49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2004
Director Martin Scorsese pops up in so many different places - speed-rapping in every third documentary about film history, supplying voices for cartoons, sending up his auteur image in a recent television commercial - that it's sometimes easy to forget he's one of the top five directors still working in movies.
But a batch of his best films has finally been issued on DVD, three of them for the first time, and they're a good example of how great his past and later work really is. The big coup here is that Scorsese offers commentaries for some of his best movies but there's a slight catch: the commentaries are presented scene specifically (meaning he only comments on certain scenes and the player automatically skips from one to the next; also, Scorsese tends to talk more about the movies as a whole, rather than what we're actually seeing onscreen, which is fine but most people who've read anything at all about the guy already know a lot of what he's saying and would probably prefer nuts-and-bolts discussion; I know I would). The movies, however, are classic regardless.
The big kahuna of the bunch, "Goodfellas," is arguably Scorsese's masterpiece and a film that encapsulates everything he does well as a director. It's rough stuff, lurid and violent and told with equal measures of dreamy nostalgia and nightmarish detail. Even 15 years after its release, it's definitely not for everybody, but it's a great American movie anyway, filled with so many vivid details, great performances and excellent tunes that it actually improves on a second and third viewing.
"Goodfellas" was issued on DVD before but only as a hastily thrown-together "flipper" disc that split the film into two parts. Now it's been done right, with the entire movie on one side, two commentaries, some decent documentaries and great remastered stereo - I'm not an audiophile by any means so if something sounds particularly good as it flows out of my ailing old stereo system, then it must be pretty amped up.
"Mean Streets" and "Who's That Knocking at My Door?" almost seem like early drafts of "Goodfellas." They, too, are about low-level crooks whose lives consist mostly of hanging out and shooting the breeze - like "Diner" or Fellini's "I Vitelloni," except with occasional bursts of brutality and larceny.
"Who's That Knocking" was made on the serious cheap when Scorsese was a student at New York University in the late '60s (it's actually three different shorts, involving the same characters, woven into one story). It gave Harvey Keitel his first screen role as a kid trying to romance a troubled girl (Zina Bethune) from outside of his Little Italy neighborhood, and it's good but not great; it's slow and a little knuckleheaded but shows Scorsese's early potential; watching it is almost like listening to early Beatles recordings, hearing the familiar voices but knowing how much better the band was going to get.
Within that comparison, "Mean Streets" (1973) is the director's "Rubber Soul" - not quite the complex "Abbey Road" of "Goodfellas," but still a heartfelt classic. Even though the setting and story are similar, it's a big leap forward for Scorsese who, in five years, had drastically improved his use of the camera and actors. Again, Keitel plays another not-half-bad gangster who, this time, copes with Catholic guilt and peer pressure and tries to protect his chronically irresponsible cousin (an amazingly youthful and hyperactive DeNiro) from a loan shark. It's loose and weird and driven by the characters instead of the story, but it's also infectious, frequently brilliant and, though underseen, it spawned dozens of imitations.
"Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" stars Ellen Burstyn as a housewife who, after the death of her husband, winds up working in a Phoenix greasy spoon called Mel's Diner. Sound familiar? Yes, it became the basis for the TV show "Alice," but it's much less lighthearted than the sitcom it spawned. Scorsese was, to a degree, trying to do something different (namely: direct a hit movie) and while his heart doesn't completely seem in it, it's a solid drama with a strange, intense flair to it.
"After Hours" is a dark comedy set in SoHo in the early '80s, starring Griffin Dunne as Paul, a shy word processor who gets roped into the Date From Hell and then spends the rest of the movie trying and failing to get back home. Everything gets in his way: a subway fare increase, a pair of burglars, evil evil women and general dumb luck. It's a twisted satire about half-truths that spiral into disastrous lies, and the movie's grimace-inducing episodes are almost its undoing: It's so successful in painting Paul into a corner that it's almost too frustrating to watch. But for those who appreciate their comedy black with no sugar, it's a wry cult favorite and, according to a documentary on the disc, it almost became Tim Burton's first film. Burton heard Scorsese was interested, backed out and went on to debut with another twisted classic: "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2004
In reference to complaints registered by other reviewers, I just want to point out that this collection only features Scorsese's films for Warner Brothers - which is why, for example, seminal Scorsese films like "Taxi Driver" (Columbia) and "Raging Bull" (MGM/UA) are not included in this box. On the other hand, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," "After Hours," and "Who's That Knocking" are all terrific, and have never before been released on DVD in any form, making this an absolutely essential purchase for fans of the director (if the special editions of "Mean Streets" and "Goodfellas" were not inducement enough!).
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2004
To the person below who asked about "Casino", Warner didn't release "Casino", Universal did.
That aside, I LOVE these films, and always have. But, I must admit that I was disappointed (sort of) with the bonus stuff. No new Scorsese or De Niro interviews, and NO Harvey Keitel interviews at all.
I was expecting a little more, but STILL LOVE the films!!!
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2004
The greatest living director of our generation, Martin Scorsese, finally gets a much overdue tribute, thanks to Warner Home Video. "The Martin Scorsese Collection" features five outstanding examples of a master director indulging in his craft; Who's That Knocking At My Door (1968), Mean Streets (1973), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), After Hours (1985) and Goodfellas (1990). Scorsese, who became a producer, writer, actor and finally director, grew up in New York's Little Italy - the inspiration for his best films. Many of his masterworks have long been available on DVD, including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Waltz, The Last Temptation Of Christ, The Age Of Innocence, Casino and Gangs Of New York.
There is so much to talk about that we might as well get started. "Who's That Knocking At My Door" is the story of J.R. (Harvey Keitel), a young man of no ambition who, quite by accident, finds himself sitting next to `the girl' (Zina Bethune) on the Staten Island ferry. The girl is impressed by J.R's knowledge of classic movies and the pair quickly become lovers in a problematic relationship that is, sadly, doomed nearly from the start. This is the only B&W film in this box set. Contrast levels appear a bit weak with whites slightly on the gray side. Image detail is also unstable, some scenes appearing quite detailed and others just so-so to extremely blurry. These shortcomings appear to be inherent in the original film negative and are not a flaw of DVD mastering. Film grain is present but hey, it's a Scorsese film: he generally likes a gritty image and this film is certainly a fine example of that.
"Mean Streets" is the first teaming of Scorsese and DeNiro on film. Harvey Keitel is Charlie, a thug who collects debts and runs a numbers game. One of his friends, Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) owes money to Michael Longo (Richard Romanus). But Johnny is a loose canon and, as the plot progresses, we learn just how unstable a person he can be. Tensions mount after Charlie becomes enamored with an epileptic, Teresa (Amy Robinson). By no means a watershed production, in hindsight "Mean Streets" heralds the coming of "Goodfellas." This is a very dark film - literally. But Warner's DVD mastering is bang on with colors that are vibrant. Flesh tones are very accurately rendered. Black and contrast levels reveal a significant amount of fine detail. Overall the image is very sharp. There is a slight amount of film grain and some light shimmering present. No edge enhancement though, for an image that is basically smooth.
Next up is Scorsese's first important masterwork, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Departing from his formulaic atmosphere of dark brooding unscrupulous characters, "Alice..." tells the story of Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) an abused housewife on the verge of a nervous breakdown when her husband, Donald (Billy Green Bush) is suddenly killed in a truck accident. Determined to exploit the tragedy as her new lease on life, Alice packs up her station wagon with son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter) in tow. Alice's dreams of becoming a singer are short lived but a second chance at romance might be in the stars when Alice lands a job as a waitress at Mel & Ruby's Café where a frequent customer, David (Kris Kristofferson) recognizes Alice's innate value as a soul mate. Burstyn's tour de force performance won her the 1974 Academy Award as Best Actress and the film spawned the long running, highly successful television series, "Alice." Warner's DVD certainly delivers with vibrant colors. Black levels are very deep and whites are always clean. Contrast and fine details are nicely realized with only a hint of film grain. During the opening shots there is some very distracting artifacting going on but this vanishes after the opening credits for a picture that will surely NOT disappoint.
"After Hours" is the out of control spiraling saga of mild mannered Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), whose chance meeting with the seemingly harmless, Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) leads to an increasingly perilous adventure. Marcy is full of interesting stories and this is precisely why Paul is initially attracted to her. However, Marcy's behavior becomes increasingly unstable and Paul bolts. Feeling like a jerk, which of course he is, Paul decides to return for an apology but discovers Marcy dead in her bedroom. Unfortunately for Paul, he soon finds himself the focus of a troupe of vigilantes who believe he's responsible for a string of burglaries. Eventually, Paul's artist friend offers him a means of escape by turning him into a Paper Mache figure - go figure?!? Although much maligned by critics upon its initial release, "After Hours" has since developed a cult following that has spilled into the mainstream. Critics and poor box office aside, the film is a tour de force of set pieces with an eerie, unsettling quality and some very grim, black humor that is outstanding. Warner's DVD delivers a very nice looking vintage 80s image. Colors are vibrant and flesh tones are accurately rendered. Black levels are deep and white are very clean. Film grain and a hint of dirt are present but do not distract. There are no digital anomalies for a very smooth picture that will not disappoint.
Now, for the icing on the cake; "Goodfellas," #94 on AFI's list of 100 greatest movies of all time and widely regarded as the best mob movie ever made by critics and audiences alike. Written by Nicholas Pileggi and based on his book "Wiseguy", "Goodfellas" charts the meteoric rise and catastrophic crash and burn of tough guy, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta). Hill was a small time thug whose involvement with the mafia paved the way for the most daring narcotics ring ever established in the U.S. Hill's teaming with the very dapper, very savvy, Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and the very foul-mouthed Tommy De Vito (Joe Pesci) is at once fortuitous and frustrating as Hill watches Conway and De Vito rise to great heights within organized crime while he remains the front runner of lowly accord. The trio's mob boss, Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) befriends Hill but the association is short lived after their latest heist goes horribly awry. Brutally violent and viscerally disarming, the first time viewing experience of "Goodfellas" is very much like riding a psychotic horse through a burning barn - particularly in the latter half when Hill's own drug addiction leads to a manic and paranoid existence. As for the quality of this newly minted DVD, there is a marginal improvement between this disc and the original flipper from Warner. Flesh tones are overall accurate but there continues to be a reddish tint in certain scenes. A murky haze continues to be present during the early scenes. Digital anomalies are completely absent for an overall smooth look that is appealing. Fine details, black levels and contrast levels are bang on. The image quality will surely NOT disappoint.
Apart from the "Goodfellas" disc, all other soundtrack elements have been preserved in mono. There's really nothing to talk about in terms of fidelity for the mono films. They are presented at an adequate listening level and with an absence of hiss or popping that is usually characteristic of films of this vintage. "Who's That Knocking At My Door" is perhaps the weakest audio of the bunch, exhibiting a muffled characteristic. However, considering the shoe string budget for the film this is to be expected. "Goodfellas" is a very finely wrought 5.1 presentation. Dialogue is perhaps a bit more front sounding than one would expect - though no less bold and ironically crystal clear. The effects and music tracks really pack a wallop.
Extras include commentary tracks for all the films. "Goodfellas" has two, plus a host of featurettes and a thorough documentary on the making of the film. For the rest, there are shorts and featurettes that are nice complimentary extras. One would have appreciated a definitive documentary on Scorsese as a film maker but perhaps this was asking too much for a box set that retails well under a hundred dollars. Overall, this is a great edition to any home theater aficionado's library and it comes highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2008
This is the best deal going on Amazon right now. If I didn't already have these movies on DVD, I'd be all over this. Scorsese is far and away my favorite filmmaker. He's proven time and time again that he can find the true soul in any story and find the heart in any character. His films are all classics. However, I'm a little baffled by the inclusion of After Hours in this set. It's a good movie, but not one that I would call essential. It does demonstrate Scorsese's range, though. I suppose that might have been the point, but this box set would have been perfect if had included Taxi Driver and Raging Bull instead.
I am very glad that Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore was included. It is very underrated, and barely ever seen. It is easily one of Scorsese's best films, and Ellen Burstyn gives one of the best performances in the history of cinema.
Anyway... any single one of the DVDs included in this set is worth the price being asked here, so even if you're only missing one or two of them in your collection, it's an easy purchase for any film buff.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2014
I find Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore unbearable but its a great value for the other films, "Who's that knocking at my Door" is particularly memorable, not sure if its available anywhere else than this set.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2015
Fantastic price for one Scorsese masterpiece (Mean Streets) set in NY's Little Italy of 70s, and 4 other movies of diverse subjects.
Mean Streets alone is worth the price but it also contains epic gangster-lifestyle Goodfellas with all the extras and a sleeper pic (popular then but usually forgotten now) After Hours about a lost and loony night in lower Manhattan.
Alice is a period road movie about a divorcee' played by Ellen Burstyn (who won the Oscar for it) and her wise acre son trying to make ends meet while traveling through the Southwest. It holds up well stylistically with great performances by the 2 leads, the mom and the kid.
Lastly a student film of Scorcese's that later became a feature, Who's That Knocking. It's an interesting artifact of early Scorsese style, (served as a template for Mean Streets) but a rather dull narrative. Best seen with his commentary playing on top of it.
With plenty of special features, this is one of the better box sets, , I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in popular cinema of latter half of 20th Century. 5 choice films and not all the obvious ones (all Warner Bros.) for a Scorsese pack.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
After Hours is a very entertaining yet bizarre film that studies how misunderstanding can get you into big trouble. Goodfellas and Mean Streets - 2 of the top mafia films that are almost as good as The Godfather trilogy. It's hard to go wrong with Martin Scorsese.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2005
An excellent collection, starting at Scorsese's debut feature taking you all the way to his masterpiece goodfellas.
Who's that knocking at my door - Scorsese's film debut out of NYU funded by NYU and Scorsese's agreement to use the doors song the end over a sexy fantasy scene. The film is about falling in love, how the little moments in the beginning of a relationship are so wonderful. The fantasy scene is still groundbreaking today, great on showing how men desire sexual women but fear whores. A must see for any fan of scorsese or anyone who enjoys realistic filmmaking.
Mean Streets - Today, it remains of Scorsese's best and one of the best of the 70s. Mean streets is about a small time hood named Charlie who constantly has sinning on his conscience while attempting to help his crazy friend Johnny boy played by De Niro which led to the role of Don Corleone and an oscar! Wonderful film, beautiful cinematography, and beautiful, personal filmmaking! One of the best I've seen.
Alice doesn't live here anymore - You might think Scorsese sold out working with a major studio and a star but all the elements from his previous films are there. Ellen Burnst won an Oscar for her amazing portrayal of Alice, a widow trying to raise her snotty son while also trying to find a decent man a long the way. This is an excellent movie, one of the most important films of the 70s finally showing the women as the hero.
After Hours - After failing to get his Jesus picture funded and the failure of his dark gem The King of comedy Scorsese resorted to a college kids script called After hours. This is pure 80s filmmaking and pure Kafka esque. Showing a man in a nightmare he had no idea he was getting into with no idea how to get out. Definitely a must see. One of the best dark comedies ever made!
Last but not least GOODFELLAS - Not much to say here. Just the greatest mob film ever made. Goodfellas shows the rise and fall of a group of gangsters from the 60s on. Scorsese directs the film with insight and he puts his electric trademark in every scene. One of the best of all time, this puts the icing on the cake of an excellent collection. It's a Great DVD and an amazing movie that you will appreciate more and more each time.
There you have it, my long review on a great collection. 5 essential films in Scorsese's career. A must own. 5 OUT OF 5!!!
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2004
This collection is the must have of any Marty fan and for that matter of any proper cinephile. Through 5 movies it traces the greatest part of Scorsese's stellar (until gangs of NY) carreer. It is extremely precious since it brings us "Who's that knocking at my door?", his first film shot when he was still studying in NYU, for the first time (to my poor French knowledge at least). The box really gives a wonderful overview of the themes that obsessed him in his young years (sex and religion, duty and punition) pictured in WTKAMD and Mean Streets, the film that made him big enough to introduce him to Hollywood, first in B-Movies ("Boxcar Bertha"), then to Oscar winning projects: "Alice doesn't live here anymore". This movie is extremely odd since it could seem to be a "feminist" film, and Scorsese as anyone will tell you is a guys' director (except for last temptation of Christ, the age of Innocence, Kundun... have I said enough to kill the cliché?). This woman "road movie" is nothing like "Thelma and Louise" but is still a very poignant portrait of a woman trying to put her life back together, but carefull, it's not a women's weepie, it's a strong, nuanced work. Which brings us to "After Hours" (one of the projects that ended MS's walk through the desert, along with Raging Bull), this Cannes festival prized movie reconciled MS with the critics and is one of the strangest movies in his carreer, you'll be surprised. And then, possibly his masterpiece, "Goodfellas", I don't think I need to say anything, the movie speaks for itself: WONDERFUL WONDERFUL and, oh, I forgot, WONDERFUL!!!
The DVD's all have commentaries and all of them have other featurettes on the making of the films, or trailers, and Goodfellas is actually the 2 DVD edition. In a word, u NEED to own this !