To Live And Die In L.A. didn’t catch on at the box office but it became a cult favorite on home video and has enjoyed a quality afterlife in various formats over the years. MGM did a decent little special edition DVD in 2003 that was subsequently carried over to blu-ray in 2010. However, there was room for improvement — and Shout Select has made good on that potential.
The transfer on this disc is derived from a new 4K scan supervised by director William Friedkin. The details have a new crispness and the saturated color scheme comes across even more boldly here. A lossless 5.1 stereo soundtrack is offered here and it sounds great, with the Wang Chung score and lots of other sonic details given a rich surround sound presence.
Fans will be happy to know all the 2003-era extras are carried over here and a set of new interviews are added to flesh things out. Read on for a rundown of everything included…
Commentary: this a solo track with William Friedkin that dates back to the 2003 edition. It’s a strong and consistently compelling commentary that mixes scene-specific anecdotes with a running account of the film’s conception and production. Friedkin talks about how he was drawn to the surrealism of a Secret Service agent’s life and gets into his approaches to directing actors and crafting visuals. He analyzes several story points in terms of a theme of “counterfeit relationships” that he sees as key to the film — and listen out for a nice tribute to Steve James and a funny/scary tale about how Friedkin found himself in conflict with the federal government.
William Petersen Interview (20:41): the veteran actor has a lot of fun relating a string of anecdotes here. He starts with the shocking ease of how he landed the role (Gary Sinise played a role in this) and then discusses the speed of the work, the shooting of the car chase and prison scenes and a funny tale about the film’s airport chase sequence.
Buddy Joe Hooker Interview (35:38): the veteran stunt coördinator gets to explore his work on this film in great depth. He starts with a global view of how the stunt business worked in his day before getting deep into the details of the epic car chase he created for the film. You’ll learn about how they did the jackknifing truck and a how a “swivel car” rig was used to place the actors safely in the stunt. He also gives plenty of detail on his working relationship with Friedkin, whom he credits for being a director who both enabled and financed innovation in his crew.
Wang Chung Interview (12:43): an engaging chat with the musical duo of Jack Hues and Nick Feldman. They reveal the song that brought them to the attention of Friedkin and then give an enthusiastic account of their collaboration with the director, who made their job easy by keeping interference to a minimum and being clear on what he wanted. There’s also an amusing anecdote on how focused his temper could be.
Debra Feuer Interview (14:55): this actress reveals how she primarily landed her role through the easy chemistry she displayed with Willem Dafoe and then focuses on Friedkin’s direction, which she praises for being intuitive and geared towards naturalistic acting. She gives several examples, including how skillfully he handled the challenge of the nude scenes.
Dwier Brown Interview (8:52) a quick chat with this actor, who would later play a lead role for Friedkin in The Guardian. He played a one-scene role on To Live And Die In L.A. and talks about the thrill of its improv-oriented audition as well as how he enjoyed working with fellow Chicago actors Petersen and John Pankow. He also has a fun anecdote about The Guardian.
Deleted Scene And Alternate Ending (12:06): This consists of a quick deleted scene that gives a glimpse into the personal life of the character of Vukovich and an ending that was hastily filmed to placate the producers before being pulled. Friedkin introduces both and explains his take on why both weren’t into the film, along with some support from his cast and producer/editor Bud Smith. The tales on the bogus ending are pretty funny.
Counterfeit World (29:51): this making-of featurette was produced for the 2003 special edition of To Live And Die In L.A. It includes Friedkin, Smith and several key cast members. It covers much of the same background material you’ll learn elsewhere on this disc but there’s some neat behind-the-scenes footage provided by Smith. It’s also interesting to hear from Pankow, Dafoe and Darlanne Fluegel, with the latter two making their only appearances in the extras here.
Other Extras: a still gallery, an excellent MTV-style trailer and a radio spot that plays up the film’s Wang Chung score
To read Schlockmania’s film review of To Live And Die In L.A., click here.