×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Taxi Driver

Assassins, mass murderers and other freakish criminals more often than not turn out to be the quiet kid down the street. "Taxi Driver" is Martin Scorsese's frighteningly plausible case history of such a person. It's a powerful film and a terrific showcase for the versatility of star Robert De Niro.

With:
Robert De Niro - Travis Bickle Cybill Shepherd - Betsy Peter Boyle - Wizard Albert Brooks - Tom Leonard Harris - Sen. Palantine Harvey Keitel - Sport Jodie Foster - Iris Murray Moston - Timekeeper Richard Higgs - Secret Service Agent Vic Argo - Deli Owner Melio Steven Prince - Gun Salesman Martin Scorsese - Weird Passenger

Assassins, mass murderers and other freakish criminals more often than not turn out to be the quiet kid down the street, and not the “nuts” and “radicals” that society views with regular alarm. “Taxi Driver” is Martin Scorsese’s frighteningly plausible case history of such a person. It’s a powerful film, an excellent credit for Scorsese, and a terrific showcase for the versatility of star Robert De Niro. The intricate production planning gives the Columbia release a quasi-documentary look, and the late Bernard Herrmann’s final score is superb. Michael and Julia Phillips produced this hot b.o. item, which has class and mass audience appeal.

Paul Schrader’s original screenplay is in fact a sociological horror story. We leave a theatre after a conventional horror film, comfortable in the delusion that the unseen goblins and ghosts which briefiy terrified the screen players are safely locked up in the film can. But out on the street walk the next Arthur Bremers, the unindicted My Lai butchers, this year’s freeway snipers. We can’t spot them in advance, but they’re there, and depending on the catalytic situation, they are us.

Take a young veteran like Travis Bickle, Schrader’s focal character. A night cabbie, he prowls the N.Y. streets until dawn, stopping occasionally for coffee with Peter Boyle and some others, kllling off-duty time in porno theatres. He’s been (like most all of us), deceived by false advertising, phony movie and tv dramaturgy, vote-hungry politicians, simplistic and pat morality. An introverted loner life makes the complex frustrations more vivid, and the urge to “do something” more strong. Why not lash out violently at the perceived wrongs in the world? And what better way than with guns and knives – the sex organs of pornographic violence?

A guy like that just needs a little push towards a starring spot on tonight’s tv news. What prods Travis are a series of rejections: By Cybill Shepherd, adroitly cast as the teleblurb hairspray heroine lookalike working for the presidential campaign of Senator Leonard Harris; by Jodie Foster, teenage prostitute working the streets for her lover-pimp, Harvey Keitel, and his assistant Murray Moston; even by his pal Boyle, whose advice to keep cool (though valid in itself; it’s the way most of us avoid freaking out) just doesn’t take.

So, with the help of gun-runner Steven Prince (no ideologue he: guns, dope, pllls – something for everyone), Travis suits up to make his personal statement to the world. Alert Secret Service Agent Richard Higgs aborts an assassination try on Senator Harris, but there’s always Keitel, Moston and Foster’s clients.

In a climactic sequence, desaturated in Metrocolor printing as one way of avoiding an X rating for the film, the madman exorcises himself. It’s a brutal, horrendous and cinematically brilliant sequence, capped by the irony that he becomes a media hero for a day, and, passions subdued, resumes his average-Joe life among us. But for how long, we don’t know.

De Niro gives the role the precise blend of awkwardness, naivete and latent violence which makes Travis a character who is compelling even when he is at his most revolting. It is a smash performance. Every other player fits perfectly into this psychotic puzzle. Director Scorsese has a slightly overripe cameo as a deranged husband who takes De Niro’s cab to where his wife is living with another man, and his talk of guns turns on De Niro.

The screen credits are as much of a maze as the plot, what with “visual consultant,” “creative consultant” and “special photography” billings piled atop the more conventional credlts listed above. Credits prostitution has run amok, and if the film industry doesn’t begin cleaning up this mess, nobody is going to deserve any mention. (Maybe the public is right: The actors improvise everything.)

But one credit leaves no doubt – Herrmann’s glorious music score, on which he finished work the night before his death last Dec. 24. In a rare tribute, the final credit card conveys “our gratitude and respect.” Among his themes is a haunting urban blues-type refrain, featuring the mellow sax of Ronnie Lang, whose name was furnished on inquiry.

Scorsese and crew have an excellent film here which has a real gut appeal to both discriminating audiences as well as the popcorn trade. By a coincidence of timing, it will be playing concurrent with Paul Mazursky’s latest, “Next Stop, Greenwich Village.” Two excellent films – same city, same underlying human natures, but what a difference a generation has made in social values. It’s as horrendous as it is probably wrong to project ahead and shudder at the prospect that, someday, “Taxi Driver” might well be considered humanistic nostalgia.

Murf.

1976: Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Robert De Niro), Supp. Actress (Jodie Foster), Original Score

Taxi Driver

Production: Columbia. Director Martin Scorsese; Producer Michael Phillips, Julia Phillips; Screenplay Paul Schrader, [Julia Cameron]; Camera Michael Chapman; Editor Marcia Lucas, Tom Rolf, Melvin Shapiro; Music Bernard Herrmann; Art Director Charles Rosen

Crew: Reviewed at The Burbank Studios, Jan. 27, 1976. Running time: 113 MIN. (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1976.

Cast: Robert De Niro - Travis Bickle Cybill Shepherd - Betsy Peter Boyle - Wizard Albert Brooks - Tom Leonard Harris - Sen. Palantine Harvey Keitel - Sport Jodie Foster - Iris Murray Moston - Timekeeper Richard Higgs - Secret Service Agent Vic Argo - Deli Owner Melio Steven Prince - Gun Salesman Martin Scorsese - Weird Passenger

More Scene

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. More Reviews Album Review: Maggie [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. More Reviews Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. More Reviews Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a Past Life' Concert [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. More Reviews Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. More Reviews Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a Past Life' Concert Review: [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content