The Scorsese Collection on DVD
It must be tough coming up with titles for a special boxed set
edition of Martin Scorsese films. The director has been quite prolific over the
years and has crafted several films that are considered modern masterpieces
titles such as Gangs of New York, Raging Bull and others.
But what was MGM thinking when it came up with the titles for
this deluxe set? I mean Boxcar Bertha? And a version of New York New York that,
while widescreen, isnt compatible with 16x9 TVs? What kind of
incentive is that for a videophile to drop hard-earned after tax dollars on
Not that theres anything wrong with Boxcar Bertha other
than it being a kind of poor mans Bonnie and Clyde in which a
socialist union type (David Carradine) appears to price himself out of the
depression-era job market and therefore turns to a life of violence and crime
But as the title suggests, the 1972 movie is more about Bertha
(Barbara Hershey) and shows Scorsese in his formative years. Its a low
budget Roger Corman-produced film that takes the Bonnie and Clyde formula and
adds a healthy dose of nudity and sex to it, which should please anyone who has
ever wanted to see Hershey naked. The film comes off looking more like a Corman
film than a Scorsese one, not that theres anything wrong with that, and
is easily the most lightweight entry in this set.
Fortunately, its presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9
TV compatible, and the picture quality is pretty good. Theres plenty of
grain, but it somehow adds an authentic period feel to this low budget film.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable.
There are no extras.
New York New York has a lot of promise, even if you only want to
hear the famous theme song. But since were primarily a technology
magazine that showcases the state of the art, we found the lack of a 16x9
enhanced DVD transfer an unforgivable flaw in 2005, when DVDs themselves
are about to be replaced by high definition versions.
So we put on our video snob hats and refused to watch it.
If you do deign to put up with old technology and sloppy DVD
making, youll be treated to a pretty good movie, and extras including:
o Directors Commentary (accompanied by film critic Carrie
o Introduction by Scorsese
o 25 minutes of alternate takes and
o Photo gallery
o theatrical trailer
The Last Waltz is a documentary focusing on the supposedly final
concert of the 1970s super group The Band. Its a hoot, too.
Heres what we said about it in our review of the movies initial DVD
The Last Waltz captures The Band at the end of their days on the
road. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it's considered by some to be the finest
rock movie ever made.
We don't know about that, but it's damn good and MGM has done an
excellent job of bringing this classic rock concert film to DVD with a
wonderful special edition disc.
The Last Waltz was the name of a special "good-bye" concert
Robbie Robertson and the Band wanted to hold at Bill Graham's (dubbed by
Robertson "the P.T. Barnum of rock") Winterland in San Francisco. It was to
celebrate the band and the era, which was coming to a close after sixteen years
on the road - first as backup band to Ronnie Hawkins, then as backup band to
Bob Dylan, and finally as headliners in their own right.
The concert soon grew into a full blown event featuring guest
stars that were a cross section of the musical genres that influenced The Band
- and it wasn't much of a logical stretch to decide it might be nice to record
the event for posterity.
I won't get into all the details, because they're made more than
clear several times over on the disc and in its supplementary material. Suffice
it to say The Last Waltz is a movie based on that six hour event, and it does
it fine justice.
I was a little disappointed that the movie was a blend of
interviews and concert footage; not that I didn't appreciate the interviews
(not being a real Band fan, I did appreciate learning more about these guys and
their history), but I wanted to see more concert. But after going through all
the extras I learned that the concert was a real marathon that taxed the
recording technology to its limits, so the result is a "full length" movie that
distills the best of what they managed to record.
They got some good stuff, too, some of which was restaged later
on a sound stage (and which is some of the best footage - for instance a
wonderful version of "The Weight" backed up by the Staple Singers). Most of The
Band's most famous stuff is here, and they also show why they were such a great
backup band by accompanying the plethora of guest stars performing music of
their own. We get to see and hear Bob Dylan (probably the worst part of the
movie), Eric Clapton (perhaps the best part), Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van
Morrison, Neil Diamond (who seems a tad out of place), Emmylou Harris (a great,
restaged version of "Evangeline"), Muddy Waters, The Staples, Ringo Starr
(well, he and Ronnie Wood show up for a few seconds at the end and in a jam
that's part of the supplementary materials), Dr. John, Paul Butterfield and
The footage is great; Scorsese correctly virtually ignored the
audience, concentrating instead on the music (the audience shows up in shots
from the back of the stage, and you can certainly hear them, but they aren't
dwelled upon) and the musicians - and it pays off.
So how's the disc? It's terrific. MGM offers us a remastered
soundtrack available in either stereo surround or Dolby Digital 5.1. We
preferred the latter soundtrack because of its more accurate placement of
sounds. The audience sounds great, too, emanating as it does from all around
you thanks to the surround speakers.
The quality of the sound is unbelievable, considering the 25 year
old analog source. The guitars, vocals, drums and keyboards sound as if they
were recorded yesterday; the bass is weaker, but not too much (bass guitar
reproduction is a weakness on many discs). This is a remastering job of which
the engineers can justifiably take a lot of pride.
Likewise the picture, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen
(16x9 TV compatible). It fills the widescreen TV completely, and the picture
also looks as if it were made yesterday (except for how young everyone looks!).
Colors are bright and rich, the film-based picture is sharp and detailed, and
it makes you glad Scorsese decided to go whole hog and shoot the concert in
35mm rather than the original concepts of video or 16mm.
Then there are the extras. First up are two running commentaries,
the first featuring Robertson and Scorsese and the second featuring a whole
whack of the people involved. They're both very interesting, though of course
you can't hear the music very well over them.
There's also a 22 minute featurette that gives some excellent
background behind the band and the show, photo gallery, a jam featuring members
of The Band and many of their guest stars (with audio and video that isn't up
to the standards of the main feature, unfortunately), and an 8 page booklet
written by Robbie Robertson himself.
In all, an excellent DVD and a disc that belongs in the
collection of every rock music fan.
Then theres Raging Bull, which some consider to be
Scorseses finest work (De Niros, too, according to some). Its
the story of the life and career of boxer Jake LaMotta and features an
Oscar-winning performance by Robert De Niro, more than capably backed up by
Cathy Moriarty. Its hard to fault this black and white film, which
balances passion and violence to create a film of beauty despite its violence.
The DVD is a two disk special edition and the audio and video are
very good. And you also get a remarkable selection of extras, including:
o Commentary by Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker
Commentary by director of photograpy Michael Chapman, producer Irwin Winkler,
music producer Robbie Robertson (late of The Band), producer Robert Chartoff,
actress Theresa Saldana, actor John Turturro, casting director Cis Corman, and
supervising sound effects editor Frank Warner
o Commentary by the writers,
LaMotta himself, and LaMotta's nephew Jason Lustig
o "Raging Bull: Before
the Fight": feature on the writing, casting, and preproduction
Bull: Inside the Ring": in-depth look at the choreography and shooting of the
o "Raging Bull: Outside the Ring": Behind-the-scenes tales
o "Raging Bull: After the Fight": about the sound design, music, and impact of
o "The Bronx Bull": making-of documentary
o "De Niro vs.
LaMotta": shot-by-shot comparison of De Niro and LaMotta in the ring
Newsreel footage of the real LaMotta
o theatrical trailer
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think