Audio Commentary with the Director William Friedkin
The Director, 'Bill' Friedkin, offers us a full-length Audio Commentary which, whilst expressly not scene-specific, is rather enlightening. He talks about the inspiration behind the story - a book that goes by the same name as the movie, based on the life of a former Secret Service Agent - which showed the duality of the agent's life: playing cards with the President on one day, running down credit-card thieves in the slums of LA the next, also discussing the contemporary setting of the movie, the heavy use of the 80s band Wang Chung, the sequence in which he shot the film (the thrilling opening scene was shot as an afterthought), the meticulous detail he put into the depicting the world of counterfeiting, and the pivotal scenes in the movie. Although he is quite dry in his delivery, the information is thoroughly engaging, particularly for fans of the movie, it's just a shame that they have to watch the movie in SD whilst listening to this worthy offering.
Counterfeit World: The Making of To Live and Die in L.A.
This is a half-hour look at the production of this film, with plenty of final film footage to pad things out. Made relatively recently (well, for the DVD release, rather than the release of the original movie in the cinemas) the modern interviews come from the likes of William Petersen, William Friedkin and Willem Dafoe (who all must get a bit confused with their almost identical first names). Petersen's contributions are particularly interesting, talking from his CSI era-days about his experiences on the film and the fun he had playing the anti-hero lead. We also get archive footage of the camera-crew at work filming some of the scenes, and engaging b-roll footage of the cast off-camera, as well as discussions on how the Director's spontaneity often meant that the final film footage included scenes that were shot as rehearsals, or against the permission of officials etc. (they could have been arrested for printing 'real' counterfeit money). The section dedicated to the car chase is particularly good, with Petersen talking about enjoying doing much of the driving, Friedkin prompting the staff to make a sequence better than the chase in the French Connection and b-roll clips from the filming of the stunt-laden scene. A thoroughly engaging, comprehensive companion piece, arguably better than the Commentary itself.
Deleted Scene and Alternate Ending
We not only get a couple of Additional Scenes, but we also get short Featurettes dedicated to each one of them, which is a nice touch. The Alternate Ending is your happy alternative. If you watch the movie and feel a little down on the world at the end of it, this ending at least shows you how clichéd it could have been had the Studios successfully managed to get the ending changed. The Deleted Scene included is just an extra moment going further into the backstory of the Bukovich character, and his crumbling marriage. The Featurettes for both scenes have the Director on board to talk about why he did not use them and the alternate ideas they presented.
We also get a Stills Gallery and the original Theatrical Trailers.
To Live and Die in L.A. is a vastly underrated 80s thriller which, whilst it may seem somewhat clichéd by today's standards, should really be remembered as the fresh, somewhat dark, and standard-setting original that it was at the time. So, much like the Director William Friedkin's earlier classic The French Connection, this one deserves a place in anybody's collection of classic movies, an underappreciated gem which features some taut action, a twist-ridden gutsy story, a standout car chase, and some great performances. It marks one of William 'CSI' Petersen's two noteworthy '80s crime thrillers, and I have no idea why the guy wasn't more successful off the back of this and the equally underrated Manhunter.
Finally hitting Blu-ray after many an unnecessary delay, this US High Definition release sports superior video and audio to its previous incarnation on DVD (even if it does not stand up to post-Millennium blockbuster standards), but is a bit of an insult when it comes to the packaging of the extras. Rather than bother to actually put them (or anything new) on the main Blu-ray, instead the Studios have just included the exact original DVD release of the movie, which means that you have to sit through the entire movie in standard definition just to listen to the audio commentary, and also endure all of the visual extras in a limited standard definition format. Still, it is a good collection of extras, and having them all here certainly makes things more clear when it comes to upgrading, as you can guarantee you're not going to lose out on anything. And with the fairly reasonable retail price you should have no reservations about picking this classic up and adding it to your collection. Highly recommended.
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