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To Live And Die In LA – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

To-Live-And-Die-In-LAWilliam Friedkin suffered the same kind of fate many of his 1970s breakout director contemporaries did, they started to sort of fall off their super high pedestal in the 1980s.  Now, with Friedkin, I think a lot of his work during this time was actually good quality, it just wasn’t catching on or becoming a hit with audiences and/or critics just weren’t ready yet.  To Live And Die In LA was seen as a sort of “return” for him as he finally put out a film with both critic and audience approval.  He had been on a run of bombs and reviled movies like Sorcerer (Which is a MASTERPIECE) and Cruising (HIGHLY underrated, bold film).  This was seen as a return to his roots of sorts, akin to finding himself a new French Connection.  It was also the last loudly heralded film of his all the way until Bug and Killer Joe in the more recent years here.  Shout Factory is labeling it under its Select series and giving it a Collector’s Edition that builds and improves upon the previous Blu-ray release on November 22nd.

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Film 

Federal agent Richard Chancehas a score to settle, and he’s through playing by the rules. Whether that means blackmailing a beautiful parolee, disobeying direct orders or hurtling the wrong way down a crowded freeway, he vows to take down a murderous counterfeiter by any means necessary.

To Live and Die In LA is the third crime thriller from William Friedkin.  Though, this one has much more in common with The French Connection than it does Cruising.  Its a complete thrill ride that sorta beats Martin Riggs to the punch by two whole years before Lethal Weapon dropped.  The film features a flair for pushing the limits in style, music, action, sex and anti-hero dramatics.  Its probably the last masterpiece William Friedkin made (Bug & Killer Joe are still to fresh for me…and I’m aware Bug is like 10 years old), and it makes sense that it finds him circling to a a familiar point, the one where he broke out into success.

William Petersen is great as the thrill junkie ex secret service turned beat detective living on the edge.  Its crazy that with this and Manhunter he didn’t break out (CSI wouldn’t come until about 15 years later even).  Granted one of the films bombed hard, but still, he’s quite a unique and commanding presence.  And with both roles, he’s essentially playing the same kind of character, but really they are 2 completely different people.  Its really impressive and like a said, a fantastic 1-2 punch in 2 stylistic cop thrillers.

The rest of the cast rounds out superbly.  Willem Dafoe brings a very oddly promiscuous villain to light.  He’s both serious and makes you uneasy when he takes the screen.  Though, he still reels it in and feels regular any time he’s around his boss, played by Dean Stockwell (Hell yes, Dean Stockwell is in this).  My man Steve James has a small role here, too.  I really enjoyed both female performers in the film, Debra Feuer and Darlanne Fluegel.  Both bring such a good, unique energy to the screen, its a shame they never really had any more high profile projects.

Friedkin loves a good chase.  And here we get some terrific ones by foot that really wow or have you wanting to catch your breath with the characters on the screen.  His big set piece is another car chase, which he wanted to top The French Connection with.  And while I don’t think its quite there, its definitely one of the best of the 80s decade though.  Friedkin and the stunt coordinator are really pushing themselves, working hard, trying to take it to the edge and it shows in a very good way.  There is a lot of violence in the film as well, and Friedkin really ramps up the gore, with blood and body parts bursting with big time kill shots.

One of the 1970s best directors truly took one of his visions of that era and realized it for a different one in To Live And Die In LA.  It really does take The French Connection that has been 80s’d up (Music by Wang Chung, style, personalities), far more open with its filmmaking, able to show so much more and not be held back by certain boundaries.  But, it still has the spirit and the character that film had as well.  And, this movie has some crazy reveals, twists, turns and moments.  Friedkin made another film that is pretty much unforgettable.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio:

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  To Live and Die In LA sees a new 4K transfer from the original negative for this release.  And this reminds me of the jump in The French Connection releases.  This image looks so much more crisp and stronger, taking the approach of keeping the grain intact.  Colors are much stronger and the image just feels more full and stable.  It also gives a brand new life to the film, as it feels more artful and pretty than it ever has, rather than just some sort of grimy film (It still is, but now just comes together better).

Depth:  The dimensional work looks quite great thanks to everything appearing more full in color and strength of image.  Foreground imagery feels very distant from the background and characters move very smoothly with a cinematic touch to it.  

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and rich.  They still hold plenty of detail and don’t really hide much if at all.  They provide terrific shading and definition of darkly lit or nighttime sequences.  No crushing at all witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Wow, colors really stand out here more than ever before.  Clothing really pops. Blues, reds, green, you name it. Purple is a real standout color, both on fabrics and in some cool shots of the sky with the setting sun.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the runtime of the film.  Detail on faces is now apparent from just about any distance.  Wrinkles, scars, stubble, make-up, lip texture, moles, dried blood, sweat…its all well defined.  There’s a moment late in the film where you just reconfirm with yourself how amazing this looks, when after a fire it cuts to a close up of Dean Stockwell and you’re just like “Holy shit” with how detailed and bold his face looks.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a nice layer of grain with minimal dirt and specs throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  This is likely the same 5.1 track that came with the original MGM release.  That said, this is pretty much a good thing.  This one gets pretty lively and the track makes some sweet love to the soundtrack.  Foley effects revolving around the guns in the film is well defined, crisp and distinct.  There are a lot of effects that come across as very lifelike.  The only thing that sounds a bit of its age is the vocal track, and that’s just fine in this well blended and balanced mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Gun shots, fire roaring, engines humming and Wang Chung all get a nice deep bounce from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  In terms of straightforward action, this is a more front heavy mix.  It does have its moments though.  Environments are filled with the likes of car horns and such streaming out of the rear speaker.  Front speakers do a bang up job of tracking everything on screen.  From the car chase bouncing around your living room to William Petersen running from one side of your room to the other, this is a very nice representation of the film.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, clear and well represented in placement and motion throughout this mix.

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Extras 

To Live And Die In LA – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring the original poster.

Audo Commentary

  • With Director William Friedkin

Taking A Chance (HD, 20:41) – An interview with William Petersen.  He talks of how he was scouted, getting advice from John Malcovich about being in his first movie, how great Friedkin was to work with (Delayed the film 2 months for him) and overall adds some fun anecdotes to classic moments in the film.

Wrong Way: The Stunts Of To Live & Die In LA (HD, 35:38) – An interview with stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker.  He talks in good detail about the chase, saying Friedkin was going to cut it from the film if he didn’t think it was up to snuff with The French Connection.  This in addition to going over his relationship with the director and filling in behind the scenes details on many action moments in the film.

So In Phase: Scoring To Live & Die In LA (HD, 12:43) – An interview with the band Wang Chung (Jack Hues and Nick Feldman).  The two go over different pieces of music in the movie and talk about what it was like scoring and making songs for their first film.

Doctor For a Day (HD, 8:52) – An interview with actor Dwier Brown.  The actor talks about his brief little scene in the film and how Friedkin allowed him to improvise it.

Renaissance Woman in LA (HD, 14:55) – An interview with actress Debra Feuer.  She talks a lot about her audition process.  Feuer also goes into plenty of fun anecdotes about her scenes in the film and her honest feelings about them and what was exactly going on when shooting.  She calls Friedkin a “dream” to work with because he seemed to know how actors work.  Friedkin also ended liking most of the clothes she’d wear to the shoot and would replace her wardrobe with the stuff she was wearing.

Deleted Scene and Alternate Ending (HD, 13:06) 

Counterfeit World: The Making Of To Live And Die In LA (HD, 29:51) – This is the little retrospective from the previous release (and I believe DVD) that features interviews with William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, Bud Smith, John Pankow and some others.

Still Gallery (HD, 5:27) 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:06) 

Raido Spot (HD, 1:04) 

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Summary 

Shout Select continues its excellence with an outstanding release of one of William Friedkin’s best (Top 5 for me of his).  To Live and Die In LA is a superb crime drama with all the balls and thrills that Friedkin put into The French Connection back in the 1970s.  This Blu-ray from Shout gives quite an astonishing new image for it as well as a fun impactful audio mix.  It also compounds on the already terrific extras that were available previously.  This is an EASY upgrade for those who have the previous one and a must own if you don’t already have it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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