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Details At A Glance
||Yes, 1 - 1.66:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
||Featurette - Making Taxi Driver
Featurette - Photo Gallery
Filmographies - Cast & Crew
Gallery - Advertising Materials
Cast & Crew
||Robert De Niro
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 ,
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio
|Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
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
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
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
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
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
The trailer comes with a choice between German, Dutch,
and French subtitles. It is quite dark, grainy, and hovers just above poor
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.
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.
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.
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.
Basically, this is your standard array of Cast &
Crew Filmographies. Short biographies are provided for
Robert De Niro,
Keitel, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, and
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.
© Dean McIntosh
February 28, 2000
||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109,
using S-video output
||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
||Built In (Amplifier)
||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back
Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer