Taxi Driver

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.66:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1976 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 109:11 minutes  Other Extras Featurette - Making Taxi Driver
Featurette - Photo Gallery 
Filmographies - Cast & Crew 
Gallery - Advertising Materials 
Storyboard Sequences
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (86:05)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2, 4 Director Martin Scorsese

Columbia Tristar
Starring Robert De Niro 
Jodie Foster 
Albert Brooks 
Harvey Keitel 
Leonard Harris 
Peter Boyle 
Cybill Shepherd
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $39.95 Music Bernard Herrmann
Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English 
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Taxi Driver will either give you a fascinating insight into the early stages of the careers of director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, or make you wonder what the big deal with this film was about. In my case, it managed to do a bit of both for reasons that have more to do with the artistic and legal constraints that plagued the filmmakers during shooting than any fault of the actual story. Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Taxi Driver is a film which I had not seen until it was released on DVD. Although I am not overly impressed with most of the film, the climax is quite powerful in its sheer depraved grisliness. However, time has not been kind to this film, and the violence in it that was shocking twenty-six years ago would hardly make us bat an eyelid today. If there is a point where this film saves itself, it is in the acting, which is amazingly authentic to the characters being portrayed. Jodie Foster's portrayal of a runaway teenaged prostitute makes it clear why she has been in demand for such grisly roles as those she had in The Silence Of The Lambs and The Accused ever since. Robert De Niro's portrayal of an unhinged taxi driver is riveting, and it makes me wonder exactly what goes on in the mind of your average cabbie.

    The plot, and it is rather minimal when written out, runs something like this. Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a Vietnam veteran suffering from serious social problems that leads to increasing isolation and an inability to sleep, a condition I can relate to all too well during the middle of the year. Anyway, as a result of his need to keep busy, he takes a job as a taxi driver during the nights, and winds up taking longer and longer shifts. Normally, this would not be a problem, but the sleazy undertones of life in New York feed Bickle's instabilities to a dangerous point. At one point, he meets a woman named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), who works as a campaigner for Presidential wannabe Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris), whose political platform is the typical rhetoric about how those opposed to his views aren't real citizens of the USA. After he writes off his relationship with this woman by taking her with him to a porn theatre, he meets up with Iris (Jodie Foster), a thirteen year old girl working the streets of New York as a prostitute. His desire to free her from this sort of life comes to a head in the aforementioned climax in which he murders Sport (Harvey Keitel), her pimp, and several other men along the way.

    Given the limitations under which the film was made, the problems with the so-called Motion Pictures Association of America not least among them, what we see here is an impressive enough result. However, time has taken a toll on the impact of the story, especially given that a lot of the film itself feels more like a home video than a movie with any production values. Nonetheless, it is an interesting look back into a time when a single five-minute scene could seal a film's censorship rating.

Transfer Quality


    For a twenty-six year old movie, this is a reasonably good transfer, especially when one takes into account the budget limitations that the film was originally shot under (a hint for Roadshow Home Entertainment: let's see you do this well with a 21st anniversary edition of Mad Max). However, this transfer is rather ordinary by what I would loosely refer to as modern standards, and it even looks somewhat disappointing compared to efforts of similar vintage such as Caddyshack. Director Martin Scorsese had certain ideas in mind when he shot this film, and they do not necessarily translate into the best of transfers. The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not quite as wide as the original theatrical exhibition, but the 16x9 enhancement makes for a reasonable picture. The transfer is wildly varied, with the darker scenes lacking detail and the daytime scenes being quite clear, although somewhat softly focused. The nighttime scenes reminded me of the manner in which the most recent film version of 1984 was shot, while the daytime scenes had a distinctly Days Of Our Lives sort of feel to it. Shadow detail in many scenes was poor, but in scenes where it was needed, such as the climactic scenes at the end of the film, shadow detail was surprisingly good. Overall, this is one of the grittiest transfers I have seen, which reflects the intended style of the film rather well.

    The colours ranged from exceedingly dark and muted to strangely bright and muted. Again, this muted look in the colour saturation reminds me of the colour scheme in 1980s daytime soap operas, or the reality shows that were a trend during the early 1990s such as COPS. The nighttime shots with a large amount of neon showed plenty of vibrant colour that tended towards oversaturation. Trails of colour from said neon lights are especially noticeable in this regard, although this can be attributed to the director's intentions when shooting the film. There were no MPEG artefacts visible in the film, and film-to-video artefacts weren't a problem. However, there are a large amount of film artefacts that, while noticeable, are not particularly distracting.

    This disc is presented with RSDL formatting, with the layer change at 86:05. The layer change is noticeable, although it is not particularly disruptive. Given how hard the compression would have to work in order to prevent serious losses with a film like this, a layer change at any point seems perfectly acceptable to me.


    While I feel that a Dolby Digital 5.1 remixed soundtrack would have been a welcome addition to the presentation, it has been left out in favour of three Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks: English with surround encoding, as well as French and German in mono. The overall effect is somewhat like watching a daytime drama or an episode of COPS on a television in an area where Dolby Surround broadcasts are available. I listened to the English soundtrack from start to finish, and sampled some selected lines in German. It was something of a novelty to hear Robert De Niro's most famous lines from this film spoken in German, although it would have been even more interesting to hear those lines in Italian. Nevertheless, dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand at all times, which puts this film at a distinct advantage over other films Martin Scorsese has made such as the notoriously accent-ridden Goodfellas. Audio sync was never a problem during the feature presentation, although it is hard to tell during scenes where the characters doing the talking are distant from the camera.

    Although the dialogue was easy to understand, the entire soundscape of the film had a rather muffled and indistinct feel to it. The voices of the actors sounded as if they were recorded using microphones that were placed at some distance from them, and the sound effects have a deliciously flat feel to them. The brutal shootout at the end of the film has some of the most cluttered sound I have ever heard, and the limitations of Dolby Digital 2.0 sound become painfully obvious at this point in the film. Whether this is a problem inherent in the film or a problem in the audio encoding is really beside the point given that the end result is more or less the same. While I still would have liked to have heard a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of this film, I am not sure the additional channels would have done much for the overall sound.

    The music score is provided by Bernard Herrman, whom I understand worked with Alfred Hitchcock. Myself, I have never heard any of his previous work, and I have no real urge to do so based on this effort. While the score is very striking and suitably grimy in feel, I couldn't help but feel that it could have been a little more complimentary to the action onscreen. His name is listed at the end of the credits as an obituary, indicating that he died during the production of the film. Overall, while the score music is disjointed from the film itself, this is a fine enough effort to be remembered by. I've certainly seen instances where far better (in my mind, at least) Hollywood personalities have suffered far less fitting memorials (Raul Julia in Street Fighter, anyone?).

    This film contains one of the most raw soundtracks I've ever heard, even going by the standards of the late 1970s. It is very notable for its lack of detail, but it is also very notable for its authentic and realistic feel. The surround channels had little to do except support the ambient sounds and the music. The subwoofer was not used at all, even during the gunfight sequence where its use would have been very complimentary to the overall surround presence. However, given that the film is completely driven by dialogue, the plain-jane feel of the soundtrack is hardly detracting from the overall film.


    Given how influential and lauded this film has been over the years, to give this film any fewer extras would be an insult.


    The menu contains various stills of Robert De Niro that are taken from the film. The picture included with the main menu is especially intimidating too look at, but otherwise, the menu is not that remarkable. It lacks enhancement of any kind, and the scene selection menu is somewhat counter-intuitive to navigate, given that the up directional button does not have any effect while the cursor is on the directional icons.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer comes with a choice between German, Dutch, and French subtitles. It is quite dark, grainy, and hovers just above poor quality.

Featurette - The Making Of Taxi Driver

    This is a seventy-minute retrospective featuring members of the cast and crew, most notably Jodie Foster with her commentary about how they got around the difficulties posed by getting her role past the MPAA. This featurette is presented in the standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio without 16x9 Enhancement with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and the same subtitle options as the theatrical trailer. Some of the archival footage used to comprise this featurette is of average quality, but in general terms, this is one of the best and most interesting featurettes I have sat through.

Photo Gallery

    Having sat through a few other photo galleries on DVD, I have find that this one is definitely the pick of the litter solely because it is so much more than just an unannotated collection of photographs. Commentary is provided by the producer of the DVD Special Edition, whose name escapes me because his accent during the point where he actually told it to us was particularly thick. The commentary is somewhat difficult to understand, but it does add something to the montage of photos.

Storyboard Sequence

    This is basically a presentation of Martin Scorsese's crudely drawn storyboards, accompanied by stills from the sequences of shots that they represent. While I've only seen this sort of thing attempted once before on a Region 1 title, I think some commentary by Martin Scorsese or someone else directly involved in bringing the shots to life on celluloid would have done wonders for this featurette.


    A feature that allows the user to select pages from the original screenplay and compare them to the final shots in the film. The screenplay in question is the original shooting script, not a word-for-word writing of the film itself. It also contains sequences that were not included in the final cut of the film for one reason or another. This extra is somewhat confusing to navigate, and its value is somewhat limited as a result.

Advertising Materials

    The photo gallery left me expecting that this collection of photos and promotional posters for the film would be annotated by some kind of commentary. I was bitterly disappointed to find it wasn't.

Talent Profiles

    Basically, this is your standard array of Cast & Crew Filmographies. Short biographies are provided for Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, and Martin Scorsese.

R4 vs R1

    The version we have here in Region 4 appears to be identical to a Special Edition that was released in Region 1 during the earlier part of 1999. There's no real reason to favour one version over the other, unless you really can't live without an NTSC version.


    Taxi Driver, to me, is a curiosity piece that contains enough to keep that curiosity going for a long enough time.

    The video transfer is good, and especially good given the inherent limitations of the source material.

    The audio quality is also good, but the limitations of the source material are much crueller in this case.

    The only way to improve an extras package like this one is to include an audio commentary track. Commentary by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro would have really helped here, but as it stands, we have a very good collection here.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
February 28, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer