New York, New York appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For reasons unknown, MGM refuses to embrace anamorphic transfers for 1.66:1 flicks. That became the major problem with this otherwise frequently positive image.
The lack of anamorphic enhancement meant that the movie often looked softer than I’d expect. Definition never became poor, and the picture usually came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. Unfortunately, the movie lacked good detail in the smaller elements and tended toward slight fuzziness.
Despite the lack of 16X9 encoding, jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns. However, moderate edge enhancement cropped up throughout the movie. Source flaws remained minor for a movie from 1978. The film looked grainier than I expected, but otherwise only a smattering of specks and small marks cropped up in this very clean transfer.
Colors varied from bright and vivid to runny and messy. Actually, the latter concerns were infrequent intrusions, as only a few shots demonstrated some murky hues; those mostly appeared during scenes with red lighting. Usually the movie presented fairly vivid and rich tones. Blacks were deep and tight, but shadows were less consistent. Some low-light shots seemed clear and well-defined but others were denser and less smooth. Overall, a lot of the movie looked good, but the frequent problems with sharpness and other issues knocked down my grade to a “C+”.
Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of New York, New York never dazzled, it was more than adequate for a movie of this one’s age and scope. Audio remained heavily oriented toward the front. Frankly, if any surround usage occurred, I never detected it. The front speakers offered fairly good stereo imaging, and some light ambience also spread across that area. The soundfield didn’t go for much ambition, but it seemed satisfying.
Audio quality was consistently good. Speech sounded warm and natural, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music didn’t demonstrate immense dimensionality, but the songs were reasonably bright and vivid. Although effects played a minor role, they were always tight and accurate. I found the mix to complement the material and work just fine.
A mix of extras accompany this DVD release of New York, New York. We can watch the film with an introduction from director Martin Scorsese. In this five-minute and 35-second clip, Scorsese reflects on the artifice of “old Hollywood” and his use of those styles in the flick as well as a few other appropriate topics. The director discusses his goals and helps set us up to view the movie.
The disc’s major attraction comes from an audio commentary with Scorsese and film critic Carrie Rickey. Both sit separately for this edited track. The piece starts like a house of fire, but unfortunately, it quickly stagnates.
Rickey pops up infrequently, as she mainly discusses themes and interpretation of events. Scorsese starts out with a great look at his Influences and his prior films, his desire to rework the musical, stylistic elements and what he wanted to do with the flick. Toward the end, he chats about the movie’s reception and issues connected to the Happy Endings sequence.
All of those bits are good to great. Unfortunately, the commentary comes with dead air. Lots of dead air, as a matter of fact - acres upon acres of nothing. The track suffers from so many gaps or segments with very little content that I almost bailed on it. When I review commentaries, I don’t “sample” them like some others; I sit through them in their entirety.
However, I was damned tempted to give up on this one; all that emptiness became too much to take. The track has some good moments; it starts very well and tosses out nice material toward the end. It’s all the silence in the middle that makes this a very disappointing commentary.
After this we get a collection of 15 alternate takes/deleted scenes. All together, these fill 19 minutes and 11 seconds. Don’t expect lots of true deleted scenes, as this area mostly presents unused takes. For the new sequences, we mainly see more of what a cad Jimmy is. The different takes and the cut scenes are moderately interesting, but none of them seem any better than that.
In the Photo Gallery, we get six subsections. These present “Filmmakers, Cast and Crew” (15 shots), “On Set” (5), “French Lobby Cards” (24), “Research Photos” (10), “Original Posters” (6), and “Storyboards” (30). Drawn by Scorsese, the boards are the most interesting part, though I also like the poster created by Al Hirschfeld. Otherwise the various shots seem unexceptional.
As for ads, we get both theatrical and teaser trailers for New York. Other Great MGM Releases includes a general promo called “MGM Means Great Movies”.
Is New York, New York an homage, a parody, or a reconstruction of classic movie musicals? That’s a good question, and not one that the flick adequately answers. It includes all of those elements but mushes them together into a plodding piece with little substance or entertainment value.
The DVD offers erratic but decent picture quality along with pretty solid audio. The extras add little to the package, mainly because the audio commentary is maddeningly slow-paced much of the time. Leave this clunker to completists who feel a need to see all of Scorsese’s movies.