William Friedkin's 80's masterpiece To Live and Die in L.A. has been given the Shout! Factory treatment with this excellent new Blu-ray release. To Live and Die in L.A. is a brutal, uncompromising and slickly filmed tale of two treasury agents hunting down a ruthless counterfeiter played by Willem Dafoe in sun-drenched L.A. all the while getting into hot trouble themselves. William L. Peterson who would soon after this go onto Michael Mann's Manhunter (Shout! Factory gave that film a darling release earlier this year which I also recommend) gave a tremendous performance as the daredevil treasury agent Richard Chance who stops at nothing to bring down Dafoe's Eric Masters which also a strong early performance. John Pankow is great as Chance's new partner who finds himself losing his cool when he realizes his pal is taking him way over his head. Also a strong supporting cast such as Debra Feuer who played Sonny's girlfriend in the Season Five opener of Miami Vice, a young John Turturro as a bagman and Dean Stockwell as a shady lawyer who doesn't take kindly to his client Masters ordering him around.
Shout!'s new transfer is absolutely tremendous and a fairly radical upgrade over the older releases. Friedkin supervised a new 4K scan for this release which puts more emphasis on a scorching orange aura from the L.A. sun and drenched in saturation that gives the film a more vintage look. From what I understand this is how the film actually looked when it was originally released but because analog TVs couldn't handle such higher saturation of reddish-orange coloring so well the home video releases were toned down dramatically picture wise. Now with TVs that are about what you would see out of a movie theater you can now see a much closer approximation as to what the film initially looked like to theater-going audiences back in the eighties. The audio is also rock solid with both the 5.1 mix and 2.0 mix (oddly unlisted on the back of the box but there if you check the options) in lossless. The 5.1 particularly blows the doors off music-wise with Wang Chung's pulse-pounding music practically knocking me out of my seat. The 2.0 mix also sounded pretty great and works well if you are just looking for something simpler for late-night viewings.
The extras of course much like other Shout! releases is a trunkload of goodies with the original 2004 DVD "Counterfeit World" documentary still here, the alternate ending, commentary, and of course the new goodies such as a 20 minute interviews with William L. Peterson, stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, the duo of Wang Chung about how the soundtrack came about, and two oddly also not listed on the back with Dwier Brown who had a small role as a doctor and Debra Feuer whose interview is probably my favorite for giving a bit more insight into the character and Friedkin's filming methods. Also includes a still gallery, trailer, and radio spot. Also worth noting Shout! Factory again up to par with beautiful packaging. The new cover while minimalistic from afar up close looks great and is a nice painting of L.A. in silhouette with a faded dark pink color scheme. The cover does come as a nice slip over the Blu-ray case itself and like previous releases from Shout! the cover insert is double-sided with one being the new art and the other being the classic poster with tagline. Thanks to the slip much like the Manhunter release you get the best of both worlds and the slip on my copy was plastic wrapped over the slip with the Blu-ray case in it rather than only the Blu-ray case itself in case you are worried about not winding up with one.
Overall this is a release I was hoping for and got more than my expectations. Any fan of the film should check this release out and anyone who can stomach a dark, gritty, uncompromising crime drama from the eighties should look into it. Totally fabulous and highly recommended.