For the best of the Horror/Cult/Exploitation film experience
Taxi Driver (1976) - (Blu-ray)
It’s hard to believe that there was a time where director Martin Scorsese couldn’t get any project that he wanted but that was pretty much the case when he was attempting to be involved in “Taxi Driver”. Apparently Scorsese was recommended for the project (which had been making the rounds around the studio circuit and there was a buzz surrounding it) by his friend and fellow director Brian DePalma, which helped him get a foot in the door of making it. At the time Michael and Julia Phillips the husband and wife producing couple who were in charge of bankrolling the project didn’t think Scorsese had the resume to direct it. That all changed when they had arranged a screening of a rough cut of Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” for them to attend as they knew that they were dealing with the right director. But when it was offered as a joint project for Scorsese and Robert DeNiro (who during the course of all of this starred in several films that were critically praised, including winning an Oscar for “The Godfather Part II”) which made them both the perfect combination to bring writer Paul Schrader’s work to the big screen.
“Taxi Driver” is based around the character of Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) a lonely New York City cab driver who goes through life virtually unnoticed and lost in the big city as everything passes him by. It’s basically the story about his decent into madness driving around the city, dealing with customers, people of the city (the good and bad) and his basic disgust for the way that everything seemingly was. The story features Travis’ day to day life and also is narrated by the character about how he generally feels about everything around him. It’s truly a masterpiece as far as the film character study goes and because of this it’s seriously one of the greatest films ever made.
There’s no doubt that “Taxi Driver” has exceeded it’s reputation through American pop culture and the character of Travis Bickle is basically a household name (even though they might not know the name, they’d recognize the character) and has turned Robert DeNiro (along with other roles he’s had in his career) into one of the greatest American actors of all time. Personally I’ve always felt that “Taxi Driver” was DeNiro’s best character that he’s ever played and that it’s the best film he’s ever done. This has a lot to do with the fact that fit the character highlighted in Schrader’s script perfectly and worked extremely hard to bring the character to light.
In all honesty I’ve always found “Taxi Driver” to be one of the most compelling movies of all time and it’s clear to me now that is the case for many reasons. Basically the movie is the perfect mixture of great direction, acting, cinematography, writing, and style. It comes with the seedy old school New York City as it’s backdrop and is probably the greatest usage of such a backdrop that I’ve ever seen (and there are some EXCELLENT movies set with NYC as their backdrop during this time period). DeNiro is hauntingly brilliant in his portrayal of the Travis Bickle character and practically dares the viewer to forget about him after they watch the film. Scorsese not only directs the movie perfectly but fills in during an interesting cameo playing a husband threatening to kill his cheating wife. Paul Schrader’s script is otherworldly but oddly familiar with enough in it to basically make anyone feel some sort of connection to the story. It’s also one of the most beautiful films ever made portraying New York as a true wonderland of sleaze and color that just works perfectly.
The new Blu-ray from Sony Pictures is a true gem and is a BD that everyone that is a fan of the movie deserves to see on the format. The colors are rich and mesmerizing and is probably the best the movie has looked since it’s days playing on the big screen. Bernard Herrmann’s score is also fantastic on the release adding even more to the experience of watching it at home. There are also some great features on the disc including a “Making of Taxi Driver” featurette that’s about 70 minutes or so and features a great recalling of the making of by just about anyone you’d want to hear from (Schrader, Scorsese, DeNiro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, etc). It also has some features showing what NYC looked like during the making of the movie and what it looks like in 2006, along with another feature showing some of the locations from the movie and what they look like now. Something else I wanted to mention about this is the fact that there is a play and read interactive script including that allows you to watch the movie with the script on screen for a whole new viewing experience. There’s also a commentary track recorded in 1986 w/Scorsese, and Paul Schrader recorded by The Critierion Collection, as well as a commentary from Schrader and professor Robert Kolker analyzing the movie scene by scene. Another interesting feature was the one included called “Taxi Driver Stories” where there are true recalling’s of several NYC cab drivers that worked there in the 1970s. If that’s not enough there are storyboard to film comparisons with Scorsese, animated photo galleries and more included.
Overall this is one hefty release that I can honestly see being in a lot of people’s “best releases of 2011" because this thing is PACKED with features. It’s also a fantastic transfer (which is all new for this release and it shows) with wonderful sound and shows that there is a great deal of respect for this film by the folks at Sony which is nice for me, since it’s one of my all time favorites. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND a purchase of “Taxi Driver” on BD because of how great it looks, the features, and the simple fact that this will deliver hours of entertainment for your spending dollar!
Rating - ****
Blu-ray Rating - ****