DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray: Taxi Driver

The restored version of Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic is one of the best Blu-rays of the year.

Taxi Driver won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, received several Oscar nominations, became a box office hit and became an established classic of 1970s cinema.

A drama about an isolated New York cab driver (Robert De Niro), it explores his relationships with fellow drivers (Peter Boyle), a political campaign volunteer (Cybil Shepherd) and a young prostitute (Jodie Foster), as he starts to see violence as a solution to his loneliness.

This Blu-ray is taken directly from the new 4k restoration supervised by Sony’s Grover Crisp, and approved by Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman.

Great effort has been made to keep the look of the original film intact and this is easily the best looking version of the film I’ve ever seen.

The detail and contrast of the visuals mark a major step up from the last DVD release in 2007 and the audio is equally good with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack sounding tremendous.

Hearing Bernard Herrman’s classic score set to some of the indelible images from the film at this quality is great for admirers of this mid-70s classic.


The extras are also another major bonus of this release, featuring a raft of interesting supplementary material.

Original 1986 Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Writer: Perhaps the highlight is the inclusion of the 1986 audio commentary Scorsese and Schrader recorded for the Criterion LaserDisc. Although 15 years old, it is brilliantly informative and a fantastic resource for fans and students of the film. Scorsese talks about stylistic influences, shooting in New York and various production details whilst Schrader discusses the inspiration for the story, the themes and his take on the film. They are recorded separately but edited together with a moderator who provides even more background information.

Interactive Script to Screen: This feature shows the script on-screen as the film plays and you sync the script with the film or look at it independently from the film. Perhaps of most interest to film students, it also provides an interesting bridge between how a script looks on page and how it translates visually to the screen.

Audio Commentary by Robert Kolker: The film professor from the University of Virginia provides a highly informative commentary that delves into many facets of the film. From detailed discussions of the visuals to the overall history and impact of the film, it is well worth listening to.

Audio Commentary by Paul Schrader: The screenwriter does another full commentary, this time on his own, and discusses the inspiration for his script, the differences between page and screen, the acting and his feelings about the finished film. Given his personal connection with the material, it makes for an illuminating perspective on the film.

Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (16:52): An interview with the director where he discusses the background to the film, his career up to that point, how he got hired, Paul Schrader’s script, shooting in New York during 1975, how he related to the central character, the European influences on the film and where it sits in his career.

Producing Taxi Driver (9:53): Producer Michael Phillips speaks about his role in getting the film made, his earlier Oscar-winning success with The Sting (1973), how the dark script was initially a problem with the studio, working with Scorsese and De Niro and the legacy of the film.

God’s Lonely Man (21:42): A piece on the character of Travis Bickle, which sees Paul Schrader discuss how his own personal problems influenced the character and how he became a figure people identified with.

Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute (18:30): A piece featuring interview with Oliver Stone (a student of Scorsese’s at NYU in the 1970s), Paul Schrader, Roger Corman, Robert De Niro, Robert Kolker and others as they speak about the director and his films through the lens of Taxi Driver.

Taxi Driver Stories (22:23): Interviews with various cab drivers as they discuss what it was actually like to work in New York during the 1970s.

Making Taxi Driver (1:10:55): A comprehensive documentary from the early 1990s that covers the production and legacy of the film. Featuring interviews with key cast and crew it is a fascinating look at how it was made. There is some overlap from the other material on the disc, but for fans of the film this is a great overall look at the film.

Travis’ New York (6:16): Cinematographer Michael Chapman and former New York Mayor Ed Koch discuss what New York was actually like during the era in which Taxi Driver was shot on location there.

Travis’ New York Locations (4:49): A split-screen comparison of nine clips from the film along side the very same New York locations as they were in 2006.

Intro to Storyboards by Martin Scorsese (4:32): The director talks about the importance of storyboarding and how he used it whilst making the film.

Storyboard to Film Comparison (8:21): Various scenes are juxtaposed with the storyboards, which makes for a fascinating comparison of the two as some sketches are remarkably faithful to the finished shots.

Galleries (9:28): The image galleries feature photos of Bernard Herrmann’s sheet music for his iconic score, the crew on location (featuring some great black and white shots of Scorsese and De Niro), the original publicity materials and Martin Scorsese at work during the film.

Taxi Driver is out today from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

> Buy Taxi Driver on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Revisiting Taxi Driver (my longer thoughts on the film)
> The Digital Bits interview Grover Crisp of Sony about the new 4k restoration process
> Taxi Driver at the IMDb
> Martin Scorsese at MUBi
> Scorsese and Schrader discuss the restored version in a Q&A last month

DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: Raging Bull

Raging Bull (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Martin Scorsese’s classic 1980 biopic of Jake La Motta is a brilliant study of a flawed man in a ruthless profession.

In the lead role Robert De Niro gives one of the greatest screen performances in cinema history and Scorsese pulls out all the stops with stunning contributions by cinematographer Michael Chapman and editor Thelma Schoonmaker.

A word of warning though, as this is essentially the same Blu-ray that came out in February 2009, featuring the same HD transfer and lossless audio track, but with four new featurettes on the bonus materials.

If you don’t own the film, it is an essential purchase – but if you do, I’m not sure if the added extras are enough to justify buying it again.

The extras for this 30th Anniversary Edition are as follows:

New Material

  • Marty and Bobby (1080p, 13:35): A series of interviews with Scorsese and DeNiro, who discuss their working relationship and how they came to make Raging Bull.
  • Raging Bull – Reflections on a Classic (1080p, 12:15): Four filmmakers—Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry), Richard Kelly (Donny Darko), Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), and Neil LeBute (In the Company of Men)—discuss the impact that Raging Bull has had on their careers.
  • Remembering Jake (1080p, 11:04): Every month, members of the Veteran Boxers Association of New York gather together to eat, drink, and reminisce. Here, we get to drop in on one of their meetings to hear them discuss Jake LaMotta.
  • Marty on Film (10:30): The highlight of the disc’s new features, here we get to hear Marty talk about his first experiences with cinema and his early career.

Previously Released Features

  • Audio Commentaries: The disc includes, count ’em, three audio commentary tracks, and all of them are worth your time. The first features Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker, the second, a cast and crew commentary, includes Irwin Winkler, Robbie Robertson, Robert Chartoff, Theresa Saidana, John Turturro, Frank Warner, Michael Chapman, and Cis Corman, and the third—the “storytellers” track—is hosted by Mardik Martin, Paul Schrader, Jason Lustig, and Jake LaMotta himself.
  • Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show – March 27, 1981 (SD, 6:42): Watch Cathy Moriarty on Johnny Carson, promoting Raging Bull, her first real acting gig.
  • Raging Bull – Fight Night (SD, 1:22:32): A truly exhaustive, must-watch making-of documentary, broken conveniently into four parts, although you’ll probably just want to “play all.”
  • The Bronx Bull (SD, 27:54): A reflection on the film, featuring LaMotta, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and several film critics.
  • DeNiro vs. LeMotta (SD, 3:47): Some side-by-side comparison shots and clips of DeNiro and LeMotta, showcasing Scorsese’s attention to authentic detail.
  • LaMotta Defends Title (SD, 1:00): A short vintage MovieTone newsreel.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 2:09)

> Buy Raging Bull on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Raging Bull at Wikipedia

Images Interesting

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

The last ever roll of Kodachrome film was given to photographer Steve McCurry, who has posted some of the shots he took with it.

December 30th marked the last day it was possible to get it developed at Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, the last lab on the planet to process the film.

Famous for taking the iconic Afghan Girl photograph, McCurry managed to gets some interesting subjects for the final roll, including Robert De Niro, Grand Central Terminal, Amitabh Bachchan and, for the final shot, a cemetery in Parsons.

> Steve McCurry’s final Kodachrome shots on his blog
> NPR interview on the demise of Kodachrome
> Kodachrome at Wikipedia
> The famous Afghan Girl shot at Wikipedia


Robert De Niro auditions for Star Wars

US voice actor Josh Robert Thompson is probably best known for his pitch-perfect impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this video of him doing Robert De Niro auditioning for Star Wars is also pretty sharp.

He also does a mean Morgan Freeman too.

> Official site
> Josh Robert Thompson pranks George Takei on The Howard Stern Show


Robert De Niro Film 4 Interview

Back in early 2007 Film 4 ran an interview with Robert De Niro where he discussed three of his best films: Taxi Driver (1976), The Deer Hunter (1978) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

Given his recent choice of roles and the fact that he was press shy for a large chunk of his career, it is interesting to get his perspective on a time when he was arguably the finest actor of his generation.

> Robert De Niro at Wikipedia and the IMDb
> Film 4


Interesting TV

Quentin Tarantino on Robert De Niro

Back in March 1994 Quentin Tarantino did an interview for a Channel 4 TV series called Cinefile where he talked about the career of Robert De Niro.

He makes many astute observations about the actor’s career, discussing his performances in landmark films like Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull and Once Upon a Time in America.

Here is the show in 3 parts.

N.B. Note Tarantino’s comments towards the end which highlight the decline in the quality of De Niro’s choices during the 1980s which only got worse in recent years with appearances in The Adventures of Rocky and BullwinkleMeet The Fockers and Righteous Kill. There is also a moment where he anticipates the team up of Pacino and De Niro in Heat.


Trailer: What Just Happened

What Just Happened is out in UK cinemas on Friday 28th November

> Official website
> IMDb entry

Amusing Viral Video

Raging Bull vs The Flintstones

A classic scene from Raging Bull cut to The Flintstones:

[Warning: The fruity language may not be suitable for the workplace]