Review: Taxi Driver Blu-ray

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese | CAST: Robert De Niro, Peter Boyle, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd
RELEASE DATE: 4/5/11 | PRICE: Blu-ray $29.95
BONUSES: Script to Screen feature, original 1986 commentary, featurettes, much more
SPECS: R | 114 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Taxi Driver movie scene

Robert De Niro aims to be heard in Taxi Driver.

Sony’s new Blu-ray edition of Taxi Driver sounds outstanding and looks, well, too good.

There, I said it. Not to be a traitor to my 1970s-raised film generation, but for all the enriched details that can now be discerned in Martin Scorsese’s (Shutter Island) seminal 1975 film about a troubled New York cabbie (Robert De Niro, Little Fockers), I’m not wholly convinced that this is the way we should be watching it.

True, the color balance is the most delineated I’ve ever seen, but think about the look of other New York films of that general era, movies like John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy or even Woody Allen’s Bananas. There are some New York films where the grain and grime and shaky transfer actually suit the material and befit the time the films were conceived and made. The glitches and haze are what worked for me in those flicks. Even Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, a later entry, true, but certainly a grungy enough one to fit the bill, delivers the desired effect on Blu-ray because the  high-definition image isn’t crystalline. In Bad Lieutenant, like Taxi Driver, the raw look is part of the pitch. Are we really supposed to see all the tchochkes on Travis Bickle’s shelves? I don’t know.

That said, the extensive restoration and remastering that Taxi Driver received hits pay dirt with the DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Travis’ voiceover, Bernard Hermann’s ominous score and all those screeches and shouts and plain old only-in-New York noise are clear and robust without being overpowering. They’re part of an excellent audio atmosphere that doesn’t sound as if it was overly enhanced by an audio surgical team.

The large special features package on the Blu-ray mostly consists of previously released extras from earlier DVDs, including the commentary that Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader (Tales From the Script) originally recorded for the 1986 Criterion laserdisc.

What’s new on the Blu-ray is an interactive “Script to Screen” feature that diehards will really dig. They can read along with the original script and see how it turned up on the screen, even imitate Travis, if they so desire. Plus, the Blu-ray has Sony’s branded MovieIQ function.

Oh, and I really dug the one-sheet and lobby card postcard recreations in the box.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.