AVS Forum banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

Blu-ray Reviewer
15,093 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1980
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 129 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent, Theresa Saldana
Directed by: Martin Scorcese
Music by: Pietro Mascagni
Written by: Paul Schrader & Mardik Martin based on the book by Jake LaMotta, with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 11, 2011

"A modern classic"

Film Synopsis:

Robert De Niro teams with director Martin Scorsese in this powerful film that introduced unflinching realism to stunned audiences in 1980. Raging Bull garnered eight Oscar® nominations, and won two, including Best Actor for De Niro who gives the performance of his career as Jake La Motta, a boxer whose psychological and sexual complexities erupt into violence both in and out of the ring.

My Take:

Raging Bull is based on the autobiographical memoir “Raging Bull: My Story” by Jake LaMotta. It depicts the tumultuous career and personal life of a middleweight boxer who could have been so much more and lost so much less. A technically brilliant fighter, Jake LaMotta’s visceral prowess in the ring made him feared and respected as an opponent. His struggle to become the middleweight boxing champion of the world is consistently obstructed by his inner demons. Increasingly violent and self-destructive, Jake sours his relationship with his brother and boxing manager Joey, by accusing him of having an affair with his wife, Vickie. Jake’s final tragic loss in the ring makes him realize that his greatest defeat was losing the ones he loved.

I am ashamed to admit that this is my first time seeing this film in its entirety. Wow. This is an incredible film experience that is justly deserving of the accolades bestowed upon it. Scorsese is a visionary filmmaker with a master craftsman’s touch. This film, like its subject, is gritty, raw, palpable and compelling. It takes us on a journey offering a fly on the wall perspective into the life of a simple yet complex individual whose motivations are probably never truly understood (even by himself). Scorsese allows us an up close and personal look that is occasionally unsettling in its graphic and genuine depiction. This isn’t some much a biographical film about a boxer as it is a dramatic film about a man who also happens to be a boxer. Jake LaMotta as portrayed is a pretty unsympathetic individual whose actions define him. This is a very human story and as such allows us to see this man not only through the eyes of those close to him but through his own as well. In that respect Jake can be seen as sympathetic and ultimately a little more human.

The brilliant cinematography and use of black and white film successfully aids in the conceptual credibility of the subject material which in turn draws us into the story. The superlative Academy Award winning performance by Robert De Niro seals the deal and exemplifies his stalwart devotion to his craft. Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, both relative unknowns at the time, give marvelous and viably integral performances in support. It took me thirty plus years to finally sit down and watch Raging Bull and the wait was well worth it. I was blown away by this viscerally graphic and honest portrait of a man who “once was blind, but now can see”. This film is a modern classic that garnered eight Academy Award nominations (winning two – one for De Niro and one for Best Editing), appears on several of the American Film Institutes top 100 film lists and is considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece. I loved it.

Parental Guide:

This film contains violence, language, sensuality and thematic elements that would be inappropriate for non-mature audiences.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 78

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 86

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

Raging Bull 30th Anniversary Edition comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 26 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.8 Mbps.

This 1.85:1 framed black and white video presentation is impressive for a 30 + year old film. The master is in excellent shape with no visible signs of wear. Images onscreen have excellent depth with rendering that draws out plenty of delineation. Close ups and mid level pans reveal perceptible detail in the faces, hair and clothing worn by the cast as well as the texture on surfaces within the frame. This adds a noticeable sense of dimension to the image making it appear more lifelike. Blacks have plenty of dynamic range and consistency which plays very well against the various stages of white and gray. The film uses many smoke filled, low lit environs as well as a brighter exterior and interior sequences. The superb cinematography by Michael Chapman captures them using a variety of lighting schemes and purposeful shadows that translate very well to high definition video. Contrast is stable and supports the film’s elements nicely. Even in black and white it was easy to make out the differing complexional qualities in the skin tones of the cast members. I always find it interesting to see how they appear without color. Grain is prevalent and rendered naturally with no apparent signs of unwanted digital manipulation. I had heard reports of a pervasive vertical stripe that appears along the right side of the picture. I did notice it but not until late in the third act during the dark scene that takes place in the jail cell. It was very faint and only visible against the momentary static dark background in the cell. I have no idea where it originates from and while it is worthy of note I don’t see it as a deal breaker. I saw no other signs of video anomalies, bit starvation or compression related artifacts. Bearing in mind that this film is 30 years old fidelity appears intact and the result is in an enriching and filmic presentation that looks great.

The DTS-HD multi-channel MA audio is probably overkill but it presents this soundtrack’s elements quite well. This is a dialogue driven film but it contains a variety of sounds and beautiful music that benefits from the high resolution afforded by lossless sound. The track has a one dimensional and somewhat dated aura but detail and dynamics are excellent. I listened intently to the textured and visceral sounds of the boxing sequences which exhibited high level clarity with palpable emphasis. Low level sonic detail is equally discerning. There are many moments where there is no dialogue and the only auditory used to tell the story, are a series of sounds. The mix excels at reproducing them with enriching refinement that is free from edgy highs or strident mid range. The front soundstage is rather narrow but opens up nicely during the music and fight sequences become the focal point. There isn’t much in the way of discrete surround sound or deep low frequency effects but atmospheric ambience provides a fair sense of envelopment while bass frequencies reproduce the tangibly engaging effects associated with the boxing sequences. I had trouble hearing the spoken dialogue on a few occasions but in each case it involved whispers or crowded venues. I would have preferred that it had been mixed a little higher but other than those few instances it sounded fine. Like the video quality I found this to be a great sounding track that presented this film in a positive light.

Bonus Features:

  • Filmmaker’s commentary with director Martin Scorsese & editor Thelma Schoonmaker

  • Cast/crew commentary with Irwin Winkler, Robbie Robertson, Robert Chartoff, Theresa Saldana, John Turturro, Frank Warner, Michael Chapman, Cis Corman

  • Storyteller’s commentary with Mardik Martin, Pail Schrader, Jason Lustio, Jake LaMotta

  • (HD) Marty & Bobby – 13 minute featurette

  • (HD) Raging Bull: Reflections on a classic – 12 minute featurette

  • (HD) Remembering Jake – 11 minute featurette

  • (HD) Marty on film – 10 minute featurette

  • Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, March 27, 1981

  • Raging Bull: Fight night (Four segments) – Before the fight, Inside the ring, Outside the ring, After the fight

  • The Bronz Bull – 28 minute featurette

  • De Niro vs. LaMotta – 4 minute feature

  • LaMotta defends title – 1 minute video clip

  • (HD) Original theatrical trailer

  • Bonus DVD of Raging Bull

Final Thoughts:

Loosely based on the autobiographical memoir “Raging Bull: My Story” by Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull depicts the tumultuous career and personal life of a middleweight boxer who could have been so much more and lost so much less. It is a classic piece of filmmaking from master craftsman Martin Scorsese that earned 8 Academy Award nominations (winning two – one for De Niro and one for Best Editing) and is considered by many to be among the best films ever made. This is my first experience with it and I absolutely loved it. This 30th Anniversary Edition marks the film’s second release on Blu-ray and the results are excellent. This release contains the bonus material from the 2009 Blu-ray release and adds four new featurettes plus a 1981 clip of Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show. If you don’t already own Raging Bull in high definition this is the version to get. This is an American Film Classic that deserves a place on the shelf of every film enthusiast. High Recommended!

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS50 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector

Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen

Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Samsung BD-C7900 Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule HD Universal Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator

Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Better Cables, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

869 Posts
Nice review, Ralph, of one of the all time great motion pictures.

It's interesting to remember that "Ordinary People" won the best picture that year and Timothy Hutton for best supporting actor (even though he was in almost every scene) over Pesci.

215 Posts
So, this is the same version of the film that was released a year or so ago? Just in a much prettier package, I gather. I saw the first release in-store for $10 CAN, didn't pick it up
, and never saw it again anywhere. I won't miss it this time. This is an absolute gem of a film, a must own.

Thanks for the review Ralph.

1,347 Posts
Like you Ralph, I hadn’t had the pleasure of watching Raging Bull. Being in my late 30’s, it came out when I was still watching cartoons, not boxing.
Thanks for the review. It sparked me to put this one in my queue. Very glad I did.

After watching it, I can see why it is considered a masterpiece. Still not a 5 for me, but dang close. What struck me the most was how natural the acting was. This is something I’ve noticed about many Scorcese films. He is a master in this regard, getting such natural emotion from the actors. Casual conversations, but not boring. Like we are standing there in the room with these people while they live their life. I thought Joe Pesci could easily have received a best supporting actor award for his role. He was fantastic. De Niro absolutely deserved the award he received.

My only small gripe was that the ending was a little soft for me. I understood the intent, and even went back and listened to Scorcese’s comments about it.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show) Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show) As a side note, the change to De Niro's face and body in the late act of the movie was dramatic. Almost didn’t recognize him.

PQ was great, but folks need to expect a lot of grain. I liked the grain and the feel it gave to the look. Like you said, contrast was great, and the black level was mastered well.

SQ on the other hand was extremely hit or miss. I found the dialogue level and clarity to change dramatically from scene to scene. This had me turning up the volume to hear the dialogue, only to have the next scene’s sound effects way too loud. Either that, or I had to temporarily turn on subtitles. This was only in a handful of scenes, but still somewhat annoying and temporarily pulled me mentally out of the story.

PQ: 4 out of 5, SQ: 3 out of 5, Film 4.5 out of 5

1 - 4 of 4 Posts