Sony // 1976 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 17th, 1999
On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.
Columbia has repackaged this classic tale of the lonely anti-hero as a special edition. The lovely attention to detail makes this a must own for any serious movie collector.
The most important aspect of this disc is the extras included. I will go over them one at a time. First, there is a 70-minute "making of" documentary that includes interviews with director Martin Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader, and actors Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Cybil Shepard and Peter Boyle. This is a fascinating look behind the scenes and includes several really nice elements. It also includes some comments from the makeup artist, which sheds some light on the accomplishments of his team and those of the special effects crew. Really great stuff.
Also included on the disc is a picture gallery, which runs through automatically and includes the comments of the person responsible for the SE content of the disc. This feature runs 9 minutes in length. The disc also includes a 4 minute segment that goes through various storyboard points in the film and compares them with still shots from the actual film. Again, this feature runs automatically, which is better than having to press a button to get the content to forward. Best of all, however, is the inclusion of the entire screenplay of the film. This is not a web link but rather many, many actual photographs of the script of the film. An absolutely stunning inclusion and a welcome one.
The disc also includes 12 pictures of various advertising materials and the filmographies of the major players in the film, including director Scorsese. The disc is subtitled in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai. It also includes full screen trailers to Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence (directed by Scorsese), The Fan (starring De Niro) and Awakenings (also starring De Niro). Holy crap! I'm out of breath. Three paragraphs to describe just the extras. Wow!
The video on this disc seems improved over the original Columbia release. I suspect the same elements were used, but I am not certain. What has improved with time, as we have seen in so many other cases, is the ability of the compressionists to get a much cleaner looking picture with fewer of the problems we saw back in late '97, which is when the original Taxi Driver disc was released. Colors were better saturated, edges were cleaner and crisper. Everything about this picture seemed cleaned up a bit. This is definitely the best I have ever seen this film look.
The audio here is Dolby Surround and frankly, this is a perfect example of me being glad the studio did not go back and remaster the sound track for 5.1. I really am grateful, because I think it would stink. The soundtrack of this film has a certain character all its own, probably owing to Bernard Hermann's score, which was completed the day before his death.
One sure doesn't need to get into the acting too deeply when discussing this disc. For starters there's simply too much other stuff going on, which needs discussion. Then there's the simple fact that this is one of the greatest performances of the modern cinema by De Niro. What more can one say, really, other than to remind you that he was coming off his Oscar win as young Vito Corleone in Godfather II when they started shooting this film. Harvey Keitel was outstanding, as was a 12-year-old Jodie Foster, and Albert Brooks. Everything about this movie just clicks. If you have never seen it, at least rent this disc. It will surprise you.
The only thing about this disc that I can contradict is that I would have very much liked to see, or heard in this case, a director's commentary by Scorsese. Given the fact that he is one of the treasures of the modern cinema, it sure would have been nice to hear his own words describing the action and what it took to get certain shots. As nice as the documentary is, and it is very nice, believe me, this disc is still incomplete without a commentary by the director.
This classic of American cinema is a must own for any serious movie fan, and this disc is the quintessential version. Run, do not walk, to your local store (or point and click for that matter) and buy a copy right away.
Acquitted on all counts. When Columbia makes a special edition, they sure do it right. With a director's commentary, this might have been the best disc in my collection.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Documentary Featuring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, And Martin Scorsese
* Interactive Screenplay With Access To The Film
* Advertising Materials
* Storyboard Sequence
* Portrait Gallery