To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

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Released 18-Jan-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 111:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (51:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By William Friedkin

Starring William L. Petersen
Willem Dafoe
John Pankow
Debra Feuer
John Turturro
Darlanne Fluegel
Dean Stockwell
Steve James
Robert Downey Sr.
Michael Greene
Christopher Allport
Jack Hoar
Valentin de Vargas
Case ?
RPI ? Music Darren Costin
Nick Feldman
Jack Hues

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, brief focus on Coke and Miller beer.
Action In or After Credits Yes, a quick repeat of a shot of Peterson.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   A couple of minutes into To Live and Die in L.A., or TLADILA as I’ll now call it, a Secret Service agent looks over at his partner and says, “I’m getting too old for this s***.” And a few minutes after that, it transpires that the guy is three days away from retirement. And at that exact point, I said to myself: a) that guy’s gonna die, b) did I put in the wrong disc? is this Lethal Weapon 0? and c) can this get any more cliched? Well. How wrong I was. For although the guy did indeed die very soon thereafter, and although his edgy, dangerous partner swore to get the killer no matter what, TLADILA is not a derivative cop thriller. It’s a crazy, violent, full-of-naked-male-buttocks cop thriller, full of crazy, violent, and (you guessed it) butt-naked cops. Once you get over the parts that have been overdone to a charred blackness in a zillion subsequent paint-by-numbers buddy-cop movies, TLADILA reveals itself to be much weirder, harsher, and more surprising than any of them. It is, in short, a Good Movie – notwithstanding a few little quirks, like the extreme 80sness of the Wang Chung-dominated soundtrack, or the really quite startling amount of William Peterson on show.

   Peterson is Richard Chance, an on-the-edge, base-jumping US Secret Service agent hell-bent on catching Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe), the counterfeiter who killed his partner. Teaming up with new offsider John Vukovich (John Pankow), Chance starts putting the squeeze on anyone he can find: Masters’ tough-talking courier, Carl Cody (John Turturro); smooth lawyer Bob Grimes (Dean Stockwell); even his own girlfriend/snitch, Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel). And as the hunt goes on, Chance and his partner find themselves going further and further off the rails… Directed by William Friedkin, whose The French Connection had redefined the modern police thriller, TLADILA was critically acclaimed but commercially shunned on initial release. It’s easy to see how audiences might have been turned off by the unsympathetic protagonists, the gruesome violence, and the occasionally even more gruesome nudity. And yet that very non-commerciality is a big part of what makes TLADILA so good. Comfortable expectations are thwarted regularly in this movie; there are plenty of twists, and I didn’t see many of them coming. Friedkin was clearly striving for something more than entertainment: an inquiry into the fine distinction between fearlessness and psychosis, perhaps.

   Thanks to Friedkin’s own fearlessness (as the director of The Exorcist, he was no stranger to shock) and to a hefty jigger of arty crosscutting, TLADILA is indeed something out of the ordinary. Also helping to make it so are strong performances by the three central figures. Peterson shows us the cold blankness that lies behind Chance’s hyper-macho swagger. Dafoe is mesmerisingly ruthless as the brilliant, feral, pansexual Masters. And Pankow goes through a startlingly credible psychological transformation under the pressures of the plot. Supporting actors also do well – although Turturro, admittedly hugely talented and trying manfully, is difficult to buy as a tough guy. Even in more conventional cop-movie terms, this is a standout: the big car chase, for instance, is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and completely insane to boot. TLADILA is not a movie to watch with your aged parent, nor your young child, nor anyone with a weak stomach for blood, pasty bottoms, or New Wave music. But for just about everyone else, this one’s a winner.

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Transfer Quality


   It’s twenty years old, and it hasn’t been restored. Whaddaya expect? It looks… okay.

   The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

   Sharpness is adequate; not great, but adequate. Shadow detail is not very good; a lot gets lost in dark scenes, although if your setup is good enough you will see William’s Peterson at 43:30. There is no low level noise.

   Colours are relatively muted; TLADILA takes place in a dirty, smoggy, industrial LA, not pools-and-beaches LaLaLand, and was filmed with an eye for grit and naturalism. When there are clean, pure, well lit tones, as on the titles at 6:00, they come across pretty cleanly. A flaming room at 101:26 looks simply gorgeous, in a scary kind of way.

   No MPEG artefacts were evident, but aliasing afflicts those ever-troublesome blinds at 43:45. The main image problems come from a whole lotta grain, which lends a slight shimmer to everything, and from a simply enormous number of film artefacts – dots and blotches and hairs and assorted crud all over the picture. Some scenes are much dirtier than others, exteriors especially, but no part of this film is as clean as it should be.

   The subtitles were excellent, slightly but wisely compressing dialogue for readability’s sake.

   This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 51:58, reasonably well placed on a scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


   This film sounds just as it was intended to, back when stereo was king. Huh? What? It’s in Dolby Digital 5.1? Really?

   There are six audio tracks on this disc: a default English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps, a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 384 Kbps, and German, Italian, Spanish, and Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks at 192 Kbps. I listened to the English track, and sampled the rest briefly. The Polish track features a guy reading the lines over, and slightly after, the still-audible original dialogue. It's terrible! But who really cares?

   Dialogue was quite clear, very faithfully rendered, and directed almost exclusively to the centre channel, just as it should be. There were no instances of detectable hiss or crackle, except for just the tiniest bit of distortion on a blaring truck horn at 79:29.

   Dialogue sync was not really a problem, but it was obvious that a lot of dialogue had been looped in – probably because of so much of the film was shot at loud, public locations. Mouth movements almost always matched, but the dialogue had that studio-recorded quality to it.

   Most of the soundtrack was composed and performed by New Wave band Wang Chung, a trio of Brits who made it somewhat big in the States with their synth- and drum machine-heavy music and ambiguous looks. It’s way 80s, and dates the movie(or carbon dates it, as Buffy would say). But on the other hand, it’s quite good for what it is, and has been well integrated into the film. The music has been cleanly transferred, but doesn’t seem to make intelligent use of the potential of 5.1 audio; it’s not so much spread across the speakers, as smeared: a lot is in the centre channel, most of the rest in the fronts, and just a tiny echo in the surrounds. Not a heck of a lot of musical data goes into the .1 bass channel.

   Despite the remix to 5.1, and all the gunshots, and the extraordinary car chase sequence, this is not a very active surround track. In fact, the surrounds barely seem to be there; they just get a little trickle of echoes and background sounds already present in the other channels.

   The subwoofer, which should have had a field day here with roaring engines and cordite booms, instead found itself with an anemic data stream.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


   Not even a pretence of a special feature is to be found here. Why? There’s a ton of loot on the US release. How hard could it have been to stick it on here? Gah!


   The menus are silent, still, and (since this disc is aimed at the European market, too) without text. Variably intuitive icons aren’t a completely successful replacement. At least the thing’s 16x9 enhanced…

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

   Image and sound quality seem to be no better in the Region 1 release, but in the extras department it beats the pants off of the Region 4 contender.


   To Live And Die In L.A. is a terrific, surprising, extreme movie, and deserves a viewing.

   The video quality is bearable, but should have been better.

   The audio quality is fine, but disappointingly unambitious.

   The extras are aggravatingly nonexistant.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tennant Reed
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS730P, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE500E projecting onto 100" screen. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR601 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensen SPX-7 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 centre and rear centre, Jensen SPX-4 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
restoration - REPLY POSTED
Car chases and MGM's track record..... -