Blade Runner 5 Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition
US Release Date: December 18, 2007
Disc One: Blade Runner - The Final Cut
The Film - 5 out of 5
Masterpiece is a word that has been used far too often. Films that barely deserve the honor of being placed into the assembly of monumental cinematic treasures find themselves labeled as masterpieces, and their unmerited foray into such hallowed ground seems to dilute the air of greatness that surrounds them. It is with that preface that I say Blade Runner, a film whose achievement and supreme influence is both immense and immeasurable, categorically earns the accolade as an absolute masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made.
I first saw Blade Runner on VHS when I was nine years old. I didn’t fully understand everything at that time as Blade Runner was a rare and complex beast; a film whose grand science-fiction concept was enfolded in a textured and bleak environment, filled with such profound dark and light that it became as much a character as Harrison Ford’s Deckard or the replicants he hunted. But even back then, I knew this film was ahead of its time. I have come to appreciate ever further Ridley Scotts intensely crafted and maniacally molded vision of Los Angeles set in the year 2019. The film is so rich, layered and mesmerizing, that it demands everyone’s unflinching attention and begs for repeat viewings.
Blade Runner takes its story underpinnings from seminal science fiction writer Philip K Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ The basic premise for both the book and the film is the hunt by a Detective Deckard for rogue replicants; androids who are dangerous and nearly indistinguishable from humans, and illegal on earth. The revelation of the book and film, however, is not in the high brow plotting but rather the striking subtext that explores the nature of humanity, the careless disregard it has for all life and the wretchedness that it is capable of.
Detective Richard Deckard, retired from the Blade Runner Unit, finds himself pulled back in to track and eliminate four Replicants. These Replicants staged an uprising in an off-world colony and have come back to earth for unknown reasons, something that Deckard finds curious. Blade Runners are bounty hunters in the employment of the police force who specialize in the hunting of Replicants, and Deckard is regarded as the best.
Written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Blade Runner ran counter-culture to the mood of the US when it was first released in 1982. That year saw a slew of films that obviously tapped into the national feel good psyche at the time; films that were good natured, uplifting and of entirely approachable subject matter, led by Spielberg’s E.T, and joined by films such as Tootsie, Porky’s, and Annie. Science-Fiction was enjoying a definite upswing, thanks in large part to Star Wars, but darker science fiction couldn’t quite get a foot hold.
But Ridley Scott’s vision has proved to be an enduring work and has grown, initially through the efforts of the fervent few, into its rightful place amongst the cinematic greats permanent.
Blade Runner is perhaps Scott’s definitive work. He created a world on screen that filled each frame with such thorough detail and a saturatingly unwelcoming tone that has long held me in awe. It is a film that presents, with rare perfection, exceptional story, characters, plot and a cinematic imagination of real marvel. I was impacted deeply when I first saw this film and it has stayed with me with every movie, especially science fiction, ever since.
Ridley’s vision, whose bleak tone scared away the masses in 1982, has slowly formed legions of fans around the world, a world that is closer now than ever to the complex, crowded and chaotic future depicted so well. In eleven years, the real world will have caught up with the timeframe where the events of the future-noir masterpiece, Blade Runner, took place. Unlike films such as 2001, Escape from New York and others, Ridley Scott's ideas of a dehumanizing and austere existence appears to have been a portent of distinct possibilities. This prescient tale has long been in need of the special edition treatment and with this Ultimate Collectors Edition – prayers have been answered.
‘The Final Cut’ is a phenomenal treat – finally delivering to the world the version that Ridley is most content with. But this all new version of the film is just the tip of the iceberg.
At last! Never have the moody dark interior scenes popped so crisply with the unrelenting dance of peering lights; nor have the crowded bombardment of neon signs glowed so much as they do in this painstakingly repaired and assembled cut of the film. Disc one of this Blu-Ray edition provides that ultimate version of Scott’s film in its original aspect ratio, 2.40:1 and encoded VC-1, 1080p. Not every element produces the giddy grin of satisfaction that the pitch-perfect opening does, with the unending industrialized landscape sprawling off to the horizon with an inundation of lights and tall towers spewing fire into the murky sky, but the improvements over any previous home release are substantial.
A dark film such as this can live and die on black levels and clarity – fortunately, it is gorgeous on both counts. Deep blacks, vibrant colors and stunning clarity at times belie the age of the film. But not all shots are premium. I am happy with the level of natural film grain with this release, but some of the very dark, lower-lit scenes and some of the visual effects shots have more grain than seems appropriate. But those moments seem to me to be fleeting and are in no way a reason to fret.
As I mentioned, the opening vista of Hades is stunning and, perhaps simply because it is one of the images that has remained with me through the years, but that shot is dripping with improvement. The clarity of the all-seeing eye that we see the reflection in and our first pass up and into the Tyrell building is delightful. Other notable impressive moments can be found on the shots of Deckard in the Spinner with Gaff and the final act of the film as Batty (Rutger Hauer) taunts and chases a bruised Deckard through the guts of the decrepit building.
Blade Runner; The Final Cut on disc one of this set comes with a strong Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, in addition to Dolby Digital English 5.1, and French 5.1 audio track options.
From the boom of Vangelis’ haunting opening track resonating through the subwoofer, through the relentless rainfall and the whiz of the spinners into and out of frame, the aural experience is engaging and engrossing. The odd flatness you get with some of the dialogue, the quality of the audio track is high. One of notable moments for the audio comes, not during a spirited fight or the moody atmospheric musings of Vangelis’ outstanding synth score, but rather during the opening exchange between a twitchy Leon and Detective Holden. As Leon’s stress mounts, his heart beat permeates the speakers giving that moment more edge and tension than ever before. The surrounds are also frequently employed, and not just for the passing Spinners – it seems they are constantly bustling with ambient noise and emotive score.
Introduction by Ridley Scott: – (0:37) – Ridley Scott introduces this cut of Blade Runner, as his definitive version.
Commentary by Ridley Scott: – A fascinating commentary track, as much for the topic as the person delivering it. The best commentaries will tell you things you didn’t know; the why’s and how’s behind shots and scenes and the history of things. I found that with each commentary on this cut and on the Work Print version, they were filled with sumptuous details of the why’s and how’s, the struggles and successes all wrapped in impressions of the experience and end results that were honest and appreciative. As Ridley Scott discusses the opening shot, in some detail, he shares how the opening scroll came about and the desire to run the credits before the powerful Hades shot that so quickly establishes the tone of the picture and the industrial imperialism that the world of the future had become.
Hearing this marvelously talented and precision driven director describe his influences, the genesis of some of the ideas that went into what he shot, is a genuine pleasure. He discusses the inspiration he found from the Heavy Metal comic books and the crowded and noise polluted Hong Kong of the early 80’s - with the Asian culture being the one with the most longevity and eventual influence over all others. The film, written as a noir throwback but set in the future, was a foundational palette for some of the film’s most striking visuals, as Scot describes it, “future noir” and “grimly inhospitable”.
Most satisfying, however, is the discussion that Scott holds with himself on the philosophical pondering that Blade Runner has proffered for over 25 years. Not only on the more salient questions of Deckard’s status (human or replicants), but on the state of humanity, the eerie predictive nature of the subject matter and Scott’s interpretation and what makes us human and how we so easily let it slip.
Lastly, the technical details that Scott provides prove just as fascinating as the more philosophical discussions. The unique challenges in creating the smoky, polluted cityscape scenes and the ingenious solutions to the technical hurdles that presented are a great reminder of just how talented these people are.
Commentary by Executive Producer/Screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Screenwriter David Peoples, Producer Michael Deeley and Production Executive Katherine Haver: – Perhaps because 25 years have past and the troubled and strenuous shoot of Blade Runner well documented, but the frankness of the audio commentary is very refreshing. Aside from the healthy excess of appreciation exchanged between writer Hampton Fancher and the screenwriter brought in by the producers to relieve him, David Peoples, the commentary is a great informing of perspective. The commentaries by the two writers and those from the producer and production executive were clearly recorded in separate sessions, and then weaved together into a single, full commentary track.
The writers provide a somewhat livelier track, but no more or less interesting than they co-commentators with each sharing great tales from the production, providing peaks into the politics of making a film and the specific hurdles and painful times.
Commentary by Visual Futurist Syd Mead, Production Designer Lawrence G. Paull, Art Director David Snyder and Special Effects Supervisors Douglass Trumball, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer: – Again, the commentaries were recorded in separate sittings but still remain a great listen. I find it difficult to comprehend that the film only contains 90 effects shots. Ridley Scott’s establishment of atmosphere and tenor in Blade Runner is earned in large part on establishing shots, at the beginning and throughout the film as the geisha adorned electronic billboards flash among the dominant, dark and looming architecture, bathed in polluted air and searching lights. Trumball and fellow professionals crafted special effects that are as effective today as they were back in 1982. These talents, coupled with those of futurist Syd Mead and others, gave this film endurance unlike the greater majority of films. It is great to hear excitement in their voices about the project all these years later. The sense of pride for the work they produced is evident during the commentary.
You will not find a more comprehensive and utterly absorbing look into the production of a film, from soup to nuts, than Charles de Lauzirika’s sublime Dangerous Days. It stands out for its thoroughness and care in detailing almost every aspect of the film.
The progression through the history of Blade Runner is broken out into eight comprehensive chapters, with interviews with all the major cast and crew.
The entire Dangerous Days documentary is a benchmark for digging into the details that matter the most – and one of the ways that it’s high level of quality is set is by the thoroughness which it tackles every aspect of Blade Runner. That endeavor to detail the production scrupulously is evident when an interview segment with a key grip pops on screen. So often behind the scenes featurettes and pseudo-documentaries focus on only the names that make it to the poster or DVD cover – and in doing so lose a valuable perspective on what it took to bring a vision to the big screen.
Incept Date - 1980: Screenwriting and Dealmaking – The origins of the project are discussed in this opening chapter. The cast, crew and other ‘experts’ provide endless interesting snippets of information and reminiscences from the ‘inception’ of the Blade Runner film project. This exceptional walk back to the very beginning of this fascinating story provides details I was not aware of. Specifically, how the Blade Runner title was actually borrowed from a William S. Burroughs book and the alternate titles considered for the film before Blade Runner was eventually settled on. The chronicling of the challenges the project experienced with writer Hampton Fancher along with a look at some of the storyboarded scenes that were conceptualized but never realized.
Blush Response: Assembling the Cast: – Choosing the right talent for the role is a significant challenge – something that is apparent with the showing of some rarely seen screen test footage of other actors considered for key roles. Perhaps by sheer fate, Harrison Ford was in the UK working on Raiders of the Lost Ark and came to the mind of producers. Other actors considered for the role, either by Hampton Fancher during the writing stage or the producers early in the game include some extremely interesting ideas. The cast members again provide a great deal of personal perspective and recalling of experiences, with Darryl Hannah, Sean Young and Joanna Cassidy looking beautiful still.
A Good Start: Designing the Future – What a revelation Syd Mead proved to be. Not only were many of his great ideas used, but his understanding of the logical evolution and application of many of those concepts were adopted. With Ridley’s eye for detail and patience to show it, much of Mead’s vision (and others, including Ridley) fused into the designing of what became an augury of tomorrow.
Eye of the Storm: Production Begins – We really get to peer inside the mammoth complexity of this production. Ridley’s visionary mind and expert eye for visual stimulation were clearly taxing on cast and crew alike. The discussion of the ‘love scene’ is of particular interest here. Sean Young openly discusses how they approached the scene and some of the hurdles she had in completing it.
This chapter, like the others, has some great unseen footage also.
Living in Fear: Tension on the Set – I am sure that almost every Hollywood (and off-Hollywood) movie experiences tension; a disconnect of sorts, between those with the money and those with the creative task to put that money to use. Just how tense the situation can become is likely the only real variable and on Blade Runner, it has been discussed and conjectured about quite a bit. That tension is discussed during this chapter and is really quite engrossing. While time has clearly shown Ridley Scott to be right, that push and pull between accounting and creative forces can create great results. Potential scenes cut; storyboarded but never developed beyond that, would have produced some great visuals. But, having seen and appreciated the movie in all its forms, those scenes would have affected the claustrophobic tone.
Beyond the Window: Visual Effects – It is mentioned a few times through the special features in this collection that Blade Runner represents the last major science fiction special effects film made; the ‘last analogue FX’ film. The advent of computer generated effects, an evolution that has proliferated to the point of saturation recently, has added a dimension and fluidity to film that takes the viewer to places, and in ways, not achievable before. However, Blade Runner succeeded in ways that no CGI film has, to create a fully immersive environment that is more complete and textured than any other. It used effects to accent and complete that world, but Blade Runnerexists as a completely realized world without an ounce of CGI. Everything from the force perspective miniatures, photo-etching (acid etched brass), optical composites and having all the effects being ‘in camera’ are discussed. What you see here is the remarkable understanding by the effects professionals of depth, perspective, focus and colors – how magicians with light, models, matte paintings, lenses and film can achieve astonishing results.
This chapter showcases the many ingenious ideas and solutions of the visual effects.
In Need of Magic: Post-Production Problems – The monumental task of pulling together a cut of the movie and the final decision on the need for the voice over become the core of this chapter. In discussing the crafting of the final narrative and the excising of scenes that were deemed unnecessary, plus the final decision to include the voice over narration, this chapter sincerely reflects on those moments of the film’s final stages and includes some original Harrison Ford narration where the actor clearly exhibits frustration and even disbelief at what he was being asked to read.
To Hades and Back: Release and Resurrection – This film was not well reviewed upon its initial release, generating a “love it or hate it” sentiment in many. But for a large number of people, it struck a chord. It has become a film of incredibly potent inspiration, with its power and vision influencing great filmmakers and films such as David Fincher, The Wachowski Brothers’ ‘Matrix trilogy’ and just about every serious sci-fi film since. This chapter traces the birth of Blade Runner to the public, how it was misunderstood for its time and slowly found the respect it deserved with the growth of the home video market.
Trailers: This disc also contains trailers for I Am Legend, InvasionFracture and Superman: Doomsday
The Film - 4 out of 5
This is the version that is most maligned by fans, yet it is the version, with few exceptions, that introduced to the world the spectacular sci-fi concept, vision and outstanding special effects; the first exposure to the film that inspired a generation of filmmakers and science-fiction nerds the world over. Even with the clunky voice-over narration, which seems ever more out of place today, it still stands as a remarkable and visionary accomplishment. I have a soft spot for this version, because it was the first indelible impression of how bleak the future could be (and how bleak humanity was even back then).
Blade Runner is known for its throwback to detective stories from the 40’s, an element that was quickly defined by the narration. As has been commented on by fans and even Harrison Ford himself, there really isn’t much detective work going on in the film, and nor does it need it, but the presence of that voice-over set the filter with which millions of us have come to understand and appreciate the film.
Until word of the Workprint got out and the eventual release in 1992 of the Warner Bros. director’s cut, this was the defining version of the film, with the marvel of its dour, dystopian tomorrow and the densely layered canvas of that world resonating with the few and now the many.
At the end of the day, I believe the Director’s Cut and 2007’s Final Cut wouldn’t mean as much, nor matter as completely, without the groundwork of this flawed version.
The Film - 4 out of 5
Very little separates this version from the original theatrical version outside of a few extra moments of violence, particularly during Tyrell’s death at the hands of Roy Batty.
The Film - 5 out of 5
This is the first official version that removes the almost universally disliked narration. Gone also is the ridiculously tacked on ‘happy ending’ as Deckard and Rachael drive away from the mechanized industrial madness of the dark and dirty city, heading for the lush and beautiful green that nature still produces.
The famed unicorn scene can also be found for the first time in this version, adding fuel to the fire of speculation over whether Deckard was a lost man who finds his humanity as he hunts down the escape replicants or whether he himself was a replicants who finds meaning (and humanity) while hunting down the replicant escapees. A superior version to the theatrical cut as the omission of the narration allows the subtleties of Ford’s performance and the incredibly powerful atmosphere to appeal to the viewer’s intellect rather than be given verbal instructions by a somewhat monotone detective.
The Video- 4 out of 5
Theatrical Version: 4 out of 5
International Version: 3.5 out of 5
Director’s Cut: 3.5 out of 5
While the image on these three versions is good, they don’t match up to the exceptional quality of the new, 2007 ‘Final Cut’. The most obvious issue is the softness that is present through most of the film. Again, the quality is still good but watching these after the new cut (unless of course you choose to experience them all chronologically) highlights the weakness.
The Sound- out of
Theatrical Version: out of
International Version: out of
Director’s Cut: out of
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track available on each of these versions, just as with the video, has a little taken off the top because of the comparison to ‘The Final Cut’ and that the oomph and more satisfying envelopment of the Dolby TrueHD track are missing. I am not sure which is my preferred version of the film now; because I have a distinct soft spot for the theatrical version and a deep appreciation for the intellectually more appealing Director’s cut. But with the superior audio and video available on the 2007 version, these versions may just find themselves taking 2nd through 4th spots in my ranking.
The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick – An interesting profile of the Hugo winning author, discussing the man and his influences. Dick was clearly a very serious writer grappling with issues of morality and humanity, choosing to explore such serious themes in the genre of science fiction. The rare footage of the man is special to see and it is sad that this well read author with an anti-authoritarian streak died shortly before Blade Runner was release to theaters.
Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel Vs. The Film – A fascinating comparison between the original source material and the Blade Runner we have all come to cherish and respect. Despite being vastly different in a number of ways, the tone that Ridley achieves is faithful to the book, with Harrison Ford capturing Dick’s idea of the Replicant hunter perfectly. This is one of the most intriguing of the featurettes on disc four serving, as a comparative discussion between the mediums and how the visions differ but retain a sense of bleakness and despondency.
Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews – This extra is not accessible via the ‘play all’ feature but is a revealing peak into the mind and opinions of the author. His disdain for the movie making process reveals in him an inherent distrust or dislike for establishment and corporation over creativity, but not an unreasonable one. This extra is broken into 14 questions and answers and is well worth the time.
Signs of the Times: Graphic Designs – This is a great look at the original graphic designs that are so complex and intricate that, as the interviewees remark, are really works of art. This impressive look at the process to create a design, small or large, seen or unseen by the camera in the end (such as the many magazine covers) is shown here.
Fashion Forward: Wardrobe & Styling – This is a look at the creation of the costumes and how they were influenced by the ‘noir’ theme of the material as well as the set design. You get a glimpse at some of the design drawings and they discuss how the plentiful extras that populated Ridley’s bustling and crowded street scenes required a large team of costume and make-up artists.
Screen Tests: Rachael and Pris – This extra shows two full screen tests for actors trying for the role of Rachael and the role of Pris. This is a good look at just how different these characters could have been in the hands of different actors.
The Lights That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenworth – A very nice featurette remembering the remarkable Director of Photography. This master of contrasts, painting with light was responsible for achieving many of the movies beautiful shots.
Deleted & Alternate Scenes – (47:39) – 24 deleted and alternate scenes that have been reconstructed from various elements. They include many with Deckard’s narration, and also an alternate opening title sequence. The narration found here is particularly awkward but a must see. A lot of these deleted scenes are referenced throughout the various documentary and additional materials in the set but are stitched together very well here.
1982 Promotional Featurettes:
On The Set, Convention Reel, Behind-the-scenes Outtakes – The original promo featurettes are a little dated but fun to see. The production featurette (on the set) is a marketing piece with some nice behind the scenes footage, including some of Harrison Ford discussing the role, his character and the story. The convention reel has Blade Runner footage set to some bad 70’s music and the behind the scenes outtakes are a great little addition as well.
1981 Teaser Trailer
1982 Theatrical Trailer
1982 TV Spot
1992 Director’s Cut Trailer
2007 Dangerous Days Teaser Trailer
2007 Final Cut Trailer
Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art – This looks at the marketing of the film and the creation of the final poster art (and subsequent Director’s Cut DVD cover art). Poster art from the international market is briefly shown also – the Italian poster is particularly bad.
Deck-a-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard – This conversation on whether indeed Deckard is a replicant or not is fun. A divisive concept that generates exciting ideas and conversation. Here, actors, producers and others provide their opinion on that all-important question.
Nexus Generation: Fans and Filmmakers – Guillermo del Toro, Dennis Muren, Mark Romanek, Joe Carnahan and others comment on how Blade Runner has influenced them as filmmakers.
The Film- out of
I had always been intrigued by this rumored alternate version of a film that I adored. A version that was loved by those who had been fortunate to see it. Before the Director’s cut was released, this was the version that did not have the narration (except for the very end) and, because of that, was a much more satisfying piece. In this Workprint version of the film, which is a really exciting peer into the process of an early assembled cut of Ridley’s masterpiece, you will find quite a few differences, though many are subtle. Most differences are in either the angle used for a shot or small pieces of scenes not being where you remember them or a shot lingering a little longer. I would recommend viewing this version of the film, not only to completists, but to anyone who has a genuine interest in the filmmaking process; the process for continuing to mold a film in post-production after the feedback from selected groups and individuals has started coming in.
The Video- out of
By comparison to the four other versions of the film available in this set, the Workprint is by far the lesser quality version in terms of both video and sound. But that is exactly what it should be, an unfinished, not fully realized or complete version of the film, used solely to get a sense of the final product and where changes, etc will need to be made. If nothing else, the use of James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith temp track music during the final act will remind you that this is not a completed version. The video, therefore, is grainier and darker than the other version, especially during the effects sequences. It is still presented in the 2.2:1 aspect ratio and is well worth investing your time.
The Sound- out of
Soft in the center channel, with uneven audio levels, you are reminded again while watching this that it is unfinished. Somehow watching this version gives a far greater appreciation for all other versions and just how slight changes can be in order to make a big difference.
The audio available is Dolby Digital 5.1 and, despite its rawer nature, some sequences sound genuinely good. But overall, don’t expect too much.
The Extras- out of
Introduction by Ridley Scott: – Another quick introduction by the director.
Commentary by Paul M. Sammon, Author of ‘Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner: – This commentary track is wall to wall information from what could accurately be described as a true authority on the film. Paul Sammon provides intellectual ponderings and an abundance of facts and trivia. He waxes poetically about the ideas and essence of the film and its ultimate intent. What is particularly noteworthy about this commentary is how Paul describes the differences between each of the versions while comparing them to the workprint.
All Our Variant Futures: – (28:32) – This exhaustive set concludes with a look at the astonishing and monumental (Thanks Charlie!!!) undertaking, bringing all the geographically dispersed elements of film, etc together and putting in the grand effort to restore the film to its deserved glory. Charles De Lauzirika leads the way in sharing how the project came about and ultimately became the effort to bring you all that this set provides.
By taking the ‘purist’ approach, the project retained integrity and upheld with the noblest effort the Blade Runner vision.
The section covering the new special effects produced for ‘The Final Cut’ highlight the lengths this team went to in order to preserve the original. The effort to put Joanna Cassidy’s face over the stuntwoman during Zhora’s death sequence and even bringing in Harrison Ford’s son, whose mouth is uncannily similar to his fathers, to help replace Deckard’s mouth during a scene where the original audio was missing, is to be applauded.
To have all this material, so brilliantly produced and presented, be available for one of cinema’s greatest films is a true gift. To have all of this available for one of my all time favorite films leaves me speechless.
A fine collection of insightful, thoughtful and attentive documentary works and featurettes that will mesmerize you for hours and hours. Every single piece is fantastic and as a whole, is outstanding.
The only thing I wish this set had was a little more on Vangelis and his extraordinary and original score. But, getting to hear his nuanced synth score in Dolby TrueHD is enough to satiate that need.
In closing, I say this - it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or what you were planning to do – run out and pick this set up right now – don’t even think about it – just do it!