Mean Streets appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the film’s low-budget origins, it looked quite good.
Sharpness appeared solid. Only minor hints of softness ever manifested themselves, and they resulted mainly from the restrictions of the shooting conditions. Overall, the picture looked accurate and appropriately defined. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent. I saw no print flaws, and if any noise reduction occurred, it was modest.
Colors were a little erratic and could go from fairly vibrant to somewhat dense. However, the concerns stayed minor and they reflected the restrictions of the film stock. In general, the hues appeared pretty well-defined, and the transfer held them well, even when we found red lighting. Blacks were appropriately firm and dense, and the many low-light shots demonstrated good delineation and accuracy. This was a stronger than expected image given the film’s age and origins.
The DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Mean Streets seemed erratic. One big problem continued to come from the music. The film used tons of pop/rock songs for its score along with other source recordings, and according to the commentary, these were transferred from Martin Scorsese’s own record collection.
Because of that, the quality of the music often appeared weak. Occasionally a song sounded decent - the Rolling Stones' “Tell Me” being one of the more acceptable examples - but most of the tracks were harsh and distorted. Check out the Ronettes' “Be My Baby” at the start of the film - it was a grating disaster. I hoped it would be an exception, but it was closer to the rule. Plenty of other terrible sounding songs occurred as well, like the shrill reproduction of the Marvelettes’ “Please Mister Postman”.
Speech sounded somewhat distant, but the lines came across as fairly well-defined and intelligible. Poor dubbing could distract, but that remained inevitable, as it’s part of the original. Effects didn’t present much definition or depth, and they occasionally suffered from minor distortion. Still, they came across as acceptable. Nothing here impressed, but much of that stemmed from the source, so the mix represented the flawed original track about as well as it could.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2004 Special Edition DVD? Audio might’ve had a little more depth in this lossless track, but this remained sow’s ear territory; as long as the movie stays with songs taken from Scorsese’s 45s, they’ll sound bad.
Visuals were much more pleasing. The Blu-ray offered improved definition and clarity, with clearer colors. The DVD looked good but the Blu-ray was more natural.
The 2004 DVD’s extras repeat here. Most significantly, we find an audio commentary from director Martin Scorsese and actor Amy Robinson. Both were recorded separately and their remarks were edited together for this non-screen-specific track. Actually, the piece skips through a few parts of the movie and doesn’t cover its entire 112-minute running time; the commentary fills 81 minutes and 31 seconds.
Nonetheless, it’s a very good track. Unsurprisingly, Scorsese dominates with a broad and expansive discussion. He discusses the personal roots of the movie and gets into his initial interest in films as well as his early days as a director and how this led to Streets. Among other topics, Scorsese also chats about the characters and their connections to his real life as well as his use of music in the flick.
Robinson pops up less frequently and covers fairly similar subjects like her casting, the dynamic film scene of the early Seventies, and working with the others. A lot of great information comes out through this informative and compelling piece.
In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, we also get Martin Scorsese: Back on the Block, a period featurette about Mean Streets. It runs six minutes, 57 seconds as we see movie clips and candid footage and hear remarks about the flick from Scorsese and two childhood friends on whom some characters were based. We learn a little about the reality behind the film and the locations and other filming circumstances. It’s fairly insubstantial but it still provides a nice look at some behind the scenes elements.
Mean Streets remains one of Martin Scorsese’s least compelling movies. We can see glimmers of greatness that occasionally emerge, but as a whole it seemed to be a muddled and uncompelling affair. As for the Blu-ray, it provides strong visuals along with mediocre audio and a few interesting bonus materials. This remains lackluster Scorsese, but it’s worth a look as a representation of the director’s early days.
Note that Mean Streets can be purchased on its own or as part of a five-film “Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary”. That package also includes The Untouchables, GoodFellas, Heat and The Departed. With a list price of $50, the “Collection” costs $30 less than the roughly $80 MSRP of the five individual Blu-rays and comes with an added booklet as well.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of MEAN STREETS