- May 7, 2001
The Martin Scorsese Collection
Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1968 - 1990
Rated: All films rated “R” except Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, rated “PG”
- Who’s That Knocking at My Door 90 Minutes
- Mean Streets 112 Minutes
- Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore 112 Minutes
- After Hours 97 Minutes
- Goodfellas SE 145 Minutes.
Aspect Ratio: All films are 1.85:1 – all are presented in enhanced widescreen.
Audio: DD Monaural except Goodfellas – DD 5.1
Color/B&W: All films in color except Who’s That Knocking At My Door which is B&W.
Languages: See audio portion for each film
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: All titles are $19.97 except Goodfellas SE which is $26.99. The Scorsese Collection set is $59.92.
Package: Single disc keepcases except Goodfellas SE which is a two disc keepcase.
Warner Brothers is poised to release a boxed set from one of the greatest living directors of our time, Martin Scorsese. The Martin Scorsese Collection will contain five of his films ranging from his first full length feature film, Who’s That Knocking At My Door (1968) to his last truly great film, Goodfellas (1990). Also included in the collection is his breakthrough film Mean Streets (1973), Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) and finally After Hours (1985). The boxed set lists for $59.92, while the single disc individual titles list for $19.97. The Goodfellas Two Disc SE lists for $26.99.
Many great and classic films were made from a core group of directors over the past century. Directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, David Lean, Orson Welles, Frank Capra, Charlie Chaplin, Michael Curtiz and Stanley Kubrick among many many others. However, over the past thirty years or so, there are only two directors that quickly come to mind in the same league of legends; Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. The director, producer, writer and actor grew up in New York’s Little Italy which has been the source of inspiration for many of the great films among his repertoire. After graduating from New York University’s Film School, he made several award winning short films but in 1968, he directed Who’s That Knocking At My Door which was released theatrically in 1969. More importantly was his next big project which was his direction of the 1973 breakthrough film, Mean Streets.
Over the course of the next thirty years, Scorsese has proven himself to be a leading talent which such accomplishments as Taxi Driver (my personal favorite Scorsese film), Raging Bull, The Last Waltz, The Last Temptation Of Christ, The Age Of Innocence, Casino and most recently Gangs Of New York. His upcoming film (another Warner Brothers title) entitled The Aviator which is slated for release later this year, is a biopic which chronicles the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career from the Golden Age of cinema. The film features Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner.
Okay, much to see and hear and lots to talk about…
Who’s That Knocking At My Door
J.R. (played by Harvey Keitel who would go on to become a favorite of Scorsese’s) is a young man who has no real ambition or goal in life. He’d just as soon sit around with his friends, play cards over a few cold drinks. One day on the Staten Island Ferry, J.R. sits next to a gorgeous ingénue (played by Zina Bethune) who is flattered by J.R. and his knowledge of classic American film.
Eventually the pair fall in love but after J.R. learns of a deep secret from her past, he begins having difficulty maintaining the relationship as well as coping with the news.
A very young Harvey Keitel turns in a riveting performance in his first film appearance, as a meandering New Yorker torn between his love for an intelligent, independent woman and eventually the Catholic Church. Made on a shoestring budget, the film’s plot as well as its approach is a simple one but one that caught me totally off guard. I’d never seen this film before and it climbed very close and very quickly to the top of my favorite Scorsese films.
The Feature: 4.5/5
Mean Streets SE
Mean Streets is the start of a beautiful relationship between one of the greatest living directors in the business (Martin Scorsese) and one of the greatest living actors in the business (Robert De Niro). Another long time Scorsese favorite Harvey Keitel plays Charlie who works for his uncle. He’s a small time heavy who collects debts and runs a small time numbers game. One of his friends is Johnny Boy (played by Robert De Niro). Johnny Boy owes money to Michael Longo (played by Richard Romanus) and Charlie keeps promising Michael that Johnny is good for the money. Johnny however, is volatile and unstable as is evidenced by him blowing up a mailbox at the start of the film, just for kicks.
The movie takes place in the streets of New York’s Little Italy and in a bar owned by Tony DeVienazo (played by David Proval). Tension begins to mount as Charlie begins to fall for a girl named Teresa (played by Amy Robinson) but he is not allowed to see Teresa, because of her epilepsy. Charlie winds up in the middle of a balancing act as he continues to see the girl he loves against the wishes of his boss and keeps protecting Johnny who’s becoming more and more of a dangerous liability.
While the film is by no means the best of the collection, it’s easy to see how it would eventually become a precursor to the many great mob films that followed. Keitel is a likeable guy who winds up caught in the middle of love and loyal to friendship, while De Niro’s role as Johnny is a wet stick of dynamite, one that you love to hate. For the purist aficionados, the film starts off with the original WB Communications logo for the period (red, white & black).
The Feature: 4/5
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Alice Hyatt (played by Ellen Burstyn) is married and is locked into abusive relationship with her husband Donald (played by Billy Green Bush) who spends most of his spare time yelling at their son Tommy (played by Alfred Lutter). Although Alice seems content to be miserably happy, her life takes a desperate turn as Donald is suddenly killed in a truck accident.
Wanting to start a new lease on life, Alice decides to sell their belongings and pack up the station wagon for a voyage to Monterey California where she grew up. Determined to ply her trade as a singer, she eventually lands work along the way in a piano bar in Phoenix. But after a short and volatile relationship with Ben Eberhardt (played by Scorsese perennial Harvey Keitel), she decides to pack up again and continue on with her journey.
After a brief stop in Tucson, Alice lands a job as a waitress at Mel & Ruby’s Café where a frequent customer, David (played by Kris Kristofferson) finally brings her and Tommy the love and security she has always longed for.
The film should be a great source of inspiration for anyone wanting a second chance at life. Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a vast departure from the films that preceded it as well as those that followed. The story is a touching account of a newly widowed and loving mom trying to do her best to raise and to provide for the only possession she has left. Ellen Burstyn won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was the basis for the long running TV series that soon followed it, "Alice" (1976-1985). You’ll also see Jodie Foster, Diane Ladd and Vic Tayback appear in smaller roles. For those interested in the studio history, the film also starts off with the original WB logo for the time (red, black and white).
The Feature: 4/5
Okay, so you’re sitting in a restaurant and some cutie comes over to your table, wants to give you her phone number and offers to throw in a plaster of Paris bagel paperweight… here’s a tip. Decline the invite and proceed directly home. That’s what Paul Hackett (played by Griffin Dunne) should have done. But instead, he takes Marcy (played by Rosanna Arquette) up on her offer. After he arrives, he is absolutely captivated by her stories which become more and more fantastic.
During the stories and as Marcy’s increasingly unstable behavior unfolds, Paul decides to run for the hills. Feeling guilty however, he returns to apologize only to find her dead in her bedroom from having taken an overdose of pills. Paul decides he should call the police and hangs “dead person” signs in the loft so the police will know where to find the body…
Paul has entered into a world of the bizarre.
But things seem to even out after Paul winds up in a gay bar as the waitress there, locked into a 1965 wardrobe and beehive coiffure, invites him back to her apartment - but eventually she too offers him a plaster of Paris bagel. He knows its time to leave – and fast. Paul soon becomes the focus of a vigilante group who thinks he’s responsible for a number of nighttime burglaries and hides out in the basement of an artist who offers him shelter by turning him into a real life Paper Mache figure. Wouldn’t you know it, just when you think it’s safe to emerge he gets stolen by Cheech & Chong and dropped off just in time for work…
If you’ve never seen the film before, you’re probably thinking, “what’s this guy talking about…?” And to be honest I’d only seen bits and pieces of it before and I thought it was terrific. Paul has a night he’s not too likely to ever forget. Talk about a departure piece for Scorsese, but if you’re a fan of one night disaster films, you need to check this one out. Words can hardly describe it.
The Feature: 4/5
"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster." -- Henry Hill, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1955.
Not only does the film place #94 on the American Film Institutes list of all time greatest films, it’s often referred to as the best mob picture ever. While, I’d be hesitant to say ever, I would certainly credit it as being one of the best mob pictures ever.
The film was written by Nicholas Pileggi based on his book “Wiseguy”, which is a real life account of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) who is a small time gangster who gets involved with the mafia at a young age in a neighborhood full of tough guys. After a number of daring robberies and thefts, his two associates Jimmy Conway (played by Robert De Niro) and Tommy De Vito (played by Joe Pesci), are climbing the “corporate ladder” and are a force to be reckoned with. Hill grows increasingly frustrated and disillusioned as he watches his two friends work their way up through the hierarchy of the mob, under mob boss, Paulie Cicero (played by Paul Sorvino). Eventually, Henry's life begins to spiral out of control which leads him to take and deal drugs. However, when things come to a head, and the going gets tough, it’s interesting to see how the tough get going…
The film is a brutally violent and graphic account of life within a crime organization. Joe Pesci delivers a career highlight performance as the volatile and incredible unstable role of Tommy De Vito and rightfully won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Liotta captures perfectly a sense of innocence while at the same time, the true sense of a man who can be brutally violent. Besides the perfect cast and brilliant direction, it’s no wonder this film has achieved the kind of status it has. While I’m reluctant to call any film made within the last thirty years a “classic”, this is a film that truly deserves the honor.
The Feature: 5/5
Who’s That Knocking At My Door – is the only B&W film to appear in the set and overall it’s quite nice although it seems to lack the amount of black levels to render great grayscale levels and shadow detail. Whites were also slightly on the gray side. Image detail was sort of a mixed bag. There were many shots which looked gorgeous and there were some that seemed downright blurry and out of focus which would seem to me to be attributable to the original elements, not the transfer. There was a substantial amount of medium coarse film grain present, but overall the image was pleasing. There was a significant amount of dust and dirt present as well as numerous film scratches, typically more than we see with recent WB catalogue title releases. One has to assume the source was in slightly rougher shape than anticipated and to take into account this film was produced on a shoestring budget.
Mean Streets SE – is a dark film, the vast majority of which was shot indoors within very dark interiors. Colors were vibrant and the level of saturation was perfect. Flesh tones appeared to be real and accurate looking. The level of image definition was very sharp with only occasional softness. There is slight amount of fine to medium amount of film grain present which offers up a pleasing film-like image with a better than average amount of depth and dimensionality. The amount of dirt and dust was negligible however there was some light shimmer that was present infrequently. I was unable to detect any EE or other compression errors.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – First off, colors were vibrant, though not exceptionally bright but nicely saturated. Black levels were very deep and whites were always clean. Contrast was just right and there was a nice sense of shadow detail. Image detail was relatively sharp with frequent instances of softness, in fact many of the soft sequences had a rather diffused look to them, which I doubt was transfer related - all in all a very appealing look to this early 70’s film. There was a fair amount of fine to medium film grain resulting in a slightly gritty feel and a very nice film-like appearance offering a beautiful sense of dimensionality. There was more dust and debris than I anticipated but it never became bothersome. The image was rock solid, never suffering from any shimmer or flicker. As the film starts there appears to be some compression artifacting noticeable throughout the sky but it is short lived and the remainder of the film is free of any other compression issues.
After Hours – Is a nice looking period film from the mid 80’s. Colors are vibrant and the saturation level seems just right. Flesh tones looked authentic, while black levels were better than average and white were contrasted nicely looking clean and stark. Once again, there was a light amount of fine to medium film present which provided a film-like image with a nice sense of depth and dimensionality. And we should be suspicious of any Scorsese film that didn’t have grain with a gritty feel or appearance. There was a slight amount of dirt and dust but for the most part the source looked rather clean. The image was solid and thankfully I could not detect and signs of compression artifacting or EE.
Goodfellas SE – Fortunately, I was able to compare this with my original version. While I would say it is indeed a nice improvement over the previous version, I wouldn’t call it a day and night difference. Gone is the flipper as the film’s ("all-new digital transfer”), entire 145 minutes on one side of the dual-layered disc. Colors are vibrant and the level of saturation is perfect. Skin tones were also accurate but with a slightly red push. While the overall look of this film is slightly dark, really my only complaint was similar to the first version. The film has a slightly murky look to it. One can’t help but think that maybe at this stage of the game it’s not transfer related but was intended. Obviously the presence of fine film grain is intentional offering up as we would expect, a gritty feel of a 60’s and 70’s mob film. Image detail is for the most part sharp but still slightly soft on occasion. There are infrequent bouts of dust and dirt but they are negligible at best and I’m happy to report that EE or other compression errors were all but non existent. The image was rock solid and was free of any shimmer or jitter. I would sum up the differences by stating the image detail is sharper and the newer transfer is free of the cloudy appearance which the original version seemed to be plagued with. Not perfect, but a substantial improvement.
Who’s That Knocking At My Door – 3.5/5 :star::star::star:
Mean Streets SE – 4/5 :star::star::star::star:
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – 4/5 :star::star::star::star:
After Hours – 4/5 :star::star::star::star:
Goodfellas SE – 4.5/5 :star::star::star::star:
I’m going to summarize the four monaural tracks in general highlighting the pros and cons and I’ll complete a separate paragraph strictly for the Goodfellas SE below. The first of the four films are DD Monaural while the Goodfellas SE is DD 5.1. All of the mono tracks are rather passé, but certainly adequate given the limitations of the period in which they were filmed. Hiss was virtually non existent in all of the mono soundtracks, although it did persist rather frequently in Mean Streets. The Who’s That Knocking At My Door track is not surprisingly, the weakest of the bunch, but is to be expected given the budget limitations.
Dialogue was always clear and concise and a standout most notable on the Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Many of the films are accompanied by numerous music pieces from the period and were never in competition during dialogue passages. Three of the four mono tracks could be described as thin while the soundtrack for Who’s That Knocking At My Door could probably described as wafer thin, void of any robustness whatsoever - thin but not flawed in any manner.
Goodfellas SE – is presented in a DD 5.1 track which sounds pretty good. I would describe it as relatively forward. The track was absolutely free of any hiss or other distractions and sounded perfectly natural. One thing struck me as I watched the film; not only was the dialogue crystal clear and exceptionally bold, but the frequent narration that accompanies the film always stands out – very effective. There is a plethora of period music that accompanies this film and it is never in competition with the dialogue.
I wouldn’t necessarily call the soundstage wide however, it was sufficient. There was also a decent amount of lower end present which could be heard during the crashes and explosions (and even gunshots and there are a few of them…). The surrounds were used effectively as they offer up a healthy dose of surround info when called upon, though much of the film is front end. Even your sub will enjoy a nice little workout as the .1 info appears infrequently.
I don’t hear an enormous difference (if any) with this track but it is a better than average 5.1 track that should leave mobster wannabes pretty happy.
Who’s That Knocking At My Door – 3.5/5 :star::star::star:
Mean Streets SE – 3.5/5 :star::star::star:
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – 4/5 :star::star::star::star:
Languages: English & French
After Hours - 4/5 :star::star::star::star:
Languages: English & French
Goodfellas SE – 4/5 :star::star::star::star:
Languages: English & Spanish
**Remember the grading of the first four films are monaural soundtracks. Goodfellas SE is a 5.1 track.**
Although the Goodfellas SE has a rather significant amount of extras on a separate disc, the remainder of titles have pretty much a “select scene” commentary, a short featurette and a theatrical trailer.
Who’s That Knocking At My Door
[*] This is a Commentary With Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin. This “select scenes” commentary starts with Martin discussing how he became interested in film while enrolled in a seminary in New York and goes on to discuss many of the great films that had a particular influence on him while he tried to determine why certain films and scenes impacted him the way they did.
[*] From the Classroom To The Streets: The Making Of Who’s That Knocking At My Door features Mardik Martin was the directorial assistant on the film as well as Scorsese’s classmate at New York University’s Film Class. He offers up his thoughts and experiences during his shoot of the film. Duration: 12:39 minutes.
Mean Streets SE
[*] A Commentary with Martin Scorsese and Amy Robinson. This “select scenes” commentary starts with Martin discussing how he wanted to incorporate his ideas into the film. Also interesting was his description of the hurdles of (then) making films in New York, also hearing of his influences in Francis Ford Coppola and John Cassavetes. The scenes are automatically forwarded to the next scene in which they participate.
[*] Back On The Block is a short mini documentary that was shot just after the production of the film as Martin Scorsese and two of his friends recount many of the stories as boys growing up in and around where the film was shot. Scorsese also discusses several of the buildings that were used in the film. Dated but interesting. Duration: 6:55 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included and is in good shape. Duration: 3:39 minutes.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
[*] Commentary with Martin Scorsese, Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson which are evident for “select scenes”. All of the participants are recorded separately. Diane Ladd also makes several appearances. Much of what is described (at least from Burstyn) comes from the interview (see below) although a lot of new information is offered up. Laura Dern is also pointed out as an extra who was present while mom (Diane Ladd) was shooting in the diner. The scenes are automatically forwarded to the next scene in which they participate.
[*] Second Chances is a making of the film which features Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson as they discuss how the project got off the ground. It’s interesting to hear Ellen’s desire to work with Martin Scorsese which she describes. Kris spends a great deal of time describing his lack of experience which caused his confidence to be not what it may have been. Kristofferson is quite candid. A worthwhile endeavor. Duration: 19:52 minutes.
[*] Theatrical Trailer which is in reasonably good shape. Man, some of those 70’s trailers were terrible and ineffective and this one I’m afraid, is no exception. Duration: 2:29 minutes.
[*] The first of four features on this disc is a Commentary By Martin Scorsese, Griffin Dunne, Producer Amy Robinson, Editor Thelma Schoonmaker and Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus This is another “select scenes” commentary which starts with Martin Scorsese as he prefaces this with his idea for the film and how the project commenced.
[*] Filming For Your Life which is a documentary on the “making of” the film. Duration: 18:53 minutes.
[*] Deleted Scenes features 7-8 scenes that wound up cut from the finished product. Duration: 8:06 minutes.
[*] And finally the Theatrical Trailer is included which is in pretty good shape. Duration: 2:06 minutes.
[*] The Cast & Crew Commentary. The first commentary is again specific only to selected scenes and includes comments by director Scorsese and film stars Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, and Frank Vincent. Also present is writer Nicholas Pileggi, producers Irwin Winkler and Barbara De Fina, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Needless to say the entire commentary is chock full of very interesting information pertaining to the film from concept to finished product.
[*] The Cop & Crook Commentary. The second audio commentary is with former mobster Henry Hill and former FBI agent Edward McDonald. While its interesting hearing Hill’s comments as they relate to him during the film, it just seems wrong listening to this low life as his actions are somewhat glorified in what were true to life events. Mr. McDonald’s participation is somewhat more subdued and at times he takes an almost satirical approach with his comments toward Hill. This is interesting however.
[*] The final special feature on disc one is Awards which is a three page text listing of the nominations and awards the film achieved.
[*] Getting Made is a great feature which is a making of Goodfellas. This is an in depth look at how the whole project came to be, from Scorsese contacting Nicholas Pileggi to the completion of the project. This is a super little feature. Duration: 29:35 minutes.
[*] The Workaday Gangster Henry Hill takes the lead here discussing what it was like living the life of a mobster. Other cast members appear and offer their thoughts of what it was like portraying some of these thugs. Duration: 7:57 minutes.
[*] The Goodfellas Legacy is a discussion with a number of budding young directors as well as some established directors and how Goodfellas impacted and affected their filmmaking. Duration: 13:32
[*] Paper Is Cheaper Than Film shows us some of Scorsese's notes and sketches as they compare to several completed scenes. Duration: 4:28 minutes.
[*] Theatrical Trailer which is in great shape. Duration: 1:28 minutes.
Overall, I’m pleased with the amount of supplemental material that has been added. Let’s face it, Scorsese is a genius and he is always enthusiastic and highly informative. My only complaint is the recycling of some of the material from the features on the discs as some of it is repeated within the commentaries – it’s repetitive. Other than that, these are all meat and potatoes and worthy of your time.
Special Features Overall: 4/5
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**
Phew… my fingers are sore.
The Martin Scorsese Collection is by no means a collection of the legendary director’s best work, for that would have to contain such titles as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, neither of which are Warner properties (not yet anyway). But it is an important collection which contains Scorsese’s first full length feature film (Who’s That Knocking At My Door), the film which basically put him on the map (Mean Streets) and a film that is thought by many to be his finest film, Goodfellas. Watching these films in chronological order, allows one to visualize and gauge the progression of Scorsese’s work which has rightfully earned him a place among the greatest directors ever.
If you are a fan of Scorsese and his work, this is yet another example where purchasing individual titles makes very little sense since the boxed set can be had for around half of what the titles would go for if purchased individually. Warner has done a superb job with the presentation of these films and has complemented each of them with commentaries and substantive special feature material. I had a great time with this set and cannot recommend it enough. Simply put, this collection needs to be in any serious film collector’s library.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
Release Date: August 17th, 2004