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Taxi Driver (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

On October 12, Sony released the Columbia Classics Collection: Volume 2. The set is a follow up to their now out of print and very well received first volume that found many legendary and important films of all types and genres from different eras featuring notable filmmakers and big star turns in the history of Columbia Pictures together on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the very first time. These sets receive immaculate care in terms of restoration and come in fantastic packaging complete with a hardcover mini coffee table book with added essay and high quality photos (You can find my detailed look at the packaging by clicking HERE). The second volume picks up on the greatness that set left off on and includes the films Anatomy of a Murder, Oliver!, Taxi Driver, Stripes, Sense and Sensibility and The Social Network. You can order yourself a copy of the Columbia Classics Collection: Volume 2 (while it lasts) using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review. We continue our look at this set with the 4K debut for one of Martin Scorsese’s signature films, 1976’s Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro.

Film

Winner of the prestigious Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1976) and nominated for 4 Academy Awards® including Best Picture (1976), TAXI DRIVER stars Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s classic film of a psychotic New York cabbie driven to violence by loneliness and desperation. Co-starring Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle and Cybill Shepherd.

Taxi Driver is almost everything about the 1970s cinema that we love. Its got a strong voice and vision. Its dangerous. Its punk rock. It goes places and features people you’re not used to seeing in movies. Not the pretty people. The people not living or partaking in a normal, “happy” kind of life. Scorsese’s film is one of brilliance, confident and always being what it has been, if only to have been misread or understood by many.

Scorsese wants to deliver a film with that traps you and needs to you to see what you may want to look away from. Travis Bickle is fascinating and not that he’s some hero or role model. We can’t look away or leave him. We follow him throughout this film. He’s meant to make us uneasy, for us to fear his next move. No, the man isn’t a villain either, even though he has bad thoughts and commits harsh actions. He just makes choices and goes in directions people may think or imagine for them or someone else to, but he actually does it. Its uncomfortable. We, the “normal” audience have a surrogate momentarily in that of Cybill Shepherd and/or Albert Brooks to see how things we be if we brushed paths with Bickle for reassurance from Scorsese.

There’s a truth to much of Taxi Driver as well. Its an ugly one, but its told in a blunt honesty from Scorsese about what is on the mind and desires of those who are left behind or forgotten in our society. There’s a lot of Scorsese’s “Hey, this is crazy, but its also true” touches the film in which he plants Peter Boyle’s character (and other cabbies in a diner) for a couple scenes to tell these crazy stories and hand out advice with anecdotes. Its the kind of material you’re just sure came from some research and interviews when writing the script.

While many will remember the quotable lines and some of the more action moments that make up a surface level of Taxi Driver, there’s such a deeper investment and study to be taken from this film. Its a shame its wound up being a college bro pinup poster shorthand for a “badass” and also somewhat inspired a presidential assassination attempt, because this is a great American film. On a whole though, I think we do “get it” and its nice to see appreciation for it hasn’t waned because of the wrong people liking it like that of Fight Club. While one of Scorsese’s greatest achievements, Taxi Driver also remains one for film as a whole.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Taxi Driver FINALLY arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, with the transfer having been restored from the original camera negative. This film was already jaw droppingly amazing to look at on standard Blu-ray and continues to do so on 4K Ultra-HD. It has a little heavier grain, but added depth, color saturation and overall just more fine texture and details. There is now almost a see-through like quality to Harvey Keitel’s tank top its so fine. Its palette is a little darker here and has a more 70s aesthetic to it. This film has been the golden standard for film restoration and home video transfers and continues to do so on the latest format.

Depth:  One of the most amazing things about Taxi Driver‘s home video history is how open and spacious its always felt. That continues here, with such a big feeling picture in scope but also plenty of pushback and a three dimensional feeling delivered to your eyes. Movements are filmic, natural and smooth with no issues regarding jitter or blur during more rapids motions.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and very deep, rich and provide a contrast that really aims to strengthen the lifelike quality to a lot of the color on the screen. Grain hangs heavier in the darker corners, but its welcome. This handles dark rooms, nighttime and the shadows with impressive ease. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: This has the 70s sorta grime to it, but in Scorsese’s New York, its a thing of beauty. Yellows, oranges, browns, rust and more come through bold and strong with a nice pop. Neon lights and car lights benefit from some HDR glow. There’s outstanding saturation on display as well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like stubble, wrinkles, sweat, make-up, moles and more are visible from some of the most surprisingly far distances in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Polish 5.1 VO Dolby Digital, Russian 5.1 VO Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics: Taxi Driver retains its lossless 5.1 mix for its debut on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. And that’s absolutely fine as it was a pretty perfect performance. No reason to overdo just for the sake of a new option. And its not like Taxi Driver is a movie demanding to be blasted from up down and all around. In a way, 5.1 is possibly overdoing it, but about as max as you’d want. Its a full, engaging mix, with nice attention to the vocals, good depth on the sound effects and some good deep sweeping touches with the score.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Deep tones hit with some things like gunshots, crashing, punching, truck engines and musical beats from the bass, strings, horns and drums.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a lot going on up front and it carries a nice 3 channel interplay. Rear channels are used to build environments with ambiance but also attentive to off screen action we expect to be present from onscreen shot changes. Every place visited feels lived and in and tosses you in the picture very well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are the star of this mix, crisp and clear with good attention to diction and everpresent up front.

Extras

Taxi Driver comes with the standard Blu-ray version (Disc 1 from the 2016 release) and a redeemable digital code for the film. Extras are split between the 4K UHD and standard Blu-ray discs. This edition of the film is currently only available as part of the Columbia Classics Collection: Volume 2.

4K UHD

Making Taxi Driver (HD, 1:10:55)

Intro to Storyboards by Martin Scorsese (HD, 4:32)

Storyboard to Film Comparison (HD, 8:21)

Photo Galleries (HD, 9:27)

20th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer (HD, 1:28) – Newly included for this release.

BLU-RAY

Audio Commentary

  • Original 1986 Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Writer Paul Schrader Recorded by the Criterion Collection
  • With Professor Robert Kolker
  • With Writer Paul Schrader

Tribeca Film Festival (HD, 41:56) – 40th Anniversary Q&A

Producing Taxi Driver (HD, 9:53)

God’s Lonely Man (HD, 21:42)

Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute (HD, 18:30)

Taxi Driver Stories (HD, 22:23)

Martin Scorsese On Taxi Driver (HD, 16:52)

Travis’ New York (HD, 6:16)

Travis’ New York Locations (HD, 4:49)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:09)

Summary

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is an all out American classic and one of the shining examples of why the cinema of the 1970s is such a well regarded era. If you’ve been keeping up with its home video history (And know anything about its director’s involvement in film preservation/restoration), it’ll come as no surprise that this disc’s 4K Ultra-HD presentation is absolute perfection. It retains its outstanding 5.1 track as well as all the great extras that have come before. Taxi Driver was one of my hands down favorite Blu-ray releases and transfers of all time, and now becomes one of my favorite 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray ones as well.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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