The crisp shattering of the press’ flashbulbs wash the image white, cutting across slow drifting close-ups of bloody faced De Niro, eyeing his opponent hungrily across the ring. Then, at the pool, Frank Sinatra’s gentle cooing sinks seamlessly into the 1940s milieu as the young, sultry Cathy Moriarty shifts her gaze left – cut to a close up of her lips, dark against her skin, captured by the black and white film. And, of course, holding a snarl at bay, Pesci shrugs his shoulders, preparing to pick up a metal stanchion, which he intends to use to bash a man’s head.

Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull can be best described as a series of compact moments so packed with emotional depth they could be a story in and of themselves. But together they construct something bigger than the lingering dramatics of a fleeting emotion, together they flesh out a life lived under the scrutiny of time. The film chronicles the rise and fall of boxing legend Jake LaMotta (De Niro). As a young upstart in the ring, he upsets the accepted order of things when he refuses to bow to the Mafia’s stranglehold on organized boxing. To make matters worse, LaMotta’s personal relationships are plagued by the extremity of his rage, of his jealousy – emotions that fuel his success in the ring but that drive everyone he cares about away.

As one of Scorsese’s finest and most talked about works, the film is nearly unapproachable from a critical perspective – after all, film aficionados and periodicals everywhere have already heralded it as one of history’s best. A masterful story, incredible cinematography, transcendent performances – but that’s all been said before, hasn’t it? Rather, the question becomes, does this 30th anniversary edition do Raging Bull justice?

Excepting those who bought the original Blu-ray version that was released just two years ago, this new special edition will provide buyers with ample special features and an excellent transfer to 1080p black and white HD. Included are three distinct commentaries by Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, by members of the cast and crew and by Jake LaMotta himself, who is joined by screenwriter Paul Schrader and others. If for sheer volume of content alone, you’re sure to find some stimulating insights into the history and production of the film among the commentator’s varied perspectives, though as a film student I especially appreciate Scorsese’s rigorous filmic analysis.


A week of entertainment news in your in-box.
We find the news you need to know, so you don't have to.

You’ll find some culturally revealing documentary work as well. This special edition features four new featurettes (Marty and Bobby, a glimpse into the collaborative relationship between Scorsese and De Niro; Reflections on a Classic, a piece in which filmmakers consider how the film has influenced their craft; Remembering Jake, a collection of LaMotta’s peers reflecting on his remarkable career; and Marty on Film, which is yet another chance to see the distinguished film buff explain his art). There are also a host of other non-fiction pieces left over from the original Blu-ray edition, including a detailed feature-length documentary entitled, Raging Bull: Fight Night.

Altogether, this special edition is well cushioned with a bounty of interesting extras for anyone interested in getting the inside story on one of cinema’s greatest films.

Leave a comment