Raging Bull


Raging Bull

30th Anniversary Edition

Based on the book by Jake LaMotta

Screenplay by Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin, Martin Scorsese & Robert De Niro

Directed by Martin Scorsese



Robert De Niro

Cathy Moriarty

Joe Pesci



Theatrical: United Artists & Chartoff-Winkler

Video: MGM Home Entertainment



Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: 49.36 GB

Feature Size: 33.69 GB

Bit Rate: 25.96 Mbps

Runtime: 129 minutes

Chapters: 36

Region: A



English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French DTS 5.1

Russian DTS 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (x3)



English SDH, Spanish, French & Russian



• Commentary by Director Martin Scorsese and Editor Thelma Schoonmaker

• Commentary by Cast and Crew

• Storytellers Commentary

• New: Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show (6:40)

• New: Marty & Bobby - in HD (13:35)

  1. New: Raging Bull: Reflections On A Classic - in HD (12:15)

• New: Remembering Jake – in HD (11:05)

• New: Marty on Film – in HD (10:30)

• Raging Bull: Fight Night (82 min.)

• The Bronx Bull  (28 min.)

• De Niro vs. LaMotta (3:45)

• LaMotta Defends Title (1 min.)

• Original Theatrical Trailer - in HD



Amaray Blu-ray case:

BRD x 1 + DVD x 1

Release Date: January 11, 20110

Product Description

A double-dip, yes, but not an upgrade from MGM’s 2009 Blu-ray.  Five new extra features (four of them in HD) and a DVD copy make this 30th Anniversary Blu-ray from MGM an interesting option.

The Movie: 9

It’s really not possible to discuss boxing films without a consideration of Raging Bull.  Just as it’s not possible to talk about the work of its director, Martin Scorsese, without bringing in his favorite actor from Mean Streets (1973) through Casino (1995).  Robert De Niro is Jake La Motta is in much the same way as Humphrey Bogart is Dobbs, Nicole Kidman is Suzanne Maretto, Judy Garland is Dorothy Gale, or Eric Roberts is Paul Snider.  Such characterizations are iconic and transformative.  We cannot imagine the character without seeing him or her through that actor, yet somehow we feel that the actor has successfully “become” that character.  It’s an interesting trick.  And it takes the collusion of both actor and audience to make it work.


De Niro, not a naturally muscular man, may have worked out to convince himself that he could be a middleweight but it is his posture and ferocity that makes the connection with us, not the finely sculpted body of a Rocky Balboa.  De Niro also helped himself to a high calorie diet to become the older, more lethargic Jake La Motta, but this was just window dressing compared to the brutality, the paranoia and repressed inner sexual life that De Niro was able to convey with every glance as the younger man.  De Niro as La Motta simply has to turn his head in someone’s direction and you tremble for the sake of those in his line of fire - everyone, I guess, except his brother, played by Joe Pesci in his first film - a dress rehearsal for the role of the man you love to hate that would become his persona for just about ever.  As much as I enjoy despising that persona, I surprise myself at finding some sympathy for Jake’s brother, Joey, who’s caught in an impossible situation between his natural love for Jake and his fear of him.


Having said that, it is of no small importance that Raging Bull is almost entirely devoid of people who readily engage our sympathy.  But this is as it should be, and not uncommon in a Scorsese film of that period.  We are pleased to make their acquaintance via the safety of the medium of cinema.  It’s a little like mountain climbing: a thrill while you’re doing it, but you really don’t want to be engaged with the sport 24/7.  And like any high-risk adventure, we have the opportunity to learn something about ourselves in a dramatic, larger than life medium.  Yet, the principal characters in Scorsese’s movie - and considering its intensity and length, there are only three: La Motta, his wife, and his brother - are not so far removed from common folk.  Ambition, fear, jealousy, rationalization, the ease with which we can revert to violence, passive resistance, or subterfuge when we feel threatened ourselves, especially, as in the case of La Maotta, if we have no understanding of that threat and imagine it, often incorrectly, as coming from others instead of ourselves.


Scorsese is a master of technique, usually, but not always in the service of period.  In Raging Bull he nails both to the canvas.  I was just a boy when much of this story takes place, but I knew all these locations, from the neighborhood swimming pool to nightclubs, the fashions, hair styles, cars - all of it.  But then Scorsese adds his special touches - to name just one: the discriminating use of slow motion, not just under the titles, but as La Motta is sponged off with his own bloodied water, and in the gradual in-camera cranking-up during one fight where we feel La Motta wind up just as Scorsese does.  It’s a dance that they play out throughout his movie in a myriad of ways.

For all the skill of its director, editor and the sheer power and energy of its actors, I can’t say that I enjoy watching Raging Bull, nor do I imagine that it is Scorsese’s intention that I do so.  You might say I respect it more than I care to watch it, unlike, say, Taxi Driver or The Aviator.  Truth be told, Raging Bull isn’t even at the top of my list of boxing films, though I am absolutely convinced it’s a much better made film. I admit that I respond more feverishly to Rocky, Girlfight, Crying Fist, and The Set Up.


Image: 8/9

A bit rate comparison of the present and the first Blu-ray editions tells the story.  My college philosophy professor would have called them “exactly similar” by which he meant that there may be measurable differences, but that they do not intend to be different, i.e. the new one is remastered in the same way but with a shallower bit rate only to fit onto a similar medium with new information.  They are not perceptibly different.  The feature film in the earlier Blu-ray has a total (video + audio) bit rate of 37.71 and an average bit rate of just under 30.00 GB, whereas the new edition cashes in at 34.81 and 25.96 respectively.  At 49.36 GB, the new edition, along with old and new bonus features, takes up just every available byte available, but its not enough to maintain the same rate as the previous edition, not that we can tell by watching the movie.

I should add that the thin white vertical band that some bloggers commented on as appearing intermittently on the right side of the screen did not make its presence known to me, either in large screen front projection or in my search for screen caps.


Audio & Music: 8/8

I found this comment in Wikipedia regarding the 1980 movie: A sound mix arranged by Frank Warner was a delicate process taking six months. According to Scorsese, the sound on Raging Bull was difficult because each punch, camera shot, and flash bulb would be different. Also, there was the issue of trying to balance the quality between scenes featuring dialogue and those involving boxing (which were done in Dolby) [LN: by which I assume is meant Dolby Surround.]

If you have a dynamic, finely tuned, nuanced playback system, you will get pretty much just that.  Listen to those crackling flashbulbs (I really miss that sound with the more squeamish electronic flash) and varying punches.  The nearly inaudible whispers that De Niro makes to Cathy Moriarty when he invites her to kiss his mangled face in between fights has a seductive quality all its own even if we can’t quite make out every word.  The surrounds, as would have been the case in the theater, are devoted mainly to ambiance: rain, audience reactions and the like.


Extras: 9

Last month’s press release from MGM about the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray edition must have turned some stomachs.  It did mine – for it reads as if the three commentaries are on the DVD copy and not the Blu-ray (which they were for the original Blu-ray release of February, 2009.)  I am surprised and delighted that the press release got it wrong, as they not uncommonly do.

Of the five new extras, the appearance of Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson is worth your time, even if its sans revelations.  As expected, it is offered in only fair SD.  But the other four, between 10-14 minutes each, are all new and in their various ways informative and concise, even if much the same ground is covered elsewhere on this disc.  Their titles are self-explanatory: “Marty and Booby” considers the relationship between director and actor; “Remembering Jake” looks back at La Motta’s career; "Raging Bull: Reflections on a Classic" is a cut above the usual EPK promotional short as it examines this extraordinary classic; and “Marty on Film” presents one of America’s best film directors talking about film and Raging Bull in particular.


Recommendation: 9

A curious double-dip is this 30th Anniversary Blu-ray from MGM, since picture and audio is much the same as their first Blu-ray of two years ago, with all its bonus features intact.  What’s new are five worthy extra features, one of them a vintage interview with Cathy Moriarty on the Tonight Show in SD, and four others totaling a little over 47 minutes - all in HD, plus a DVD copy.  In short, if you already have the earlier Blu-ray there’s no particularly good reason to get the new one, since it does not represent an upgrade, and you can catch the new features on line or as a rental.  If you don’t own a copy on Blu-ray, you should: this edition is a keeper, whether you have seen this American classic before or not.  In addition to a great movie, there’s a great deal to learn about the art of film-making here both from direct observation, from all of the commentaries and the various extra features.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 15,2011

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