compiled the following retrospective look at his entire career (minus one or two obscurities).

Some are better than others but with few exceptions, they are all the work of a singular director with a singular vision that stand out all the more amidst its committee-created competition and which make even his weakest efforts more interesting than the best works of most other filmmakers working today.1) "Blow Out" (1981): In this masterful thriller, John Travolta plays a sound man for a sleazy movie producer who inadvertently records a car plunging off a bridge containing a potential presidential candidate and a hooker (Nancy Allen) whom he manages to rescue.

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4) "Dressed to Kill" (1980): A sexually frustrated housewife (Angie Dickinson). A hooker with a mind for high finance (Nancy Allen). Viewed today with those controversies having long since faded from memory, the film can now be viewed as one of his most supremely stylish efforts and one that still plays beautifully even today.

Although based on a couple of novels by former judge Edwin Torres, the film is especially fascinating for the way that the story parallels De Palma's own career—both, after all, feature heroes who start out in the streets (the indie films), become celebrated purveyors of violence and depravity until they are put away for their crimes (the controversies surrounding "Dressed to Kill," "Scarface" and "Body Double"), are released from their respective prisons on a fluke (the surprise success of "The Untouchables") and find their attempts to break free of their brutal pasts ("Casualties of War" and "The Bonfire of the Vanities") scorned by people who would rather seen him return to the dirty deeds that he made his name with in the first place.

If that is too far-fetched of a reading for you, then simply sit back and watch in astonishment as De Palma assembles one of the greatest sequences of his entire career—the thrilling extended conclusion in which Pacino tries to elude his murderous pursuers through the subways and throughout Grand Central Station in a final bid for freedom from his past and present.

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