|Category||Drama||Theatrical Trailer - 1.85:1, non 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
(not 129 minutes as shown on packaging)
Fox Home Entertainment
|Starring||Robert De Niro
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
This is quite simply the life story of one of the greats of boxing, Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro), and his struggle to become the middleweight champion of the world, then his physical decline to cabaret entertainer after retirement. Broadly dealing with his marriage to Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and his relationship with his brother/manager, Joey (Joe Pesci), this is a no punches pulled look at boxing and life in the 1940's and 1950's. This is no glossy cover up of the fact that La Motta was basically a prize jerk, who generates very little sympathy in the film.
The film is recognized as featuring some of the best fight sequences ever committed to film, and the quality on offer is demonstrated by the fact that it copped 8 Oscar nominations in 1980 - including Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. The film is also well recognized for the fact that Martin Scorsese did not win Best Director, in one of the most illogical choices ever made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Thankfully, Robert De Niro did win Best Actor, and this is one of the more obviously deserved Oscars ever given: he quite simply is superb, and his commitment to the role by piling on a bundle of weight to play the Jake La Motta of retirement is almost unequalled in film history. The film also won Best Film Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker, although she readily admitted that basically Scorsese did the editing. Unusually for a film of this vintage, it is basically all black and white, which to my mind made the film an even more powerful statement. To be able to convey the brutality of La Motta in the ring without red blood everywhere demonstrates the skill with which Martin Scorsese put this film together with.
Undeniably brutal, but equally undeniably one of the great films of cinema, from a man who has made some gems, most notably GoodFellas and Taxi Driver, both with De Niro.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1,
but is not 16x9 enhanced.
[Ed: The packaging states incorrectly that the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.]
This is in general not a sharp transfer, although definition is not too bad. This however is a reflection of the style of the film dictated by Scorsese and is not a mastering problem at all.
Black and white films demand a certain amount of care in mastering so that the grades of black, white and gray do not end up coming out like some sort of wishy washy mixture. This has been well transferred and whilst not the best black and white I have seen, this is a very natural looking picture that conveys the era so very well. There are some portions of the film done in a home movie style in colour but these are done in such a way as to emulate the washed out colour and very dirty nature of home movies of the era.
There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts during the film and video artefacts comprised some relatively minor aliasing that did not detract from the film at all. Film artefacts were quite prevalent during the film, but actually did not impede the film in any way as they sort of fit nicely into the style of the film.
This is a RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 66:32. Whilst the change is quite noticeable, it is not very disruptive to the film at all and its positioning is quite well chosen - and definitely better than a flipper.
There is only one Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack on the DVD, which is obviously English.
The dialogue was somewhat variable in clarity and was not always easy to understand. This is not a mastering problem, but rather is the way the film was made.
Audio sync did not appear to be a problem at all.
The score basically comprises music composed by Pietro Mascagni, an Italian composer who died in 1945, with snippets of popular songs of the era. Whilst the orchestral music on the face of it appears to be oddly chosen, it does have some gripping melodies that have been well used in the film and have become associated so much with the film. It ends up providing quite an atmospheric counterpoint to the brutality of the film.
This is not a particularly very well balanced soundtrack, and the lack of detail highlights the difference from a 5.1 soundtrack. Nonetheless, the sound picture is quite convincing of the era being depicted and it is good that MGM have not tried to create more detail as it would not suit the brutality of the film in my view.
You can forget the bass channel in this film.
Addendum - 17th February, 2001:
There has been a reissue of the film in a 20th Anniversary Special Edition in Region 2. This is a 2 DVD set with the film DVD as per the Region 4 release, with an additional DVD containing a 27 minute documentary, including interviews with Jake La Motta and Thelma Schoonmaker, and "Jakes Jokes" (a collection of Jake La Motta's favourite stand up moments). The 2 DVDs are packaged in a gatefold sleeve which also contains a 16 page booklet and postcards. This would now be the version of choice.
The overall video quality is very good.
The overall audio quality is good.
The extras are reasonable but more could have been done with one of the greats.
© Ian Morris
20th September 1999
Amended 17th February 2001
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|