PictureSince I was one of those who bought the earlier “flipper” release of Goodfellas and was promptly horrified at the letterboxed, non anamorphic presentation, I was anxious to see what this new “all-digital” transfer looked like. Thankfully I needn't have worried too much although it's not quite as perfect as Warner would have us believe. Colour saturation is mostly spot on with skin tones being particularly well reproduced and only the odd scene featuring a little over saturation. Black levels too are excellent, with night scenes being very well handled and lacking the curses of edge enhancement hell, macroblocking or banding. On the down side the print used has quite a lot of light damage in the form of drop outs and the odd scratch, one scene in particular (at around 76:50) features a vertical line running down the middle of the screen for around 30 seconds. Given the attention this release has been given, it's a shame these couldn't have been cleaned up but, overall, this is a great transfer.
SoundPresented with a choice of English DD 5.1 or Spanish DD 2.0 soundtracks, I get the impression that the mix here has been lifted from the earlier flipper release, not that that's such a bad thing though, since the audio was the earlier versions only saving grace. Scorsese likes to punctuate his movies using music, sometimes combining tracks that wouldn't seem appropriate for the material in hand with excellent results and Goodfellas is no exception, being very much a mix built around the music used. Sound placement can be considered a little front heavy but the rears are used well for some ambient effects, music placement and the odd mob hit with the sub kicking in for those dynamic moments. Dialogue is well mixed, crisp and clear throughout.
ExtrasThe extras for this set are split between the two discs. Given the long running time of the movie (145 minutes), it is perhaps unsurprising that the first disc only contains the movie and two commentaries whilst the bulk of the features are on the second disc. As you may have noticed I did say commentaries since, on offer here, we have a choice of two. The first is a cast and crew commentary which features most of those responsible for the movie; director Martin Scorsese (making a rare but very welcome contribution to a commentary track), Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, co-screenwriter (and author of the original book) Nicholas Pileggi, producers Irwin Winkler and Barbara De Fina, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoolmaker leaving De Niro and Pesci conspicuous in their absence.
Considering the massive number of people on this track I can't say they all talk at once, in fact the track tends to be dominated by Scorsese and Pileggi, which is no bad thing given the sheer amount of will they put into the production of this movie. The cast do contribute to the track though, telling some anecdotes about the production and overall it's an interesting track to listen to. Of more interest though is the second commentary. Featuring the real Henry Hill and FBI agent Edward McDonald (the man who finally arrested him), the track features Hill commenting on the portrayal of his life on screen. In one of the features found on the second disc (which I'll come to in a moment), Nicholas Pileggi describes Hill as being “almost pathologically open and honest” due to his deal with the FBI (If he were ever to be caught out in a lie with the information he provided, he would be ejected from the witness protection agency meaning almost certain death, even today). This honesty certainly comes to the fore in this commentary. Whilst it is a little repetitive (not to mention quiet, I had to turn the volume up to make out some of the commentary) there's something rather special about listening to a man commenting on such a public and nakedly honest retelling of his life. It's also interesting to hear from Edward McDonald on his role in Hill's capture since this is only touched upon at the end of the feature itself.
Moving onto disc 2 we have 3 respectable features and one small filler featurette. “Getting Made: The Making Of Goodfellas” (29'35) features interviews recorded both in 1990 and today with the cast and crew and does an excellent job of telling the story behind the movie. Starting with the book by Nicholas Pileggi and a call from Martin Scorsese, the feature follows the progress of the film including the casting process and minutiae such as the use (and justification of) narration to such a powerful effect throughout the film. Never descending into a puff piece, unafraid of criticism and baring all (including information on the unfavourable test screening), this is an excellent feature and should be of interest to anyone who loves the movie or is interested in the film making process.
”The Workaday Gangster” (07:57) features a candid interview with the real Henry Hill who comments on the portrayal of his life and the constant brutality and fear which surrounded him on a daily basis. Again Hill proves to be frank and worryingly likeable making Liottas' portrayal all the more believable. ”Made Men: The Goodfellas Legacy” shows the impact that this (1990) movie has had on a generation of filmmakers. Featuring Richard Linklater, The Hughes Brothers, Antoine Fuqua, Joe Carnahan and Jon Favreau they all comment on the effect the movie had on the way they go about making their films today. The features are closed off with a short (4'28) feature “Paper Is Cheaper Than Film” which shows how simple pencil sketches, which Scorsese made on the script, translated into some of the most memorable scenes in the finished movie and a theatrical trailer which is presented full screen and in Dolby Digital 2.0. A very good collection of extras.
VerdictQuite simply the ultimate mobster film. Violent, packed with bad language (even shocking some true life gangsters who have seen it according to Nicholas Pileggi) and uncompromising throughout, it's a magnificent piece of filmmaking. Buy it now
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