This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older MGM/Fox Blu-ray transfer (“before”, left) with the new Shout Factory 4K restoration (“after”, right). The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.
Our Editor-in-Chief Ed Travis will review To Live and Die in LA Collector’s Edition Blu-ray in full, but in the meantime we wanted to share some direct comparisons of the transfer against the earlier MGM/Fox Blu-ray from 2010.
Shout! Factory’s new release of William Friedkin’s 1985 classic boasts a new 4K scan of the negative, supervised and approved by the director. Here are my own observations, though you can scope the screens below and draw your own conclusions:
Generally speaking, the new transfer is quite a bit darker and has a warmer palette. Reds in particular are more vibrant and deeply saturated, as evident in pretty much every screenshot below.
The new version fares well in clarity and detail thanks to the 4K scan, as well as in peak brightness. The old transfer has some clipping in the brighter areas in which the colors blow out to white. This problem have been alleviated in the newer transfer – compare, for example, the fenceposts on the title card, or the sunlight behind the character’s head in the bridge shot. The inverse also holds true though; the new transfer loses some clarity in darker areas.
Both transfers of the film look pretty great, especially in motion, where they look better than the screenshots indicate. I have not seen the film screened om 35mm (or even on VHS or DVD), so I can only go by observational instinct, but each transfer has some aspects (and corresponding screenshots above) that I prefer, and neither transfer seems an obvious hands-down winner.
Personally, this is a rare case in which I prefer the aesthetic of an older release over a new restoration. The older transfer looks more “natural” to me and I’m guessing that its color palette has greater historical fidelity. However, the new edition has its advantages as well, sporting greater clarity and a slightly more stylized and vivid look that some viewers may prefer, as well as the director’s approval.
Friedkin of course has been criticized for allowing revisionist color timing in the home video versions of some of his films, especially on the awful original Blu-ray release of The French Connection, later corrected in a subsequent release. Some viewers will be understandably suspicious of Friedkin’s openness to punching up the colors, but thankfully there’s not that level of revisionism here. And while these comparisons accentuate the redness on the colors, the new disc looks beautiful when simply watched normally.
Of course, this comparison only takes picture quality into account. In terms of other features, the original disc was barebones while Shout Select’s new disc is chock full of goodies and is a much better product in terms of overall value. Look for our full review coming soon.