Blade Runner: The Final Cut: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Review
This is a long review and I apologise somewhat for its length but there was a lot to cover. This film has been out twenty-five years and the Director's Cut fifteen so I'm assuming that most people, by now, know the story and the various twists and turns of the plot, including a revelation made in the Director's Cut. Be warned, therefore, that there are numerous spoilers in this text.
It is Los Angeles in 2019 and over the bright lights of the city, the flames that erupt from chimneys and the smog that blankets the buildings, a Spinner flies towards the Tyrell Corporation pyramid that dominates the skyline. In an office within the complex, Holden (Morgan Paull) is interviewing Leon (Brion James) as part of a sweep of all the Tyrell Corporation's employees following the flight of six Replicants from off-world colony. Created by Tyrell, it is expected that these Replicants, who have been created with an in-built four-year limit to their lifespan, will have escaped to Earth and that the Tyrell building, like a child returning home, will be amongst the places they visit.
It is Holden's job, with the aid of the Voight-Kampff test, to discover who amongst the hundreds of people employed by Tyrell is a Replicant. The interview with Leon does not last very long. Holden discovers that Leon is indeed a Replicant but the knowledge does him no good. Leon pulls a gun from beneath the desk and shoots Holden twice, the second time into his back.
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is called out of retirement by his old boss Bryant (M Emmet Walsh) to take on Holden's case of the six Replicants, asking, in his slur on the Replicants, that Deckard retire, or eliminate, these 'skin-jobs'. Deckard's first steps on the case are the same as those taken by Holden. He visits the Tyrell building, listens to Holden's interview tapes and carries out his own Voight-Kampff test on Rachael (Sean Young), Eldon Tyrell's (Joe Turkel) young assistant. But Deckard learns that Tyrell is already planning the next generation of Replicant, about to make his products live up to his motto of More Human Than Human. In a world starved of humanity, perhaps this is what humanity fears the most.
Writing about the original release of Blade Runner in 1982, Roger Ebert said, "The movie's weakness...is that it allows the special effects technology to overwhelm its story." Ebert would later revise his opinion with the release of the Director's Cut in 1992 and has since added it to his list of great movies but his reaction is typical of the first release of the film. Pauline Kael made a similar point with, "If anybody comes around with a a test to detect humanoids, maybe Ridley Scott and his associates should hide." The criticism surrounding the 1982 release of the film drew attention to this perceived lack of humanity, that amongst the smoke, rain and darkness, Ridley Scott had crafted a film that was all surface and no feeling, a blaze of neon in which the characters were all but obscured.
There is humanity in Blade Runner but it shames us that it is the Nexus 6 Replicants who exhibit it most. "Sushi...cold fish...that's what my ex-wife used to call me", Deckard tells us. Although excised from later versions of the film, this line, which was written into the unpopular voiceover, best explains his character. In Philip K Dick's book, Deckard was married. In Blade Runner, he is divorced, lives alone and collects photographs. He relaxes by playing piano to no one in particular. He refuses to answer Rachael's question as to whether he has taken the Voight-Kampff test himself, although it is implied that he has not. Perhaps its test of human emotions would reveal something about himself that he would find alien. Deckard admits that to retire a human by mistake is an acceptable risk in his world. He does not appear to be upset by the possibility of murder.
Deckard and Gaff (Edward James Olmos) work together but do so in a purely professional manner, not talking, not making eye contact and barely acknowledging one another as they sit beside one another in a Spinner. As contrast, the Replicants are alive, stronger and more powerful than the humans who created them and learning, as a child does, their emotions in an unrefined and often exaggerated way. Like children, they also cling to one another. Roy and Leon remain together as friends. Pris (Daryl Hannah) and Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) hold each other as lovers do and when one dies, the other carefully touches the gunshot wound and smears the blood over their face. The irony in the film is that it is the relationship between Roy and Pris that feels more human, the love between them evident and so much more so than that between Deckard and Rachael, who only commit to love on realising, the film implies, they are themselves Replicants.
"Gosh...you really got some nice toys here!" says Roy Batty scanning JF Sebastian's room, his eyes full of wonder and happiness at seeing all of the robots. Yet Sebastian shies away from him. His little Kaiser robot looks terrified. Batty is the biggest and toughest kid in the playground and Hauer's playing of him is the standout performance in Blade Runner, taunting Deckard with the language of the schoolyard. "I thought you were supposed to be good? Aren't you the...good man?" "You better get it up...or I'm gonna have to kill ya!" "You gotta shoot straight...straight doesn't seem to be good enough!" Only four years old, his struggle, as well as that to remain alive, is to marry his strength to his limited experience of the world and, somehow, to make sense of it all. He has, in his own words, "...seen things you people wouldn't believe" but his loss isn't only that, "...all those moments will be lost in time", more that he doesn't quite have the depth of emotion to comprehend them all. His quest in the film is for a longer life, not immortality but to exist long enough to make sense of the emotions that he and his fellow Replicants are learning, be they happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love or desire. All things the human cast appear not to recognise, least of all in themselves.
Few films present so complete a world as Blade Runner. It may not be very much more than a noir thriller in the very near future but each viewer has taken something more away from it, something that has left Blade Runner amongst the few films that are of such a sizeable cult that, occasionally, it threatens to tip over into the mainstream. Personally, my love of the film comes with the very things that Blade Runner was so criticised for, its funereal pace, its sacrificing of character for style and its sense of the Los Angeles of the near future being an alien place, not least in characters like JF Sebastian and Hannibal Chew essentially living alone in derelict buildings, one surrounded by his toys while the other freezes amongst synthetic body parts. There is a hustle and bustle on the streets outside, a place not so very different from where we know today, but there's a somnolence about the interior of the buildings. The Los Angeles of 2019, though now destined never to pass with any accuracy, is bleak, unsettling and inhuman. It takes the passion exhibited by the Replicants to bring it to life.
More than anything, Blade Runner dazzles with its vision of the future. Nothing appears to exist outside of its world. There is no reference to the past nor to the future and yet so very much appears to have been borrowed to fit its vision. The city has grown over the ruins of what has gone before with the air conditioning and electrical conduits now fastened in a rather makeshift manner onto the sides of buildings. Neon flashes over neon and around the familiar architecture of the Bradbury Hotel, the spotlights of Blade Runner flash while the smoke swirls around it. The Los Angelean culture is a mish-mash of different languages and races, half-Esperanto and half-slang, a kind of Nadsat for the future that its writers named Cityspeak. But it is with the visual language of film that Blade Runner excels. Scott fills each frame with details, traffic signs, parking meters and police badges, all of which are barely seen but which make for a very complete world, all told through the camera.
More than most, Blade Runner reserves its right to tell its story visually rather than through dialogue. The lights, neon and smoke is only part of it. The picture is suffused with images of eyes, suggesting something of Replicants in their eyes, as well as the little stick figures and origami that Gaff leaves throughout the set, first asking Deckard if he's man enough for the job before reminding him that Gaff knows him more than he thinks. That little figure of a unicorn that Deckard sees after watching Rachael step over it meant nothing in the original version of the film, only to say that Gaff was at Deckard's apartment and let Rachael live, but turned the entire story with the release of the Director's Cut in 1992.
It is no surprise or coincidence that a key visual motif in Blade Runner is the photograph. The Replicants, perhaps Deckard included, collect them, hiding them in drawers and scattering them about their apartments. Rachael defends herself by pointing at a handful of photographs that she had kept of herself, only realising the extent of the treachery when Deckard explains they, and the memories they bring to mind, are the possessions of Tyrell's niece. In a moment inspired by La Jetée, one of Rachael's photographs appears to move. And, in the end, Blade Runner itself is like a series of photographs, beautifully framed but dreamy and slow-moving. Not everyone will like it but, to these eyes, it is nearly the perfect film. The story, what there is of it, and the characters are sometimes no more dressings on a visual feast of a film. But what a feast. Those original criticisms of Blade Runner are the very things that this viewer takes from the film, from the beautiful clutter of the Los Angelean skyline through the chaos of Sebastian's apartment and over the crumbling buildings on which Deckard and Batty fight, Blade Runner is a remarkable-looking film. With this DVD release, it finally has a set that begins to do the film justice.
Differences Between The Versions
There are five different edits of Blade Runner included in this set, three off a branching version of the film - 1982 Domestic Cut, 1982 International Cut and the 1992 Director's Cut - the Workprint and the Final Cut. By now, it would appear that most people know the major differences between the original 1982 theatrical cuts of the film and those that followed them, being the loss of Ford's film noir voiceover and the happy ending but with the addition of the dream sequence. However, this list, though not comprehensive, describes the differences between the different edits, most of which has been taken from Paul Sammon's Future Noir.
Taking the original 1982 US Cut, or Domestic Cut, as the root of all the others, this features Deckard and Rachael driving off into the countryside together, fading into the swooping footage supplied by Kubrick from The Shining, as well as the voiceover Ford fought against. The International Cut of 1982 also features these but adds further violence and bloodshed in a few scenes, the murder of Eldon Tyrell by Roy Batty, the beating of Deckard by Pris in JF Sebastian's apartment and Batty pushing the nail further through his own hand in the final chase.
The 1992 Director's Cut, overseen by Scott and Michael Arick, made some major changes to the film, including those listed above. The happy ending was now cut with Blade Runner stopping with the closing of the elevator doors rather than the Ride Into The Sunset. A 12-second dream sequence of a unicorn was now added. The violence of the International Cut was removed for this version but extra blimp dialogue was added during Deckard's wait at the White Dragon noodle bar. What was implied in the original cut, that Deckard might be a Replicant, is now made more explicit.
In 1990, Warner Brothers received a request to forward a print of Blade Runner to a 70mm-only festival in California. The thought they had sent a print of the International Cut but had, instead, issued the Blade Runner Workprint. The sense of surprise and excitement that greeted this showing reached Warner Brothers who, two years later, would authorise Ridley Scott to produce the Director's Cut. There are many differences between this Workprint and the other versions in the set. For a start the titles are completely different. The Alan Ladd Company logo is green-on-white rather than green-on-black, the familiar crawl is replaced with a dictionary definition of Replicant and the opening titles are an of-the-eighties rush of chunky red lettering, rakishly angled to suggest action.
The violence of the International Cut is missing, Bryant resolves the matter of the odd number of Replicants by saying two were fried in the electric field at the Tyrell building while Roy, having murdered Tyrell, beckons to a frightened Sebastian with a, "Sorry Sebastian. Come...come!" Various other shots are longer, such as Deckard finding Rachael in his apartment and a long crane shot of Deckard walking through the streets that follows his learning the origins of the snake scale he found in Leon's apartment. There are also slight differences in the score with the song If I Didn't Care playing instead of One More Kiss, Dear after Deckard retires Zhora. This version of the film, not surprisingly, looks slightly unfinished. The rain has not been softened any and sounds louder. The picture has a lot more grain about it and, overall, looks slightly more ragged and unfinished than any of the final edits. Finally, a white-on-black screen announces the end of the film, closing with Gaff's, "Too bad she won't live...but then again who does?", Vangelis' music and a simple THE END. There are no end credits.
The Final Cut is, as Ridley Scott says in his introduction, his preferred version of Blade Runner. Early this decade and then, once the legal issues had been resolved, mid-decade, Ridley Scott and Charles de Lauzirika went back to work on a new edit of Blade Runner, taking the time to complete the film as he had originally intended to. Unlike previous edits, all of the violence of the International Cut has been restored while the titles are the usual ones from all earlier edits barring the Workprint. Once again, Bryant talks about two Replicants being fried in the electric field while the producers have digitally corrected the lip-synching issues in the conversation between Deckard and Abdul Ben Hassan by having Ben Ford, Harrison's son, match his lips to the existing voice track and insert them over his fathers' mouth, even to matching Ford's scar beneath his lower lip. Similarly, the producers of this version have digitally inserted Joanna Cassidy's head on top of the stuntwoman who doubled for Zhora during her retirement, solving the matter of continuity.
The two strippers in hockey masks are back in from the Workprint but not the policeman within a similar tube who points Deckard towards Taffey Lewis'. The full-length unicorn dream sequence has been included, also with a different score, and Deckard is now awake during it rather than sleeping and, it is implied, dreaming about it. Batty now says, "I want more life, father" rather than, "I want more life, fucker!" while, like the Workprint, he still beckons Sebastian back to him with an apology. Finally, the sky into which Batty releases the dove is no longer clear and blue but digitally matches the opening view of Los Angeles.
In my piece for this site, We Can Forget It For You Wholesale, I bemoaned a life of having spent watching Blade Runner and its vision of a future Los Angeles having been ruined by years of fuzzy, pan-and-scanned television versions. The non-anamorphic version of the Director's Cut from some years back was a little better but this set has permitted Ridley Scott to go back and to transfer Blade Runner to look much better than it has done so before. And it is a thing of beauty. Although, to be fair, that is a relative statement and one that is worth putting into context.
Blade Runner was always going to be one of those films that would be trouble for a digital encoding. There is simply far too much smoke and rain, the unpredictability of both showing in a transfer that in spite of the best efforts of all concerned, isn't quite as pristine as it might have been. There aren't any faults on the version of the Final Cut presented here, nor on the Theatrical/Director's Cuts but they do present signs of having been softened a little through a digital cleaning-up. Blade Runner isn't as pin-sharp as I had hoped it would be and though it still looks very impressive, maybe not quite as much as I would have liked after all the hype of this set. However, the documentaries on Disc 3 tells a story of prints and of audio stock that were stored by the Blade Runner Partnership without very much concern for the state they were in. Again, it's worth remembering that this is a very dark film and if the matte paintings fade away into a blur, well, that's the combined effect of the smoke, rain and shadows in the picture. I suspect that only so much could have been done with Blade Runner and what we see here is almost as much as they could do in Standard Definition.
The five versions of the film included in this set are quite variable. With the Domestic and International Theatrical Cuts branching off the Director's Cut, it's worth thinking of them as a single version, which reduces the differing cuts to three: Director's Cut, Workprint and Final Cut. I have included a comparison between the three in the following set of screengrabs. The Workprint, unsurprisingly, looks the most shabby of the three with the state of the film stock varying from scene to scene. At times, it's reasonably sharp but, at others, it's something of a soft mush, most notably when Rachael first approaches Deckard at Tyrell's apartment. This Workprint is also presented in 2.20:1 as opposed to the 2.40:1 of the others and is framed slightly differently.
The Director's Cut is, I'm assuming, the same one made available last year and would look reasonably good were it not for the Final Cut also being in this set. It's bright, gives the impression of being quite sharp and does the colours proud but the Final Cut is really something else. Slightly darker but noticeably sharper - look at the OFF WORLD sign in the first shot below for proof of the differences between the versions - the Final Cut handles the shadows, darkness and fog without eliciting very many complaints. In fixing the colour, everything looks both more natural and more stylish with the image just looking so right. The Director's Cut shot of Rachael looks fine but the Final Cut version of the same frame somehow looks more natural. Again, the Director's Cut take of the third screenshot appears to present more information but look more closely and, although it might seem to be murkier, the Final Cut actually offers a sharper picture, not only in the foreground but in the background detail.
Blade Runner Workprint (Above) / Blade Runner Director's Cut (Below)
Blade Runner Director's Cut (Above) / Blade Runner Final Cut (Below)
Blade Runner Workprint (Above) / Blade Runner Director's Cut (Below)
Blade Runner Director's Cut (Above) / Blade Runner Final Cut (Below)
Blade Runner Workprint (Above) / Blade Runner Director's Cut (Below)
Blade Runner Director's Cut (Above) / Blade Runner Final Cut (Below)
However, as good as these versions of Blade Runner look, it is in their audio presentation that the DVD truly shines. These films sound wonderful, regardless of whether they're listened to in DD2.0 Surround or the new DD5.1 mixes. The music of Vangelis now frames the romance and the action with a sense of time slowly passing, the voices from the blimp now pass from background to foreground and the Spinners pass quickly between the speakers. But it's the crack of the pistols that are best served by the clarity of the soundtrack. Having sounded like peas popping on earlier mixes, here they sound powerful and explosive. When Leon shoots Holden twice, you really feel the shots and when Deckard shoots Zhora, again in the back, what was already a great scene now dazzles, with the gunfire, the shattering glass, the sight of snow and bright neon and the sound of Vangelis all mixing to stunning effect.
Like the picture quality, these prints do vary. The audio on the Workprint is the most crackly and noisy of the three but it becomes harder to tell the differences between the Director's Cut and the Final Cut. In the end, the latter just pips it although there is not a great deal between the two. Listening carefully, the Final Cut has a more natural sound, with the going from an action scene to one of romance or mystery sounding less jarring.
Language Tracks And Subtitles
Normally this information appears in the sidebar but the available language and subtitle tracks vary throughout this set, leading me to think it was better to describe them more fully in the body of the review. the full details are below:
Disc 1: The Final Cut: The film offers four language tracks, English, German, Spanish and Polish (all DD5.1) as well as three English-language commentaries. None of the commentaries are subtitled but the film is, offering English/English HOH, German/German HOH, Spanish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Swedish and Turkish. Oddly, though, no French, Dutch or Italian.
Disc 2: Workprint: The workprint offers an English DD5.1 language track and an English-language commentary from Paul Sammon. Again, the commentary is not subtitled but the film is, coming with English/English HOH, French, German/German HOH, Italian/Italian HOH, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish. These are slightly different from those of the Final Cut. The special features are the same.
Disc 3: Branching Versions Of Film: The three cuts of the film, US Theatrical, International Theatrical and Director's Cut, offer English DD5.1, English DD2.0 Surround and Polish DD2.0 language tracks and English and Polish subtitles only.
Disc 4: Dangerous Days: The making of documentary on this disc only comes with an English DD2.0 language track but offers subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese and Swedish.
Disc 5: Features: These offer an English DD2.0 language track only but includes subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish.
Introduction: Scott opens this set with a thirty-second talk about the Final Cut of Blade Runner, how it is his preferred version of the film and how a great deal of work has gone in producing it, all of which was personally supervised by Scott.
Commentaries: There are three on this version of the film, one with Ridley Scott and another with Executive Producer/ Co-Screenwriter Hampton Fancher and Co-Screenwriter David Peoples and Producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine Haber. The third commentary is more concerned with the visual effects and features visual futurist Syd Mead and production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. The word 'and' is strategically placed in that list of names above, explaining how, even on the same track, not all of the contributors are together. Scott is on his how but on the second track, Fancher and David Peoples are together but separate from Deely and Katherine Haber. The visual effects commentary is just as scattered about with Syd Mead separate from all of the others while (I think) Richard Yuricich, due to the echo in the room, is barely audible.
All of these are worth a listen. Even the visual effects commentary, which can be dry at times, is a good listen, particularly for the contributions from Syd Mead and Douglas Trumbull, the pair of them leaders in their fields. All of the effects shots are explained very well even if it was sometimes so technically demanding that, like a dog whistle, it seemed to have been spoken at a frequency I couldn't actually hear. But, no matter, I have a great deal of time for Trumbull - for this and for Silent Running - and would happily listen to him talk about f-stops for an hour, which, fortunately, he avoids doing here. Fancher and Peoples, in spite of the history between the two of them, are on good form, bickering a little, sometimes straining to be heard over the contributions of the other and discussing who brought what to the script. However, the best commentary of the three is, as you might expect, the one with Ridley Scott. The director, though entirely on his own, never lets a scene pass without offering his thoughts on the matter, something of a mix of his recollection of the development of the story, his memories of the shoot and how his feelings on the film have changed over the years. With so much of a presence on this DVD, Scott keeps something back from this commentary to have more to say later in the set but still manages to convey a great deal of information on the making of the film, the rather rocky time he spent directing it and the time he has come and gone and come back again during the production of this DVD release.
Introduction: As with all the other versions of the film, Ridley Scott has recorded a short introduction to this version of the film in which he describes the intention behind this workprint, referring to it in terms of being shown to preview audiences rather than that which slipped out to the 70mm festival in 1990.
Commentary: Paul Sammon is on his own for this commentary track, one in which he hops, skips and jumps over the wealth of information that he has on the film, gleaned from his writing of Future Noir, and pin points many of the scenes unique to the Workprint or those that come and go amongst versions of the film. I would, frankly, have preferred to hear Sammon talk over the Director's or Final Cuts of the film rather than the Workprint as, too often, he concerns himself with pointing out scenes here that were later removed for the Theatrical Release only, year later, to be cleaned up and reinstated for this DVD release. However, that's no criticism of Sammon who's as entertaining, informative and as grateful a host here as was Rudy Belmer or Roger Ebert on the Casablanca DVD. His enthusiasm for and knowledge of the film aren't the only things evident in his track. He's also, in spite of having seen Blade Runner very many times, clearly enjoying watching it all over again, leaving the audience in fine company with this commentary track.
All Our Variant Futures (28m33s): Charles de Lauzirika, Kurt Galvao and Paul Sammon are our hosts for this feature, which covers the years spent planning this DVD release and of completing Ridley Scott's preferred Final Cut of Blade Runner. The story begins in the early nineties with the Workprint showing at the 70mm festival, which was then followed by the release on DVD of the Director's Cut. It then jumps to 2000 and to Ridley Scott coming into meetings at Warner Brothers to discuss the release of a Special Edition of Blade Runner. However, as anyone with some knowledge of the film could tell you, Blade Runner became mired in legal battles, with this documentary presenting some of the history of those troubles. It's main interest, though, remains the production of this DVD and it skirts around the lack of access to original prints of the film by setting up a facility in a storage facility used by the Perenchio/Yorkin partnership, where de Lauzirika and Galvao begin cataloguing all of the material that is available to them.
The second part of this DVD picks up after the behind-the-scenes conflicts have been resolved, leaving de Lauzirika and Galvao able to work on the original film stock. From that point on, the documentary looks at the production of the Final Cut, with Scott involved once again and through friends and the interviews carried out for this boxset, fixing some of the continuity errors in the film, all of which are described above. Not terribly long, this feature is nonetheless impressive in what it is able to cover. Leaving the making of the film to other features in the set, this can focus solely on the Final Cut and does so very well, albeit slightly too technical at times with its behind-the-scenes footage of actors being shaken about before a green screen. That said and no matter seeing ILM and Weta work their magic on Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings, it's still a marvel to see the producers use Ben Ford, Harrison's son, to fix the lip sync problems in Blade Runner. The results are impressive but the means to do so, even to an executive in Warners knowing Ben Ford and offering to approach him, are even more so.
Introductions: Ridley Scott has recorded three introductions for this DVD, one for each version of the film. There's nothing really contained in these. Scott differentiates between the three versions of the film but nothing more, leaving each introduction thirty seconds long or thereabouts.
Dangerous Days (3h 34m 06s): This single, three-and-a-half hour feature on the making of Blade Runner is, length aside, one of the very best features that has yet been produced on the background to a film. If it ends too quickly - it rather brushes over the release of the film, how its reputation grew and the legal fight to get this DVD out - it's because the real focus of Dangerous Days is in the making of the film, from the writing of the script, to the final, rushed day of production, through the special effects, a post-production shoot in London and the editing of the film prior to release.
This feature deals with everyone that one would expect of such a making-of. From the beginning, Dangerous Days goes straight into the writing of the script, first with Hampton Fancher and than, when Ridley Scott wanted some fresh thoughts on it, David Peoples. Philip K Dick is a constant presence in those early days, with Fancher talking to the writer about the changes made to his Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? but the script is only the point from which the story begins. Dangerous Days describes the financing of the film, first via Filmways, then the Alan Ladd Company and the Bud Yorkin/Jerry Perenchio partnership, through its design, its filming and on to its release.
The special effects, with contributions from Douglas Trumbull, are examined in no small amount of detail as is the on-set production with there being a good deal of behind-the-scenes video footage of Scott talking with his cast, his DoP Jordan Cronenworth setting up shots and Trumbull and his team working on the effects shots with cityscapes, the Tyrell Corporation pyramid and the matte paintings used to extend shots into the far distance. Some of this, while interesting to see, is disappointing to see. The blimp that advertises the off-world colonies looks magical in the film but less so in the video footage of it bumping around in Trumbull's building. However, this is a minor complaint in a feature that is otherwise very special.
The feature also goes into detail on the famous feud that caused problems between cast and crew - "Yes Guv'nor my ass!" and "Xenophobia Sucks!" - complete with examples of the T-shirts that were worn on the opposing sides. All of this will be familiar to anyone who has read Future Noir - if you like, this is effectively an adaptation of that book - but it's no less interesting to have it presented in this boxset. The book goes into much more detail on the adaptation of the story but it's great to have so much of it presented here with so much detail and with everyone that one could have hoped for contributing to it.
Featurettes (2h 13m 52s): I watched this all in one go but there are a total of eight features on this disc, which cover many of the kind of details that Dangerous Days, with its interest in the production, neglected to. The first of these is a short documentary on Philip K Dick, made with the assistance of his son and daughter, fellow writers and archive sound and video clips of the writer talking about his work. There's mention of Total Recall and Minority Report to put Blade Runner in context, as an adaptation of a Dick novel rather than using a couple of the ideas present in a short story, but no reference of Philip K Dick's influence in other artistic forms, such as music, video games or comic books. This carries into the second feature, which looks at the differences between the book and the film, something that makes much more of what the book lost rather than what was gained by the film. The contributors draw attention to the addition of the word Replicant rather than Android to describe Tyrell's products. As well as the mood organ and the empathy box, many of Dick's concepts were cut from the book but what is drawn attention to is the section of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? in which Deckard is accused of being a Replicant, something that would return to haunt the film with the release of Scott's Director's Cut in 1992.
The most self-deprecating comment out of these features comes on the third, Signs Of The Times, in which graphic designer Tom Southwell, having spoken about all that he did for the film, including entry cards, stickers, ID badges, magazine covers and neon signs, says of Blade Runner, "I would say that half the stuff I did isn't on camera." Using stills from the film to demonstrate his point, he's not wrong, using these to illustrate many of his designs in deep background or, thanks to Scott's use of light and shadows, on the screen but buried in the blacks at the edges of the screen. A good example comes with the key entry card that Deckard uses to get into his apartment. The feature presents numerous designs for this card before showing the final version of the scene in which the card, from being in the shadows, is barely seen at all.
The next, short feature, introduces Mike Benton, the Casting Director of Blade Runner, and the footage of Stacey Nelkin and Nina Axelrod, who were unsuccessful in their testing for the parts of Pris and Rachael, respectively. Both are interviewed for this feature, talking about what they had hoped to bring to the film and why, ultimately, they didn't get the part. The Light That Burns is next on this disc, which sees the crew (and friends) pay tribute to the DoP Jordan Cronenworth. Ridley Scott, in particular, is very fulsome in his praise for Cronenworth with his only criticism being that his DoP took a long time to set up shots but which he quickly follows with, "...but usually the best ones do." There's a sad note to this feature as it ends with Cronenworth's death from Parkinson's Disease, which was misdiagnosed and treated for years as being multiple sclerosis but with a sense of something being done right by winning the BAFTA award for cinematography.
The late-seventies and early-eighties were a pretty magical time for film posters - look at the posters for the Star Wars films for proof of that - and Promoting Dystopia looks at the making of the original poster as well as the one that has graced the release of the film on DVD. No Blade Runner set would be complete without a study of whether or not Rick Deckard is a Replicant and this set delivers that question and maybe an answer with Deck-A-Rep, one that interviews the cast and crew for what it hopes to be the definitive answer. Scott continues to say that Deckard is a Replicant, as was implied by his 1992 Director's Cut, saying, "Can't be any clearer than that...if you don't get it, you're a moron!" Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption, disagrees, saying that the unicorn is Deckard thinking about Rachael's memories while the origami unicorn is Gaff's grace note to Deckard. Fancher's take on the glow in Deckard's eyes to match that of the Replicant's is, "When I saw that red shit in his eyes, I said, "Give me a break! No!"" Edward James Olmos, in something of a nod to the finale of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica, says of the matter, "We're throwing pebbles into that...that world that he was a Cylon but..."
These features conclude with Nexus Generation, a look back at what Blade Runner means to fans and filmmakers through interviews with directors, collectors and comic book writers. Unsurprisingly, no one has a bad word to say about it.
Outside of these features, there is a set of Alternate/Deleted Scenes (45m47s), which includes various different takes of scenes, some test special effects shots and some well-known cuts, including Deckard visiting Holden in hospital. Most of these scenes appear to have been deleted due to their featuring even more of the '82 Theatrical Cut voiceover, which doesn't so much narrate events as explain them for an audience that is half-asleep as though this were a picture-book. Taking one scene as an example, Ford's "I found the bar...and I found the scuzzball named Taffey Lewis" as Deckard enters a bar and sits down beside Taffey Lewis but, frankly, he sounds bored throughout even moreso than, as critics would have it, he looks in the film. There is also a pair of Alternate Endings that seem even more out of place than did the one in the Theatrical Cut.
There are three 1982 Promotional Features (36m21s), one a general on-the-set feature, another specifically for what, I'm guessing, was a science-fiction convention and a third that offers, without any soundtrack, glimpses behind-the-scenes at the set. Finally, there are six TV Spots And Trailers (7m24s), three from 1981/1982, one from 1992 and two that accompanied the release of the Final Cut in 2007.
I'm not at all disappointed. Truth be told, back when I first bought a DVD player, I wasn't that disappointed with the non-anamorphic release of the Director's Cut on DVD but those were early and more innocent days and would, if pushed, have said that anamorphic was something to do with attributing human characteristics to animals. This, though, is altogether the better release, with almost all the features that I could have asked for - one on the novels, videogames and proposed sequels would have been much appreciated - commentaries and a very complete history of the film told through five different versions. Without question, it's my DVD release of the year and after so many years of waiting, it's been a pleasure to immerse myself so completely in Blade Runner this week.
As a final note, can I recommend Future Noir: The Making Of Blade Runner by Paul M Sammon to anyone who has a sufficient interest in the film to purchase this set. It's probably entirely evident but it has been by my side throughout the writing of this review and is certainly in the running for being amongst the very best books written on the making of a film, being more comprehensive than even this five-disc set and so chock full of interviews with all the involved parties, comment and history that had Sammon not featured here, it would have been very much less a release. Indeed, without Sammon, I can't help but think that we might not even have this DVD. To him and to all the others who struggled to bring out this set, I would like to extend a note of thanks for producing such a wonderful box set. Their efforts have paid off handsomely. For those of us still sitting on the High Definition fence but who must have a copy of Blade Runner, I can't recommend this five-disc set any more than this, it is simply superb.