Raging Bull Review

Jan 13, 2011 | 11:46am EST

Raging Bull Blu-rayOf all their collaborations I believe that Raging Bull is the crowning achievement of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Sure I enjoy the psychotic character study that is Taxi Driver and the epic scope of Goodfellas as much as the next guy. But Bull with its unique aesthetic tragic narrative and tour de force performances is a love letter to the art of film as well as a gripping tale of soaring victory and devastating loss.

Robbed of its awards glory by Robert Redford’s Ordinary People at the 1981 Oscars ceremony the picture has been studied fastidiously over the years by college students and contemporary filmmakers garnering more praise from each subsequent generation that discovers it. Now film buffs and die-hard fans can learn everything there is to know about the groundbreaking cinematic staple with this 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release. I was legitimately giddy to find this in the mail and the further I dug into the disc’s features the more I was immersed in the New York City of yesteryear and the storied period in which Raging Bull was produced.

Scorsese enthusiasts will treasure a bevy of brand new previously unreleased interviews with the filmmaker in featurettes like “Marty on Film” and “Marty and Bobby” which focus on the director’s love of the medium and the special relationship between him and his one-time muse respectively. There’s so much insight within these interviews you’ll feel like you’ve taken a class in 70s cinema and passed with flying colors by the time they’re completed. Additionally “Reflections on a Classic” and “Remembering Jake” feature interviews with the former fighters who were both friend and foe to the Bronx Bull himself Jake La Motta. In these nostalgic videos the boxers discuss the legacy of the film and its gritty realism in great detail reminiscing both about the hype around the picture itself and how it influenced many of them to get in the ring in the first place.

The commentaries are also very entertaining; with three separate tracks giving three different versions of the story. I found the track with Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker (who won an Oscar for cutting Bull) most engaging. Others may lean toward the Cast & Crew commentary with producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler actors John Turturro and Theresa Saldana cinematographer Michael Chapman and more equally informative; a third track features writers Mardik Martin and Paul Schrader and LaMotta and his nephew Jason Lustig. In total it’s a comprehensive collection of thoughts and opinions on this landmark feature.

But the goodies don’t end there. Even more provocative than the commentaries and featurettes is “Fight Night ” a four-part feature length documentary that chronicles the making of the film. This is one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries I’ve ever seen partially because of the previously unreleased footage it contains including some De Niro screen test reels that are as ferocious as his filmed performance. If you’re a “special features” kind of guy you’re going to fall in love with “Fight Night.”

Scorsese and De Niro on the set of Raging BullAs if all that wasn’t enough to sate the appetite of the most well-versed viewer the disc comes with even more vintage footage from way back when including newsreels titled “La Motta Defends The Title” and “De Niro vs. La Motta ” a shot-by-shot comparison of the actor and fighter in the ring. You can also see Cathy Moriarty’s The Tonight Show appearance dated March 27th 1981 just to make you feel all warm inside. You’ll marvel at all the breadth of bonus content available to you with the release but most important is the film itself.

Raging Bull has never been seen in high definition and in this 1080p HD transfer (1.85:1) the stark black and white film stock comes alive right before your eyes. Having seen the film many times I can honestly say that it felt like I was watching it for the very first time when I popped in this Blu-ray. It’s just another compliment to the growing popularity and legitimacy of the format one that is on its way to becoming the standard for home entertainment.

If you’ve never seen Martin Scorsese’s violent opus now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to this classic cinematic experience. This is an anniversary collector’s item worthy of the film’s legacy. It will undoubtedly change the way you see motion pictures…and change is a good thing.

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