The commentary by screenwriter Paul Schrader occupies less than half of the film's total running time, but Schrader's comments are wide-ranging and richly informative regarding the origins of the film's titular character Travis Bickle, why Schrader chose that name for the character ("a clash of romantic and harsh"), the necessity of favoring images over words, collaborating with Scorsese and Robert De Niro, and various matters of theme, character, and dialogue. Also included is the full-length commentary by University of Virginia media studies Professor Robert Kolker (author of the acclaimed book A Cinema of Loneliness
), who brings an academic depth of analysis to the film, with emphasis on composition, structure, repeated motifs and images, and the visual and thematic influences of Hitchcock (especially Psycho
), John Ford (The Searchers
), Jean-Luc Godard, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. With additional details relating to production history and Scorsese's other films, Kolker's commentary is the next best thing to attending a master's class on Taxi Driver
. A handy interactive feature allows viewers to seamlessly view the film itself and the corresponding pages of Schrader's original screenplay.
Three hours of special features include with "Scorsese on Taxi Driver" (16:52), in which the director discusses the origins of the project (fellow director Brian De Palma brought Schrader's script to Scorsese), the personal impact of the material, proving his skills to producers Michael and Julia Phillips (and thus securing financing from Columbia), and various other aspects of production. In "Producing Taxi Driver" (9:53), Michael Phillips relates the process of discovering Schrader's screenplay, attracting Scorsese as director, getting the film green-lit by Columbia, assuming the role of on-set producer (while his wife, the late Julia Phillips, served as studio liaison), and appreciating the film's critical and commercial success and long-term influence. In the fascinating 21-minute featurette "God's Lonely Man," Prof. Kolker examines the loneliness themes that dominate the film, and Schrader discusses the personal hardships that led him to write the screenplay during a two-week stay in an ex-girlfriend's empty apartment in Los Angeles. "Influence and Appreciation" is an 18-minute tribute to Scorsese, featuring interviews with De Niro, Oliver Stone (a student of Scorsese's at NYU film school), Roger Corman (producer of Scorsese's early feature Boxcar Bertha), Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Jodie Foster and others. In the 22-minute featurette "Taxi Driver Stories," several past-and-present New York taxi drivers share colorful anecdotes about driving cabs in the 1970s, the way the industry has changed since then, and the various pleasures and difficulties of driving taxis in New York City.
"Making Taxi Driver" is a 70-minute documentary carried over from the 1999 single-disc Collector's Edition. It remains the definitive documentary about the film's production, featuring interviews with all of the primary cast and crew including cinematographer Michael Chapman and legendary make-up effects master Dick Smith. "Travis' New York" is a six-minute featurette about the state of New York (especially Times Square) during the Taxi Driver era of the mid-1970s, featuring interviews with former New York mayor Ed Koch and others. "Travis' New York Locations" is a split-screen comparison feature showing then-and-now footage of nine Taxi Driver locations from 1975 (when the film was shot) and 2006. (You'll be surprised by some of the differences, while other locations remain almost completely unchanged). In a 4-minute introduction, Scorsese discusses the vital importance of his original storyboards (in terms of on-set preparedness, etc.), and the "Storyboard to Film Comparison" (8:20) clearly demonstrates how the director's crude yet well-organized drawings were (in most cases) precisely translated into cinematic images. When using the "Play All" option, the photo galleries run as a 9-minute slide-show arranged in four categories (Bernard Herrmann's Score, On Location, Publicity Materials, and Scorsese on Location). --Jeff Shannon (This review refers to the 2007 Two-Disc Collector's Edition, which shared much of the same bonus features as this release.)