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Release Date(s)1976 (April 5, 2011)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertianment)
“Loneliness has followed me my whole life... everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores... everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man.”
Martin Scorsese: a name synonymous with so many incredible films... existing without comparison. Nobody has ever executed a film project quite like Scorsese, and in my opinion, no one ever will. For many cinephiles, Taxi Driver is the breadth of that execution. Arguably his most personal and immersive film experience, it draws its power from the outsider in all of us. Looking at all of the bad things with disdain and without remorse is a character trait that anyone with an expanded field of vision can relate to at one time or another. We’re never 100% sure why we root for Travis Bickle, but what we do know is that we’ll follow him into anything. An early critical outcry for Scorsese’s use of violence, Taxi Driver is also one of cinema’s great water cooler debate films. With the combination of writer (Paul Schrader), director (Scorsese) and actor (Robert De Niro), Taxi Driver contains a perfect creative mixture, one that helped craft one of cinema’s most enduring and important documents.
Supervised by Sony’s Grover Grisp (interviewed by Bill here), as well as cinematographer Michael Chapman and Scorsese himself, the film has been painstakingly restored, remastered and transferred at 4K digital quality, emulating the original 35mm print. The results are, in a word, spectacular. Image grain is textured and barely noticeable, colors are deep and rich with detail and the contrast and brightness are just pitch-perfect. Improperly framed for years on DVD, this release also amends that by presenting the film in its proper aspect ratio: 1.85:1. The overall image contains a yellowish 1970’s film print look to it. Even the dialed-back color palette during Bickle’s confrontation with Sport remains intact. Some might argue that these things lessen the visual impact of the film, or that they degrade the presentation and it would be a wasted effort to not fix them, but they would be missing the point. These specifications were the director’s intention in 1976 and great care has been taken to leave them as is by the restoration team. If you want modern perfection, may the force be with you. Anyway, the bottom line here is that this is, heads and tails, the best this film has ever looked, and one of the most satisfying viewing experiences in recent memory.
In the audio portion of things, there is a richness to be discovered, as well. Bernard Herrman’s breathtaking score leaps out of the speakers and lays down the tone of the film so spectacularly in the newly-created mix. Dialogue and effects are also even and perfectly audible. I found myself more enriched than ever before with this film and I can’t praise the soundtrack highly enough. Needless to say, it does the film justice, and more. Here you get four different options: English, French, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD, as well as Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Being that this is a region-free release, you’re also given a multitude of subtitle options: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
Fans of the extras from previous releases will not be disappointed either, as they have all been carried over, but the most fantastic extra has got to be the 1986 audio commentary recorded for the laserdisc release by Criterion and featuring Scorsese and Schrader. Hardly one to let their material be used by other companies, it’s a revelation to get this as an extra. Two additional commentaries are also included: one with professor Robert Kolker and another with Schrader. An Interactive Script-to-Screen option has been included (a BD exclusive), along with Movie IQ and BD-Live options. Following all of that are featurettes and documentaries abound, including Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver, Producing Taxi Driver, God’s Lonely Man, Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute, Taxi Driver Stories, Making Taxi Driver, Travis’ New York, and Travis’ New York Locations. There are also storyboards with an introduction by Scorsese himself, galleries, and previews for other movies. Additionally, there are some lobby card reproductions included in the package. Other than deleted or alternate footage, you couldn’t ask for much more with the supplemental material.
In conclusion, Taxi Driver is most likely one of the finest, if not the finest, Blu-ray release of the year, and will certainly win some awards when the time comes. Not only do we get the classic film that most of us have been constantly re-watching over the years, but we get it with the most superior presentation you could ask for. And to make things even more incredible, as of this writing, you can get it for a mere $13!!! I just can’t say enough about this release, other than it receives our ultimate recommendation and should be essential viewing if you consider yourself a film fan at all.
- Tim Salmons