BluRay/DVD Reviews

RAGING BULL

By • Feb 7th, 2011 •

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Along with THE UNKNOWN CHAPLIN, LONESOME DOVE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and a few precious others, RAGING BULL is one of the defining films of the 80s.

Distinguished by such things as DeNiro gaining 50 lbs for the bookend sequences (John Wayne had done it some years earlier for TRUE GRIT, but was unable to lose it afterwards), Michael Powell’s suggestion to shoot the film in B&W after seeing some color test footage, classical music used as dynamic counterpoint, and the director’s idiosyncratic style which introduced Greek tragic overtones between the frames, it is an enduring masterpiece. If there are ten or so special films every decade, then it is one of the 120 greatest films ever made, and if all you can fit on your available shelf space is 120 BluRays, this should be amongst them.

Sound design is vital to the appreciation of RAGING BULL, and it’s a given that a good BluRay mastering will enhance the aural experience. On the commentary track Scorsese and Schoonmaker discuss the care that went into altering the perception of each fight scene by introducing different surreal sound effects.

There are new featurettes on the BluRay, and they are elegantly presented, in keeping with the formal beauty of the film. One takes place in a bar where boxers, memorabilia collectors, etc., congregate to reminisce, and we see a number of them interviewed. The opening shot outside the bar is beautifully lit, almost like a film noir, and the inside shots are equally lovely portraitures. All the featurettes are done with class, as befits supplementals for this movie. Producer Irwin Winkler shares in one of them the good fortune that befell the production as they were going way over schedule. HEAVEN’S GATE was shooting at the same time, and the studio was so distracted by the debacle of that production, that they really paid no attention to RAGING BULL. A fortuitous act of fate.

Most or all of the earlier extras are included as well. Fun seeing Johnny Carson engaging an honest-if-slightly-uncomfortable Cathy Moriarty in conversation shortly before the Academy Awards, for which she was nominated in the Supporting Actress category. She didn’t win, but considered herself a winner just for being nominated. De Niro and Schoonmaker did win, however, amidst a total of eight noms.

Also nice seeing a special thank-you on the film’s end credits for Haig Manoogian. I had him as a teacher at NYU as well. A nice guy.

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