For Raging Bull's 30th anniversary, MGM gives Martin Scorsese's bruising masterpiece the showcase it deserves. In his commentary with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese recalls that Robert De Niro, who plays middleweight champion Jake La Motta, brought the boxer's biography to his attention in 1974 (De Niro and Schoonmaker earned Oscars for their efforts). After Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) and Mardik Martin (Mean Streets) handed the director a screenplay, Scorsese and De Niro gave it a polish, and the shoot was on. Outside of a 1964 framing device, the narrative concentrates on the 1940s when the Bronx fighter took up with 15-year-old Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), a Lana Turner look-alike.
With assistance from his brother, Joey (Joe Pesci), La Motta's fortunes rose until he lost the ability to tell the difference between the ring and real life. He battled his share of sluggers--Cis Corman cast actual boxers for the fight sequences--but his primary opponents were Vickie, Joey, and his own warped self-image. By the '50s, he was just another has-been hocking prized possessions and cracking jokes for money (paving the way for Scorsese's King of Comedy). De Niro famously bulked up for the role (a broadened nose and wiry hairstyle made the transformation complete), while Michael Chapman's dazzling cinematography--black and white with slow-motion sequences and flashes of color--remains a wonder to behold.
Two more commentaries allow the writers (plus La Motta) and cast and crew (including Chapman and musician/composer Robbie Robertson) to recount their contributions. Other extras include footage of La Motta in his prime; Moriarty's soft-spoken appearance on The Tonight Show; a four-parter on the production; and featurettes on Scorsese and De Niro, the reflections of fighters and filmmakers, and the critical reception. Naturally, there's some repetition here, but true fans need this Blu-ray in their collection.