As already stated above the four films are presented on essentially the same discs that we’ve seen before… the same video transfers, the same special features, and in the case of Live Free or Die Hard the same “coming soon” trailer for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. They all looks and sound fine, but we can only hope the next anniversary release remasters the first three films to the high standards of the last.
The set also includes a fifth disc packed with trailers and all-new behind-the-scenes material under the title “Decoding Die Hard.” The individual features are listed below, and while Willis never makes an appearance plenty of other familiar faces do.
- Origins – Reinventing the Action Genre [19:35] – Joel Silver and others talk about the film’s production process starting from Roderick Thorpe’s novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, which was actually a sequel to Frank Sinatra’s film, The Detective. It was apparently McTiernan’s input that shifted the bad guys from terrorists to robbers so that they could actually have fun with it. It continues on through the sequels and includes Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) referring to the series as “stale.” So. Yeah.
- John McClane – Modern Day Hero [16:29] – The same folks chat about the character and what makes him so identifiable as an everyman. That’s understandable for the first film and maybe a bit of the 2nd and 3rd, but they’re kidding themselves to think it applies to the fourth. They also discuss how McClane’s “Yippee kay ay motherfucker!” in Die Hard: With a Vengeance was filmed just six days before it opened since they hadn’t felt it necessary until test screening audiences asked where the hell it was.
- Villains – Bad to the Bone [20:41] – The bad guys and the actors who play them are the focus here with the majority of the time being spent, deservedly so, on Rickman’s Hans Gruber. We get dueling origin stories for the meetup scene between Gruber and McClane, William Sadler‘s recollection at hearing his opening scene would feature him nude, Irons acknowledging that he’s never a casting director’s first choice for a film and Long complaining that his only issue with Olyphant’s villain is that he’s too damn gorgeous.
- Sidekicks – Along for the Ride [19:09] – Every single sidekick gets a minute or two of the spotlight here as they go through all four films covering how and why they’re in the film. Highlights include learning that Harlin had to fight to bring back Atherton’s dickish Richard Thornburg, Smith re-wrote his character’s dialogue and Wiseman had multiple meetings with the studio regarding how much facial hair Long’s character would have. None of those facts are surprising.
- Fight Sequences – Punishing Blows [7:29] – This is a too-short look at the series’ multiple fight scenes and McClane’s multiple opponents. We learn that Willis is left-handed, they had 17 white t-shirts “in various stages of degradation” for the first film and that Sadler really enjoyed beating up on Willis. “Not many people get to do that,” he says with a mild grin. Sadly there’s no mention of the inherent and obvious difficulty in stunt doubling Willis’ receding hairline in the first few films.
- Action – Explosive Effects [14:37] – They walk through several of the action scenes in the series, and while there’s some fun bits here and there the highlight is easily everyone’s acknowledgement that the jet fighter sequence at the end of Live Free or Die Hard is ridiculous. Yes, even Wiseman admits that in retrospect it was “a bit too much.”
- The Legacy – The Right Hero for the Right Time [8:55] – “I’ve done a lot of shitty movies,” says Long, “so I know how important it is to be a part of a good one.”
The Bottom Line:
Normally I’d offer a definitive conclusion as to whether or not something is worth buying, but the timing and content here leaves it open to debate. On the plus side the films speak for themselves, the packaging is solid and the new special features are pretty entertaining. But the film discs haven’t been remastered from earlier releases, and odds are there will be another collection released by the end of the year. So…
Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection is currently available from Amazon.