Start spreadin' the news: 'The Martin Scorsese Film Collection' delivers a knockout punch.

By Chris Willman
Updated February 07, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Boxcar Bertha

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EW reviews ”The Martin Scorsese Film Collection”

Martin Scorsese must be downright thrilled that he’s finally got a Best Picture front-runner on his hands, and the likeliest spoiler is…a boxing movie. The failure of Raging Bull to capture the top prize 24 years ago is, of course, the most oft-cited proof of Oscar fallibility this side of Citizen Kane. (Was it wrong of us to fantasize about Jake La Motta pummeling Ordinary People director Robert Redford? Yes, so very wrong.)

Just in time to make the subliminal case for an Aviator win as deferred justice, MGM has issued the 1980 classic in a bullishly deluxe edition, available individually or as part of the boxed Martin Scorsese Film Collection, which also includes The Last Waltz, Boxcar Bertha, and New York, New York. Leave it to Scorsese — who can connect the dots between all the films ever made — to find commonality among these disparate titles. ”What I wound up doing,” he says in a Raging Bull featurette, ”was designing every fight scene like the musical numbers in New York, New York.” But in his Last Waltz commentary, the filmmaker claims it was that rock doc’s staging that provided the visual blue-print for Bull’s lyrical pugilism. We can almost hear Scorsese giving direction: ”Hey, Bobby… float like Robbie Robertson, sting like Liza with a Z!”

Three audio commentaries and a comprehensive four-part video retrospective establish just how attentive to detail Bull’s masterminds were, and also helpfully point out which widely perceived themes weren’t intended. Scorsese admits he didn’t really mean to add a redemptive spin with the closing biblical scroll, and screen-writers Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin say how freeing it was to let their boxer be an ”animal” for no good psychological reason. Way to cut through a quarter century of (well-meaning) critical bull, guys.

Bull: A
New York: B+
Waltz: A
Bertha: B

Boxcar Bertha

  • Movie
  • Martin Scorsese