"Taxi Driver" Blu-ray Review
April 18, 2011 by Zach Demeter
Not only one of Martin Scorsese’s most iconic films but also one of Robert DeNiro’s, Taxi Driver stands the test of time with performances that remind us why it was such a groundbreaking film…all the way back in 1976. The film continues to inspire new directors, actors, writers, and anyone involved in the production of films with its startling storytelling and (then) unique way of tying up a film: with an overly ambiguous epilogue that left many wondering if what they had just witnessed was real or if our taxi driver had driven his mind to create a reality in which he’s hailed as a hero.
4 Academy Award(r) nominations including Best Picture! (1976) Special Collector's Edition is digitally remastered and includes a never-before-seen making-of documentary featuring interviews with the creators and stars of the film. Robert De Niro stars with Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, and Albert Brooks in the all-too-real story of a psychotic New York cabby who is driven to violence in an attempt to rescue a teenage prostitute.
I readily admit to not having seen this film—yes this was another one. But now that I’ve seen it the important thing is…well, that I’ve seen it. The film itself is just so clearly influential not to only other Hollywood talent but to also Scorsese himself who has continued to kind of work off the same formula for a few decades now; while his films are not all identical by any means, the same settings and same kind of neurotic characters help kind of create a similar feeling universe in each one of them. For Taxi Driver, DeNiro plays a character so flawed, both physically and mentally, that the eventual psychotic break we see him undergo doesn’t come as any real surprise. In fact, we kind of root for it, even though the path he’s headed down is one that would seemingly cause the death of a possible presidential candidate.
The film is really quite layered the more I look at it. While DeNiro’s character is obviously the focus, there are so many others that come and go throughout the film that it really creates quite a wonderfully crafted world for these characters to inhabit. Though Travis Bickle suffers from insomnia and spends his time during the day at porno theaters, he does attempt to come out of his shell, even going so far as to attempt to meet someone and go out on a few dates. Though he eventually does offend her by his choice in movies, this opens up another avenue for the film to explore and it just snowballs from there until the films aforementioned ambiguous finish.
There’s really a lot of history behind this film and watching it only once I felt like I’d only touched the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully the Blu-ray release was just packed with extras, spilling over from previous releases, and I ended up spending three or four times the original length of the movie going over the extras, further familiarizing myself with the film and the plethora of historical facts behind it. I doubt there’s ever anything I could add that was considered a unique insight into this film, not only because of its age but also because of how thoroughly it has been dissected, digested, and talked about amongst film critics for over three decades. Overall this is a Must See film and a true classic of American cinema.
This release comes is in a “collectible” package…which really just equates to it being larger than the rest of your other Blu-ray’s so it stands out. It’s a rather thick package, granted, but this is the kind of movie that deserves to stand out on your shelf anyway so it’s not really wholly unwelcome on there. Though it is limited to a sole disc, there are a dozen photographs (on lobby cards) that are included to help round out the package. It’s a very well done package and one that will immediately jump out at you; I’m quite surprised this release is as cheap as it is (under $15 on Amazon as of this writing), but it’s a welcome surprise at least!
The video arrives with an incredibly strong AVC encoded transfer. I say “incredibly” because his film is over three decades old at this point, but it really looks fantastic on the format. Strong details abound from start to finish, with the varied locations of the film each taking on a life of their own. Whether it’s the night life of New York or Bickle standing outside with a full on mohawk, there’s not an image in sight that doesn’t visually appease in some form or another. Close-ups are always laden with detail and it’s really only the long shots that exhibit any real softness to the image; so it’s not a flawless image, but it’s darn near close and given its age that makes it all the more surprising.
Audio is similarly pleasing, with a DTS-HD 5.1 MA track that surrounds and delights. There is a bit of a dated feel to the track, both in terms of ambience as well as LFE usage, but overall it’s remarkably clean. There’s no hiss or distortion and there’s a lot of surround activity when it comes to the New York sequences. It is a bit subdued, but, again, that’s probably more to do with its age than anything else. Overall it’s a well done track, but since the film isn’t exactly all about packing in the explosions, don’t expect a whole lot of booming from the woofer—it’s really quite quiet most of the time.
• Original 1986 Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Writer Paul Schrader recorded by The Criterion Collection
• Interactive Script to Screen
• Feature Length Commentary by Writer Paul Schrader
• Feature Length Commentary by Professor Robert Kolker
• Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver
• God's Lonely Man
• Producing Taxi Driver
• Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute
• Taxi Driver Stories
• Making Taxi Driver
• Travis' New York
• Travis' New York Locations
• Storyboard to Film Comparisons with Martin Scorsese
• Animated Photo Galleries
Audio commentaries aside there is well over two hours of bonus features to watch here and when you pile the commentaries on…well, you’ll be working through this disc for some time. The extras are a mix of 1080p and 480p (the original “Making Of” is in 480p), but the majority of them are 1080p. There really isn’t anywhere this set is lacking—not only is the packaging superb and the A/V presentation damn near flawless, but the extras are incredibly exhaustive. This is a Must Own collection.
Taxi Driver is now available on Blu-ray.