TAXI DRIVER. (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

TAXI DRIVER. (1976) DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY PAUL SCHRADER. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.
STARRING ROBERT DE NIRO, JODIE FOSTER, CYBILL SHEPHERD, LEONARD HARRIS, PETER BOYLE AND HARVEY KEITEL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

So much has been written and said about TAXI DRIVER, one of Martin Scorsese’s best and most memorable movies. It’s too violent. It’s a vigilante film, but one in which the vigilante is experiencing a severe existential crisis. Travis Bickle is an anti-hero-slash-murderous thug. Jodie Foster as Iris was too young to be witnessing such violence as takes place in the climactic shoot-out. The film’s too dark/too bleak/too grim. It has no redeeming features. Well, these things might be true or they might not be true, but one thing is for sure. TAXI DRIVER is an unforgettable slice of cinema pie.

Robert De Niro is superb as lead character, Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who’s trying to find his way back to the world after the horrors of war. Even if we didn’t know he was a Vietnam veteran, we’d still know he was someone who’d been away somewhere for a while- prison, maybe, or a mental asylum- and who was having trouble adapting or acclimatising back to real life. He looks at the world and its occupants like he’s seeing them for the first time and doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.

He lives in one room, a room which he doesn’t know how to make comfortable for himself or how to make it feel like a real home, which surely he must have had once. Travis Bickle suckling on mother’s milk? Hey, everyone, even a half-baked vigilante assassin-type, had a mother once…

He works nights as a taxi driver because his nights are miserable, too long and fraught with insomnia and over-thinking. He occasionally mixes with the other cabbies, who’ve all been in the cabby-ing game for a long time now. He even confides in the much older, worldy-wise driver Wizard, but Wizard hasn’t got the answer to Travis’s problems.

After messing up his fledgling relationship with posh girl Betsy (a gorgeous Cybill Shepherd), who’s working on the political campaign to elect Senator Charles Palantine as President, Travis’s existential crisis comes on him like a cloak of fog on a country road at night. What the hell is the point of living, anyway? What’s it all about?

Travis stocks up on guns and teaches himself to shoot in order to fill the emptiness inside him that started long before Bitchy Betsy left him outside the porno theatre where he’d taken her for an ill-judged night out.

God Almighty, Travis man! You don’t take your classy Uptown Girl to a seedy porno cinema where the only other customers are sleazy old men with their hands inside the raincoats they wear to cover their shame! That’s Dating 101, that is. It’d be like taking the fucking Queen to see Roy Chubby Brown in fucking concert, that would.

Anyway. Alone Again, naturally. Travis spends hours alone in his untidy, uncomfortable bedroom, which resembles at this stage a sort of overnight army camping spot, practising his moves with his guns in the mirror and perfecting his by now iconic speech:

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”

He’s the only one here. How very true that is. Travis is desperately lonely, unsure of his purpose in life. He sees the people all around him interacting effortlessly with each other, and wonders in the back of his mind why he can’t manage to do the same himself. Is it the post-Vietnam PTSD that’s responsible? Or maybe Travis is autistic and doesn’t know it. It would explain his difficulties talking to people, his lack of social skills.

Travis then attempts to save twelve-year-old prostitute Iris, played by an already competent and professional Jodie Foster, from herself, her grim situation and her manipulative pimp Matthew (Harvey Keitel, but he’s not running around in the nip in this one, that’s THE PIANO you’re thinking of!), nicknamed Sport. She hasn’t asked to be saved, by the way.

It’s Travis’s way of going some good in the world, of making his mark, whether little Iris wants to be returned to her parents or not. After all, didja see ‘em in the newspaper? They’re no spring chickens, I’ll say that for them…!

Travis may even be feeling that he won’t come out of the showdown alive. He could be contemplating suicide-by-cop, or suicide by lowlife, drug-dealing pimping scumbags. He might equally be thinking of taking his own life.

Either way, Travis Bickle will meet his destiny in the scruffy, ill-lit landings of the shabby brothel where Iris works. He acts like a man on a mission that must be kept secret at all costs, a man preparing for a war that only he knows about. God help us all.

What kind of guys do you think carry out school or mosque shootings? Guys like Travis, maybe, who think that society has abandoned them and nobody cares about them? If only we could look into everyone’s bedrooms and see which people are standing in front of their mirrors trying on guns for size and practising the speech they’ll make if they ever get the audience they crave. But of course privacy laws wouldn’t allow it. We will have to figure out some other way to identify these ‘involuntary celibates,’ as they’re becoming known, before they commit their ill-judged crimes.

What do you think of the very last scene, anyway? I prefer to pretend it doesn’t even exist, lol. TAXI DRIVER ends when Travis Bickle puts his fingers, gun-shaped, to his own head, and don’t you be telling me any different. Are you talkin’ to me, or what…?

I adore the musical score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, who also did the iconic theme tunes to Alfred Hitchcock movies, PSYCHO, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He also did the music for the stone-cold classic film, CITIZEN KANE. What fabulous stuff to have on your CV. There’s one guy I’d like to play Celebrity Dinner Party with.

This is one of my personal favourites of Martin Scorsese’s films. I love GOODFELLAS too, of course, and CAPE FEAR, CASINO, MEAN STREETS and RAGING BULL. Robert De Niro’s association with the director has done him no harm at all, and vice versa. Travis Bickle is a guy we can alternately pity, admire, identify with and be repulsed by. He’s a complicated mix of good and bad, scared and fearless, repugnant and loveable. Love him or hate him, you won’t forget him.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 
 

DEATH WISH. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

death wish

DEATH WISH. (1974) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘DEATH WISH’ BY BRIAN GARFIELD. DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY MICHAEL WINNER. MUSIC BY HERBIE HANCOCK. STARRING CHARLES BRONSON, HOPE LANGE, KATHLEEN TOLAN, VINCENT GARDENIA, STEVEN KEATS, STUART MARGOLIN, WILLIAM REDFIELD AND JEFF GOLDBLUM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Big-shot company engineer-architect Paul Kersey is a very unlucky man. Every time he steps outta his New York/Manhattan apartment, he gets mugged by some jive-talking ‘Seventies cats with the Afros and everything who say things like, give us the money, honey and who think they’re cool just ’cause they’ve got flick-knives. Let me tell you cool cats, any asshole can carry a flick-knife. It doesn’t make you remotely special. Think about it.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning of this, one of Charles Bronson’s biggest ever films, to which I believe there were many sequels made. He plays a family man, the above-mentioned Paul Kersey who, at the start of the film, is enjoying a sexy beach holiday with the wife he still loves, Joanna, even though they’ve been married for years and years and years. It’s sweet that they’re still hot for each other after all this time and still enjoy some nice cosy old-people sex.

They have a nice big apartment thanks to Paul’s nice comfortable well-paid job and a grown-up married daughter called Carol whom they both adore. One fateful day, when Paul is at work and Carol’s husband Jack is presumably at work also in his own place of business, something terrible happens to Joanna and Carol.

They are followed home from the grocery store by three scumbags, a trio of disgusting anti-social losers who gain access to the Kersey family apartment by pretending to be the grocery delivery boy. In a truly horrific home invasion scene, they rape Carol and beat her mother to death in front of her eyes.

Carol never recovers from the shock and ends up being put in a sanatorium by her devastated husband and heartbroken father. Here, catatonic, drugged up to the eyeballs and no longer able to talk, she may well spend the rest of her days.

Jeff Goldblum (THE FLY, JURASSIC PARK, FRIENDS) in his debut film role plays one of the assailants. He has this brilliant, jerky manic quality about him, as if he’s just downed a bucket of amphetamines chased down by a gallon of Coca-Cola and Skittles in order to calm his ADHD or something. He’s all jittery, tense, edgy, nervy.

Already he’s memorable, someone you’d recognise anywhere and whom you know has the capability to one day be good, really good. Although, of course, one wonders what esteemed scientist Ian Malcolm would make of these highly dubious anti-social shenanigans, breaking and entering and referring to one’s John Thomas as a ‘paintbrush,’ as in, ‘I’m gonna paint her mouth...!’ Oh yes, jolly good show, lads, do please carry on.

The effect of the rape-murder on Paul Kersey is what matters here. He’s not a violent man to begin with. In fact, he’s referred to as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ and he hasn’t touched a gun since his hunter father was accidentally shot dead by another hunter after being mistaken for a deer. Also, Paul was a conscientious objector or ‘conchie’ during the Korean War. He’s still a really good shot though.

After being gifted with a lovely gun by a grateful business acquaintance, Paul takes to carrying the gun around with him on the darkened streets of night-time New York. He uses it to pepper any would-be muggers full of lead, and trust me when I say that a lot of folks are lining up to mug Paul, and they’re all carrying flick-knives. Gun beats knife. That much I do know.

The body count climbs ever higher as Paul start to really get into his role as a self-styled vigilante on the streets of New York. He starts to go out at night deliberately looking for lowlife criminals to shoot, instead of waiting until they just happen along by chance. He’s like a walking one-man protest against crime in New York, which was really bad in real life during this period.

The press pick up on his actions and soon the newspapers, magazines (yes, they still had them back then!) and TV news bulletins are all full of talk of ‘The Vigilante,’ as he now becomes officially known. You can’t just take the law into your own hands, though. That would set a very bad precedent and would be disastrous for the police force.

I love NYPD Lt. Frank Ochoa, the hard-bitten New York detective tasked with getting ‘The Vigilante’ off the streets. In fact, he’s so world-weary, worldly-wise and hard-bitten that he makes Columbo and Kojak look like two girly sissies on their way to ballet class via the ribbon store and the candy kiosk. He’s brilliant.

The higher-ups don’t even need to have this mysterious lone gunman put behind bars or otherwise brought to justice or anything. They just need him to stop doing what he’s doing ’cause he’s setting a very bad example to the public who, like the Hatpin Granny, are all now becoming ‘have-a-go heroes’ themselves in the style of their idol, ‘The Vigilante.’

The rape-and-murder scene is by far the most effective and memorable in the film. The rest of the film is mostly just Charles Bronson shooting at black people. Although I love the film, before I ever saw it I always assumed the premise of it would be to have Charles Bronson track down and kill his wife’s murderer and his daughter’s rapists.

This never seems to occur to him, however, even though they’ve got a fairly big clue in the form of the grocery store where the Kersey ladies did their shopping. He takes his revenge on crimmo lowlifes and society’s drop-outs in general, but not specifically on the perpetrators of the one act from which he’s suffered so badly and which has cost him so dearly. Strange, that. Ah well. Charles Bronson is well fit and handsome in this and he looks great holding a shooter, even an imaginary one. I’ll take that.

Here’s some random stuff about the film which you might or might not know. I bloody well knew I recognised a young Sonia Manzano, who played Maria in SESAME STREET for a whopping forty-four years, on the checkout till in the supermarket early on in the movie. Score one for me, lol.

I did not, however, recognise Olympia Dukakis as a cop at the precinct. Also, Denzel Washington swears blind that he did not make his film debut here as an alley mugger, and I don’t see any reason in the world for him to lie about it.

Finally, I am never, ever going to New York because of all the muggings and the high crime rate in general. I don’t care if it’s years later and things have changed, I’m still not going and you can’t make me.

I’ll stay here in good old Ireland where we don’t have that level of crime. Here we just have junkies who’ll jab you with a syringe-full of HIV-infected blood on 0’Connell Street unless you hand over your smartphone and wallet pronto. What’s that they say? It’s better the devil you know…? I should say it is an’ all.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor