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"Raging Bull"- {Blu-ray}
Wayne Klein
Studio: MGM/20th Century Fox
Release Date:
Special Features:

Housed in deluxe book, audio commentaries, documentary, featurettes, original theatrical trailer, "The Tonight Show" from 3/27/81

Rated: R


While "Raging Bull" IS a masterpiece I'll be honest in admitting it's not a movie I watch very often because of the brutality and emotional violence at the core of the film. Based on the memoir of Jake LaMotta "Raging Bull" features one of Robert DeNiro's most transformative performances both physically and emotionally--he gained a substanial amount of weight to play the aging Lamotta for director Martin Scorsese. There's no doubt that it is also a brilliant film but again this black & white film will only get a lot of play for those who can stomach the dark portrayal of LaMotta and all of the emotional abuse he heaps on his family often treating them like the same opponents he faces in the ring. DeNiro plays LaMotta as an often paranoid, suspicious individual who can't trust anyone but himself often paying the price by alienating those who care about him most. ***

Scorsese's visually stunning film works best in the ring as LaMotta and his various opponents face off with LaMotta taking punishing blows. Cathy Morarity and Joe Pesci both deliver knock out performances as LaMotta's suffering wife and manager/brother respectively. ---

Image & Sound:

As is typical of Fox the studio that has (until recently) been distributing MGM releases, this is a reissue of the previous version of the film on Blu-ray. Fox does this because they can only make a royalty on the title if it is one THEY reissue even if it is identical to the previous release or reflects the minimal effort that they've put into some MGM titles (such as "Escape from New York" which received a truly pathetic Blu-ray release). ***

The transfer for "Raging Bull" is identical from what I can tell to the previous edition. As such, this edition also has the much talked about digital flaw in the right hand corner of the screen where there is a thin translucent strip that is slightly brighter than the rest of the black and white image. Aside from that flaw, the transfer is truly stunning looking keeping the original grain structure and contrast of the film in tact. That said, fans should be aware that if they go to purchase this again hoping the issue has been corrected, they will be sadly disappointed that it has not even been addressed in this reissue. While I didn't find it distracting (and you shouldn't either if your monitor is set to the proper settings), there are going to be some folks (and you know who you are) for which this is unacceptable. In many respects, I find it unacceptable as well since MGM and Fox were made aware of the issue when the previous Blu-ray came out back in Feb. of last year. NOT to correct the problem given that they were made aware of it by striking a new digital transfer or correcting the problem prior to striking the new discs, is unacceptable but that problem has been an issue with any Fox released MGM title. ***

Audio sounds quite nice with a sharp sounding 5.1 DTS audio mix. Scorsese has used sound well in all of his films and "Raging Bull" is no exception as Scorsese varies the effect of the 5.1 mix based on what we're seeing on screen whether it be reflective of the visual tunnel vision that LaMotta suffers from when he gets punched one too many times or the oppressive often emotionally violent confrontations with LaMotta's wife. For a vintage presentation of the original soundtrack, "Raging Bull" will knock you out. ---

Special Features:

We get some new material for this deluxe reissue including: "Marty & Bobby" featuring director and actor interviewed about how they ended up working on the film together (DeNiro brought the project to Scorsese). "Raging Bull-Reflections of a Classic" features four directors Neil LeBute, Richard Kelly and Kimberly Pierce discussing the influence and impact of the film. "Remembering Jake" allows us to listen in as the Veteran Boxer's Association of New York do their monthly get together and discuss Jake LaMotta. "Marty on Film" allows Scorsese to discuss his career as a director. All of the new material presented on this disc is in HD. ***

Ported over from the previous edition are the audio commentary tracks, Cathy Moriarty's appearance on 'The Tonight Show' from 1981 to promote the film. Also we get to see "Fight Niht" a 90 minute documentary on the film. There's also "The Bronx Bull" featuring LaMotta, film editor the late great Thelma Schoonmaker and film critics discussing the film. "DeNiro vs. LaMotta" compares the actor and boxer in footage from the film and of LaMotta in action. "LaMotta Defends His Title" is a vintage MovieTone newsreel and the final bit is the original theatrical trailer presented in HD. Most of the rest of the special features ported over are in SD. ---

Final Words:

A brutal, brilliant and uncompromising portrait of a powerful boxer as he ascends and then descends, "Raging Bull" rightly won many critics awards when it appeared in 1981. Those looking for a transfer that improves on the slightly flawed one presented here will be disappointed but even with that flaw, the film often looks stunning.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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