The movie is considered a spoof of the Russian Novel, particularly the works of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, particularly "The Idiot", "The Gambler", "War and Peace", "Anna Karenina", "Crime and Punishment", and "The Brothers Karamazov".
Boris is in his cottage writing poetry. He reads, "I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas." He then promptly balls up the writing and throws it into the fire, calling it "too sentimental". The line is from T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of 'J.Alfred Prufrock'".
Woody Allen was so concerned about the quality of Budapest's food that he consumed only canned food and bottled water that he had brought with him from America. As a result, Allen was one of the few of his movie's cast and crew who did not suffer dysentery while filming.
Woody Allen was working on a script about two New Yorkers who try to solve a murder when he got stuck. When blocked, Allen noticed a book on Russian History at his home. As the deadline was fast approaching for delivery of a contracted screenplay, Allen got inspired and decided to spoof the genre of Russian novel and history for this movie instead, putting the other script on the back-burner. As such, the other script was not finished until later, but it eventually became Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).
The philosophical "babble" between the characters (e.g. "subjectivity is objective") actually comes from the writing of Russian philosophers G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky, as does the title "Love and Death".
In an interview with 'Esquire' magazine, Woody Allen once said of the making of this movie: "When good weather was needed, it rained. When rain was needed, it was sunny. The cameraman was Belgian, his crew French. The underlings were Hungarian, the extras were Russian. I speak only English - and not really that well. Each shot was chaos. By the time my directions were translated, what should have been a battle scene ended up as a dance marathon. In scenes where Keaton and I were supposed to stroll as lovers, Budapest suffered its worst weather in twenty-five years".
When Boris' father visits him in his prison cell, near the end of the movie, he tells him about Raskolnikov killing two women and about getting told by the brothers Karamazov. Rodion Raskolnikov is the protagonist in Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic "Crime and Punishment", in which he murders two women and does not know how to deal with the moral consequences afterwards. "The Brothers Karamazov" is another epic book by the same Russian writer. The dialogue also evokes "The Possessed", "Raw Youth", "The Idiot", "The Insulted and Injured" (usually "The Insulted and Humiliated"), "The Gambler", "The Double", "Bobok", all of them novels by Dostoyevsky.
After filming Love and Death (1975), the shoot was so difficult filming in Paris and Hungary, Woody Allen vowed never to shoot there again. Interestingly, considering this, Shadows and Fog (1991) is set in Eastern / Central Europe and was not shot there, but on huge sound stages at New York's Astoria Studios. However, Allen in later years has shot in Europe and England. Everyone Says I Love You (1996) was the first Woody Allen directed film since Love and Death (1975) to be shot outside of New York.
The shots of the lion statues edited into the love scene between Boris and the Countess, and the shot of the soldier being shot in the eye through his glasses are parodies of similar statues in Battleship Potemkin (1925), shown during the Odessa Steps massacre scene.
This Woody Allen movie featured the Death character of The Grim Reaper. Allen is known to be inspired and influenced by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman who had featured the Grim Reaper in his film The Seventh Seal (1957). In the Bergman film the Grim Reaper wears black robes whereas in this film he wears a white gown. Allen would later feature the Grim Reaper again in Deconstructing Harry (1997).
Debut Woody Allen film since cast by longtime friend and New York casting director Juliet Taylor who has performed casting duties on every Allen film [to date, June 2013] right up to Blue Jasmine (2013).
The film began development at Fox and was intended to be their one of their big Christmas 1974 releases. Eventually, it went into turnaround to United Artists due to their relationship with Allen. Allen wouldn't make a film for Fox until Melinda and Melinda (2004).