To Live and Die In LA appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image looked better than I expected.
Sharpness was usually fine, and more than a few sequences offered terrific delineation. A couple of shots seemed a little iffy, but the vast majority appeared concise and accurate. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple of small specks/marks but nothing major.
Many Eighties films suffer from muddy colors, but those of LA mostly came across well. The tones occasionally demonstrated a little of the era’s flatness, but usually the hues looked fairly dynamic and vibrant. They never became runny or messy and mostly were distinctive and tight.
Black levels worked fine, and low-light shots appeared well defined. Shadow detail appeared fairly clean and visible. Only minor issues cropped up in this largely strong presentation.
Though it occasionally showed its age, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of To Live and Die In LA came with real strengths.. On the positive side, it featured a well above average soundfield for a movie from 1985. It seemed surprisingly active as the mix added a lot of different elements. Stereo imaging for the music was somewhat lackluster but generally appeared acceptable.
Effects spread nicely across the front. They were a little more speaker-specific than I’d like, but given the age of the material, I easily forgave that. The pieces moved moderately smoothly across the speakers, and the surrounds contributed a great deal of information to the track. They kicked in nicely during action sequences and provided pretty engaging environment through the whole flick.
LA lost points due to its erratic audio quality. Much of the dialogue sounded good, but the mix included some of the worst looping I’ve heard; a lot of dubbed lines integrated poorly. Mild edginess also affected some lines.
Music varied from reasonably robust to thin and lackluster. However, that mostly related to the source material. The pop production of the day favored a bright trebly sound, so the lack of bass didn’t come as a surprise.
Effects presented some fairly good low-end but they were moderately dense and didn’t sound tremendously realistic some of the time. I also noticed occasional examples of mild distortion. Even with the erratic moments, this became a solid “B” mix for its age.
How did this 2016 “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray compare to the 2012 BD? Audio seemed a little clearer and more dynamic, while visuals were cleaner and better defined overall. Though I wouldn’t claim that the 2016 CE blew away the prior BD, it did offer improvements.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director William Friedkin, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. At the start, he tells us that he won’t talk about the story, and he keeps to his word. That comes as a relief, for during prior commentaries, Friedkin often did little more than narrate his films.
He avoids the trend for LA and offers a somewhat spotty but generally good examination of the movie. Among other topics, he gets into the flick’s origins, its casting, his editing techniques, how and why Wang Chung did the score, and cinematographic concerns.
Friedkin provides a nice discussion of work on the set and really gets into the challenges of the big car chase, particularly in his attempt to not just rehash the famous pursuit from The French Connection. Friedkin lets too much dead space appear, but this doesn’t become a true annoyance. The director gives us a fine look at his work in this fairly solid commentary.
Next we find a documentary entitled Counterfeit World: The Making of To Live and Die in LA. In this 29-minute, 51-second piece, we get contemporary comments from Friedkin, co-producer/editor Bud Smith, propmaster Barry Bedig, stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, and actors William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, and Darlanne Flugel. We also get notes from author/co-screenwriter Gerald Petievich and Petersen on the set in 1985.
They cover why the project appealed to Friedkin and the others, spontaneity of the shoot, approaches to the roles, making fake money, Friedkin’s style with actors and with camera set-ups, fight choreography, the chase scene, the ending, and other issues. Some of the information duplicates topics detailed in Friedkin’s commentary, but the program expands these areas well. It doesn’t feel like a great documentary, but it gives us a good perspective on the making of the movie.
After this we get a Deleted Scene/Alternate Ending Featurette. This 13-minute, eight-second piece presents comments from Bud Smith, Petersen, Friedkin, and Pankow, and it also shows us the scenes themselves. They tell us about the sequences, why they were shot, and why they got discarded.
Filmed only as a compromise with the studio, the “Ending” indeed seems pretty terrible and inappropriate for the flick. The “Deleted Scene” involves an attempted reconciliation by Vukovich with his estranged wife. We learn why Friedkin cut it; interestingly, he notes that he wishes he’d kept it.
The Blu-ray includes five new featurettes. Taking a Chance goes for 20 minutes, 41 seconds and provides info from actor William Petersen. He discusses aspects of his career, how he came onto LA, aspects of the shoot, and reactions to the film. Petersen’s anecdotes star here, as he offers a nice array of fun stories.
During the 35-minute, 38-second Wrong Way, we hear from stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker. As expected, he covers the action and stunts of the film. Hooker brings us an informative little chat.
Next comes So In Phase. This 12-minute, 43-second show features Jack Hues and Nick Feldman, the musicians from Wang Chung who composed the movie’s score. They chat about their material for the film as well as working with Friedkin. The musicians provide a good summary.
Doctor for a Day runs eight minutes, 52 seconds and features actor Dwier Brown. He discusses his casting, his performance, and aspects of the shoot. Brown didn’t have a big part, but he offers a few interesting notes.
Finally, Renaissance Woman in LA takes up 14 minutes, 55 seconds and gives us notes from actor Debra Feuer. She covers topics in the same vein as those mentioned by Brown, though obviously she provides her own perspective. That makes Feuer’s conversation enjoyable and informative.
In addition to a trailer and a TV spot, we finish with a Still Gallery, we get a mix of publicity shots and images from the set. 65 of these appear in all.
1985’s To Live and Die In LA doesn’t represent the best from William Friedkin. However, despite some dated moments, it mostly holds up well, especially for first time viewers. The Blu-ray offers pretty positive picture and audio along with a useful set of supplements. This 2016 Collector’s Edition becomes the best version of LA on the market.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA