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SONY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Martin Scorsese
Cast:
Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, Leonard Harris, Albert Brooks
Writing Credits:
Paul Schrader

Tagline:
On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.

Synopsis:
At 26, Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is slipping slowly into isolation and violence on the streets of New York City. Trying to solve his insomnia by driving a yellow cab on the night shift, he grows increasingly disgusted by the people who hang out at night: "Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets." His touching attempts to woo Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a Senator's campaign worker, turn sour when he takes her to a porn movie on their first date. He even fails in his attempt to persuade child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) to desert her pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel) and return to her parents and school. Driven to the edge by powerlessness, he buys four handguns and sets out to assassinate the Senator, heading for the infamy of a 'lone crazed gunman'.

Box Office:
Budget
$1.3 million.
Opening Weekend
$116.458 thousand on 8 screens.
Domestic Gross
$21.100 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Chinese
Portuguese
Korean
Thai
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/15/1999

Bonus:
• “Making Taxi Driver” Documentary
• Interactive Screenplay
• Storyboard Sequence
• Advertising Materials
• Portrait Gallery
• Cast and Crew Biographies
• Trailers


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Taxi Driver: Collector's Edition (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 10, 2007)

Since nine-year-olds weren't part of its target audience, I didn't know much about Taxi Driver upon its initial release in 1976. Really, my first introduction to the film came through the parodies of it featured on SCTV. These cast different actors in the role of Travis Bickle and reenacted certain scenes from the film. As such, we saw Woody Allen or Gregory Peck doing the infamous "You talkin' to me?" sequence.

I never actually saw the movie itself until it ran on broadcast TV sometime in my teens. At the time, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, but that may have had something to do with the rather radical editing required to run the movie on TV. In retrospect, it's amazing that there was anything left to show after they finished cutting. Heck, the "You talkin' to me?" scene was nowhere to be found!

I think I might have seen Taxi Driver once on video in the late 1980s, but I'm not terribly sure. Anyway, I regard my viewing of it through this Collector's Edition DVD to be my first real opportunity to watch it.

It's a hard movie to judge on its own simply because it has become so firmly entrenched in the general societal awareness; I had a hard time looking at it from any other point of view. For example, on its own, the "You talkin' to me?" bit's pretty scary, but I couldn't help but laugh when it happened. All those SCTV memories came rushing back at me.

Still, Taxi Driver manages to be a fairly frightening, harrowing experience. No matter how it has permeated the public consciousness, it remains a very well done kind of psychological look into the mind of a rather disturbed individual.

I think the picture works for a number of reasons. One stems from Robert De Niro's terrific performance. His acting never degenerates into any sort of caricature, something that must have been hard to avoid in such a role. De Niro plays Bickle as being scary mainly because he does seem so real. Travis isn't some raging nutbag ranting to himself on a street corner. Instead, he's a guy who's just so insulated and alone in his own world that his mind has become terribly warped and he's filled with palpable self-loathing.

At times, Bickle seems so frightening because he appears fairly sympathetic. Who could look at the world in which he lives - one that features all manner of filth and degradation open to view 24 hours a day - and not feel disgusted? Granted, Travis doesn't act out of any real concern for the state of society - he's clearly mistaken his own self-hatred for concern about the greater good - but his impressions of the nasty state in which he lives are not mistaken.

The irony of the film is that through Bickle's suicidal rage, he actually accomplishes something good: Iris, the twelve-year-old prostitute he "adopts," ends up back home and off the streets. Travis becomes something of a hero and even appears to get a shot at the girl he longed for earlier in the film. Of course, the film concludes with some scenes that make it evident that Bickle's still seething and he's a bomb that's likely to go off again at some point.

Again, De Niro nicely underplays Travis from start to finish. It's a very powerful performance because he doesn't hit you over the head with Bickle's sickness. The lasting impression is that this psychopath doesn't really look any different from the vast majority of folks out there.

Director Martin Scorsese does a nice job of getting the viewer inside Bickle's head. At times it seems to be a confused movie as it jumps through different topics and focuses on various aspects of Bickle's life, but that makes sense. Travis is a tremendously messed up guy, and the disjointedness of the film communicates his status well. Sometimes the tangents don't make too much sense, but in its way, they thus make perfect sense.

In addition to De Niro, the remainder of the cast works pretty well. I thought Jodie Foster was just a bit too peppy and sweet as Iris – this kid really should have more of the life beaten out of her - but her performance is acceptable. I never much cared for her otherwise, but Cybill Shepherd hits all the right notes as unrequited love interest Betsy. Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Boyle are all just fine in their supporting roles. None really stand out, but they acquit themselves well.

The decades haven’t tamed Taxi Driver. Grim and unsettling 30 years ago, it remains that way in the 21st century. This is a strong examination of difficult subject matter.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Taxi Driver appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the flick occasionally showed its age, the transfer usually seemed pretty good.

For the most part, sharpness came across well. Some shots displayed minor softness, but these concerns never became severe. The majority of the movie appeared acceptably accurate and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering created no distractions, and I saw only minimal edge enhancement.

Source flaws caused minor concerns. Early on, they looked moderately heavy, especially during the first few minutes. However, after that, they cleaned up pretty well, and most of the movie lacked notable defects. This was a tidy transfer most of the time.

Driver went with a surprisingly lively palette, and the image usually made them look good. Some shots presented moderately murky and runny hues, but most of the shots were pretty dynamic and full. Blacks seemed a little too dense, however, and shadows tended to be murky. These weren’t terribly opaque, but these shots seemed a bit tough to discern. All of this added up to a “B” transfer given the movie’s age and low-budget origins.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Taxi Driver also came with ups and downs, but it usually did well for itself. Dialogue and effects were somewhat harsh and flat, but not horribly so, and not any more so than one would expect from a movie that's this old and this inexpensive. The score was surprisingly dynamic. Bass elements could be muddier than I’d like, but the music appeared pretty lively and tight most of the time.

As for the soundfield, it didn’t do much to expand its horizons. The music benefited the most, as the score showed nice stereo imaging throughout the flick. Effects usually stayed focused in the center. They broadened slightly to the sides but didn’t do much. Nonetheless, this was a perfectly solid piece of audio for a movie from 1976, and the quality of the music made it a “B” mix.

A few extras round out this set. We open with a 70-minute and 50-second documentary called Making Taxi Driver. We hear from director Martin Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader, director of photography Michael Chapman, special makeup artist Dick Smith, editor Tom Rolf, composer Elmer Bernstein, and actors Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle, Harvey Keitel and Peter Boyle.

“Making” starts with the origins of the project and moves to Scorsese’s involvement, casting and characters, performance issues and improvisation. We also find notes about storyboarding, Scorsese’s approach to the film, shooting in New York, story and themes, visual effects, editing, the score, a variety of scene specifics, and the film’s aftermath/notoriety.

From start to finish, “Making” provides an excellent view of the film. It touches on virtually all-important components of the various processes and does so well. The documentary offers a very thorough overview of the film's creation and impact and entertains as it goes.

Next comes the film’s original script. This presentation makes easy to reference the script while you watch the film. Just press a button and the screen will quickly switch to the approximate corresponding section of the screenplay. Okay, it can be off by a bit - you'll find yourself flipping through parts of the script to find the exact scene you want - but the idea is nonetheless good. I like the presentation and think it’s a fun way to examine the script.

After this we get a storyboard sequence (3:50) that depicts the film's climax; intercut with it are corresponding still photos from the movie itself. I'm not a big storyboard fan, and they probably should have matched the boards with running film footage, not just stills). Despite that, this section nonetheless works pretty well. Another feature offers a photo montage/portrait gallery (8:55) from the production, and another gives us various advertising materials such as posters and lobby cards. These parts are okay but nothing special.

All of the features mentioned in the last paragraph are included as running pieces of video. In other words, you don't just use your DVD remote to flip from frame to frame; in essence, the photos, etc., have all been filmed.

Finally, the Taxi Driver Collector's Edition DVD includes a couple of old standbys. We get four theatrical trailers; these come for Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence, The Fan and Awakenings. We also receive some minor cast and director biographies.

Dark and haunting, Taxi Driver provides a rich examination of a deeply troubled character. The movie paints a full picture of its subject and remains effective after more than 30 years. The DVD presents pretty good picture, sound and extras. This is a generally positive package for an excellent film.

To rate this film, visit the 2007 Collector's Edition review of TAXI DRIVER

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