Blade Runner - 5 Disc Complete Collector’s Edition (HD-DVD) Studio: Warner Home Video Rated: R (Violence and brief nudity) Aspect Ratio: See individual discs. HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: See individual discs. Audio: See individual discs. Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Chinese; Japanese; Korean; Portuguese Time: See individual discs. Disc Format: See individual discs Case Style: Double keep case Theatrical Release Date: 1982 Blu Ray Release Date: December 18, 2007 Note: For the video portion of this set, I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Toshiba HD-XA2 HD-DVD player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. For the audio portion of this set, I listened to the tracks via the HDMI connection between the Toshiba HD- XA2 and the Denon 3808CI in direct mode, where no enhancements are made to the audio. After years of delay and speculation, Blade Runner finally gets the home video treatment it deserves with a five disc set available on standard definition DVD, Blu-Ray and, for this review, HD-DVD. Since each disc in this set has its own formats and content, I am going to break down each disc separately, with notes on each video and audio presentation as well as the special features. Set in an environmentally challenged Los Angeles of 2019, the opening of Blade Runner explains how the Tyrell Corporation has created biologically engineered “replicants”. These newest replicants, the Nexus-6 series, look and act just like humans, except they possess near superhuman strength. The replicants are being used on Earth and off world colonies to do manual labor and other work humans consider undesirable. Four of them, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Leon (Brion James) have rebelled and returned to earth, desperate to live free. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a “blade runner”, a human tasked with hunting down replicants and retiring (killing) them. Drawn back into service, Deckard is reluctant to pursue the four fugitives, but he eventually concedes. Deckard also meets Tyrell’s newest replicant, Rachel (Sean Young), with whom he develops a tentative relationship. Throughout the picture, Deckard finds his job harder than ever, leaving him and us questioning the nature of humanity and whether or not a replicants “life” is any less important than a “real” human. That is just one of the many themes and stories running throughout Blade Runner. The movie itself has opened up huge debate especially regarding Deckard and whether or not he is a replicant. There are clues throughout the entire picture and depending on which version you see, the answer can go either way. With The Final Cut, my mind was finally made up, and director Ridley Scott tells us exactly what he thinks in this matter. Each of the actors, most of whom were in the beginnings of their careers, give excellent performances in roles that they are still known for even after moving on to bigger things. I found it interesting what a heavy Asian influence is in the picture, as the 1980’s frame of mind suggests this culture will dominate in the future. This is in opposition to the more heavily Hispanic influence we see today, but the story was prescient enough to know there would be a shake up to the cultural landscape of LA. There is also a subtle environmental/ ecological message running throughout the movie as almost every scene is rain drenched and smoky, presumably from our man made damage to the environment. The picture is considered to be one of the most influential and ground breaking pictures ever made, particularly due to Scott’s vision, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth’s distinctive lighting and shots, Vangelis’ haunting synth score and almost every other technical aspect of the picture. I hadn’t seen Blade Runner in almost ten years, and I had to chuckle how much Coruscant, the galactic center of the Star Wars prequels, resembles LA of 2019. Almost every sci-fi film and a ton of music video’s and commercials have paid homage to the look of Blade Runner. The film has been the source of numerous debates due to the various cuts of the picture suggesting different ideas and outcomes. The picture, as it was released in 1982, had Ford doing a narration over most of it since test screenings thought the audience would not grasp what was happening. There was also a “happy ending” tacked on that negated many of the questions brought up and it ran contrary to the mood of the picture. With such a thematically dour movie, the poppy music and blue skies of this ending stands in sharp contrast to the rest. The 1982 international theatrical cut added in about a minute of footage, which was mostly longer scenes showing some more violence. The picture debuted to mixed critical reaction and a weak box office, and it only began to gain a cult following when it was released to the burgeoning home video market in the mid-‘80’s. New and old fans of the movie were able to dissect it scene by scene to figure out just what was meant in each one. During this time, its influence on set design and lighting was also being seen. In 1990, there was an inadvertent showing in LA of what is now called the “workprint version” of Blade Runner. This version had different credits and some different and extended shots, still no “unicorn dream sequence”, but the “happy ending” was dropped for the first time, leaving the viewers with a much different impression at the end. Once this “workprint” made it out, it was enough for Warner’s to commission a new “director’s cut” of the picture in 1992. While this version was closer to what Scott wanted, it still wasn’t perfect. The ’92 “director’s cut” lost the narration and “happy ending” and added in the “Deckard dream/ unicorn” scene. As the film has continued to build a fan base since the “director’s cut”, the demand for an elaborate special edition of Blade Runner has grown as well. In looking back at past Home Theater Forum chats with Warner Brothers, and having attended The Digital Bits DVD panels at the San Diego Comic-Con, the question of a special edition comes up immediately. Ridley Scott’s preferred DVD documentarian is Charles de Lauzirika, who has worked on such great DVD sets as the nine disc Alien set, the Gladiator special edition and the four disc Kingdom of Heaven set among others. de Lauzirika began work with Scott on this special edition years ago, compiling a huge amount of material and interviews regarding the making of the picture. Disc One: The Final Cut Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1. Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus English 5.1, French 5.1. Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Chinese; Japanese; Korean; Portuguese Time:. 117 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD Due to the continued interest in Blade Runner, Scott was allowed to go back and make upgrades to some effects, cut the film exactly how he wanted it and the film underwent a restoration process with new prints of it at 4k and 8k resolution. Color correction was done to Scott’s specifications, the negatives were cleaned to remove dirt and debris and the audio track went through a similar process. This new print/version, aptly titled “The Final Cut” is the subject of the first disc in the set. As I said above, this is Scott’s final cut of the picture, containing all of the material he wanted in the picture as well as the cuts he wanted. The most notable changes (making it resemble the ’92 “Director’s Cut”) are the absence of the narration and the “happy ending”, the addition of the “Deckard’s Dream/unicorn” scene and some additional crowd and street scenes. It appears the small snippets of violence (cut from the domestic theatrical release in ’82) are back. Some shots have been tightened up through Scott’s editing to bring the running time to 117 minutes. Scott has taken the opportunity to fix some obvious problems, such as the blue sky as Batty releases the dove and Cassidy’s noticeable stunt double as she crashes through the display window, with new digital effects. There are also a number of vocal elements corrected and numerous digital tweaks (removing stray crew members in the shot, wires supporting the vehicles and matte lines, etc.). Video: This new, HD print of Blade Runner was encoded at 1080p in the VC-1 codec. This is the best I’ve ever seen the picture look. The image is smooth and clean of any debris. I was shocked to see such a depth of field, particularly in the fly-bys of the Tyrell building. Detail is excellent, showing us so much of what went into the background thanks to the production designers. Sharpness is very good without going overboard giving the picture a natural, film like look. The colors in the film have always been a question for me since the smoke tended to taint them. With this new print, the neon pops much more than it used to and the smoke helps to enhance the color rather than diffuse it as it did on the older DVD versions. The rest of the color palate was purposely muted and drab to enhance the oppressive atmosphere caused by the rain and smoke. Flesh tones are at the will of the lighting of most scenes and they take on these influences. Black levels are very good showing detail in the shadows. With the distinctive use of lighting, many scenes appear to be almost in black and white as the intense xenon lights cuts through the darkness of The Bradbury building, for example. The story itself is influenced by the noir and detective genres, and this use of positive and negative lighting gives this aspect a visual presence. I noticed a little bit of grain when I got right up to my screen, but it was not noticeable at my viewing seat. I saw no edge enhancement either. This is a truly excellent transfer. Audio: I listened to the movie with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. While the new mix is not as stunning and revealing as the new video transfer was, this is still a solid track. There is much more presence to the soundstage as compared to the previous Dolby Digital tracks, and even more so than the Dolby Digital Plus tracks on disc three. Rain effects are placed all around you and this allows the panning effects to blend smoothly from speaker to speaker. Bass effects were smooth and natural but never overbearing. Surround effects were consistent with the screen action and they helped to keep you placed in the center of the soundstage. The soundtrack was free from any distortion, hiss or other distractions. Vocal elements were natural sounding. I’ve never been a fan of Vangelis score to this picture until now. Perhaps it’s just the mix and finally seeing the picture as it was intended to be seen in the home environment, but the music contributed to so much of the emotional impact of the story. I found myself going back to certain scenes to just watch and listen to what was on screen, to fully appreciate Cronenweth’s cinematography coupled with Vangelis music. I had always considered the score to be a product of the time, where sci-fi was expected to sound technical and futuristic. Now I finally get it, enough so that I may have to go out to get the re-issued and re-mastered CD. Bonus Material: There are three different feature length commentaries on Disc One: Director Ridley Scott: Scott does an excellent, comprehensive commentary where he discusses the story and its themes, the technical side of the film and personal anecdotes about the film. Scott is a fan of these tracks and it comes through here. This is an essential listen. Executive Producer/ Screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Screenwriter David Peoples, Producer Michael Deeley and Production Executive Katherine Haber: a bit of a mash-up of participants here, where we have the viewpoint of the behind the scenes producers and business side of film making, and the two writers discuss the story in depth. The pairs jump back and forth to keep the commentary moving. Visual Futurist Syd Mead, Production Designer Lawrence G. Paull, Art Director David Snyder and Special Photographic Effects Supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer: for all of you fans of how special effects were done before the digital age, this is a great commentary. The participants comment on the new effects as well as spending time on so much of the detail that goes by too fast while watching the film. Disc Two: Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays Audio: English DD 2.0 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish Time: 214 minutes Disc Format: 1 DVD-9 Okay, first of all, its 214 MINUTES LONG! The feature itself is 117 minutes long. Anyone with any further questions regarding the making of Blade Runner should re-watch this documentary because all questions should now be answered. Since Blade Runner has been one of the most requested titles to get a major special edition, Warner’s and de Lauzirika have let the participants speak and let the camera’s run. This is an exhaustive dissection of every aspect of the production, from start to now. de Lauzirika has compiled over 80 all new interviews with the cast, crew and other people in the film making industry to discuss Blade Runner. The documentary also contains never-before-released outtakes and on-set footage. While I was watching this doc, I was trying to think of a longer documentary on any DVD, and the only one that comes close is the one for Brazil. The production of Brazil also shared a lot of the same problems as Blade Runner, which is an interesting coincidence. I was at first nervous about spending over three and a half hours watching it, but my trepidation was soon quieted a few minutes into it. Dangerous Days is not only a documentary on Blade Runner, it provides a snap shot into film making in the early ‘80’s and some of the new challenges film makers had in a post Star Wars world. This brave new world thought sci-fi was the alleged next path to fortune and glory, so almost everyone had a futuristic picture in development. The fact that Scott and his team were allowed to achieve their vision (for the most part) seems to be a true stroke of luck. The documentary covers the problems the cast and crew were faced with (long night hours, tons of rain and smoke, financiers’ nervousness, etc) and showed how their dedication to this project made it the success it was. The documentary is split into eight chapters: Incept Date – 1980: Screenwriting and Dealmaking; Blush Response: Assembling the Cast; A Good Start: Designing the Future; Eye of the Storm: Production Begins; Living in Fear: Tension on the Set; Beyond the Window: Visual Effects; In Need of Magic: Post-Production Problems; To Hades and Back: Release and Resurrection. At the end of Dangerous Days, I could have easily gone back and watched it again and I’m sure I will in the future, it’s just that good. I was very pleased to have a lot of time devoted to Philip K. Dick, the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel the movie is based on. Ford contributes extensively and he still seems very enthused with the picture, much more so than in his interviews for the Star Wars documentary a few years ago. Each of the participants shares this enthusiasm and pride at having been involved with such an influential film. With the breadth, scope and length of Dangerous Days it is obvious de Lauzirika feels the same way and we the viewers reap the benefits. Disc Three: Archival Versions (1982 US and International Theatrical Cuts and 1992 Director’s Cut) Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1. Audio: Dolby Digital Plus English 5.1, English 2.0, French 2.0 (Parisian), French 2.0 (dubbed in Quebec). Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Chinese; Japanese; Korean; Portuguese Time: 1982 US Theatrical and 1992 Director’s Cut: 117 minutes. 1982 International Theatrical Cut: 118 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD These three versions of the picture are viewed via seamless branching. Scott does introductions to each picture separately or together (1:39 total). Here’s the difference between these three cuts: 1982 Theatrical Cut: features Deckard’s narration throughout, and the “happy ending” with Deckard and Rachel driving. This was not Scott’s preferred version until the final cut and the documentary on Disc Two goes into great detail about this version. 1982 International Theatrical Cut: the international theatrical cut is very similar to the US theatrical cut, but with a few seconds of additional violence (Pris’ nose grab when she fights Deckard and Batty crushing Tyrell’s head, for example). This was the version that was on home video for years while the film built its following. 1992 Director’s Cut: after the workprint was inadvertently shown, this was the first attempt to bring the film closer to Scott’s vision. It removes the narration and the “happy ending” and adds in the unicorn sequence to suggest Deckard was a replicant. Scott says this is still not his preferred version, but its here for completeness sake. Video: These versions on this disc seem to be closer to the previous DVD release of The Director’s Cut. The image is not quite as sharp and clean as The Final Cut, and there seems to be more grain in the darker scenes. While the HD encoding improves it, these versions do not look as good as the one on the first disc. Audio: For these versions, we were given a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack. This soundtrack lacked the warmth and robustness of the Dolby TrueHD track on Disc One, but it is satisfactory in all other ways. Since these versions are here for completeness sake, there was not much need to give the soundtracks the upgrade to Dolby TrueHD. Disc Four: Enhancement Archive This disc is presented in standard definition DVD (on all formats). It is split into three sections: Inception, Fabrication, and Longevity. It is in English with no subtitles. The main menu lets you choose which of the three parts you want to view, or you can hit the Access button to play all of the featurettes. I’ll break down each section separately. Inception: The Electric Dreamer: Author Phillip K. Dick (14:23): various writers talk about Dick’s work in general, as well as some vintage clips of Dick talking about his work and influences. Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. the Film (15:10): contributors talk about the translation of the book to the film and the difficulties inherent in this process. Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews (23:00): these interviews were conducted by Paul M. Sammon (author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner) over several sessions from 1980-1982. The interviews show Dick’s initial apprehension towards the movie then he warms up to it as it got closer to release. Fabrication: Signs of the Times: Graphic Design (13:40): Production Illustrator Tom Southwell discusses the art work behind the film including so much of the little things we barely see as set dressing (magazines, lettering and symbolism in the artwork, for example). Fashion Forward: Wardrobe and Styling (20:40): Michael Kaplan, the costume designer, discusses the influences to the costuming as well as how he achieved the final products. Screen Tests: Rachel and Pris (8:54): this section includes the filmed screen tests of Sean Young, Daryl Hannah and the two females who didn’t make the cut, Nina Axelrod and Stacy Nelkin (who would have played another replicant) The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth (19:58): this retrospective of Cronenweth is one of my favorite segments on the entire set. His son Scott talks about his father’s work, as do others he influenced. This is an excellent piece that shows how important the cinematographer can be to the overall look of the picture as well as how convincing the final product is. Deleted and alternate scenes (47:37): there are 24 deleted scenes and alternate takes which can be viewed together or separately. Together, they provide a bare bones look at the story, but in a new way, with abandoned shots and scenes. Many of these clips have never been seen before and they are of varying quality. Some of these scenes allow us to see what the final film could have been if different choices were made. Deckard’s narration is present throughout many of the scenes. An excellent look into those missing pieces of Blade Runner’s history. Longevity: 1982 Promotional Featurettes: On the Set (14:18), Convention Reel (13:11), Behind the Scenes Outtakes (8:41). These vintage pieces are showing their age. There are interviews with Scott, Ford, Hauer and others in the first one, complete with a tough guy voice over. The participants discuss their roles and the story. The second one has Scott introducing the movie and then there is a short film on the picture, focusing on the art design and effects with Scott explaining the movie. Syd Mead discusses the technology behind the world and Doug Trumball explains how they do it. The third one has no audio and is as it’s titled. Trailers: 1981 teaser, 1982 theatrical, 1982 TV spot, 1992 Director’s Cut Trailer, 2007 Dangerous Days teaser, 2007 Final Cut trailer. The trailers are of varying quality. I always enjoy seeing how much trailers have changed over the years. Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art (9:27): Poster artists John Alvin and Drew Struzan discuss the concept and execution of the posters. They also discuss life for the artist in the digital age. I’m a big Stuzan fan, so it’s great to have him on this set to discuss his process. Deck-a-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard (9:28): Some of the contributors of the Dangerous Days doc talk about how the replicants think and act and how Deckard figures into it all. The argument continues with supporting evidence for each on whether Deckard is human or replicant. Edward James Olmos makes a hilarious slip, so pay close attention. Nexus Generation: Fans and Filmmakers (21:47): again, many of the contributors we’ve previously met talk about the influence of Blade Runner to filmmaking, to them and to society in general. Disc Five: Workprint Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1. Audio: Dolby Digital Plus English 5.1 Subtitles: English; Spanish; French. Time: 110 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD This is the first ever home video release of the workprint. It was mistakenly shown in Los Angeles in 1990 and it stirred up huge speculation regarding what the movie really meant and just what happened during production that resulted in the theatrical version. This version features alternate footage, music and voice-over. The “workprint” was a temp version of the film that was originally shown to preview audiences. The fact that it slipped out, igniting controversy on the meaning of the movie and asking the question: did something go wrong that led to the released version? Scott basically says the “workprint” is an accident and not the way he intended anyone to see the film. As a completist when it comes to movies I like, I’m very happy this version was included on the set. Video: The transfer leaves a lot to be desired, but it is a work in progress for the most part and it was cleaned up to an extent. The picture is very grainy and dark and black levels continually crush into the lighter parts of the picture. Color fidelity is good, but again, it is affected by the darkness of the picture. Detail and sharpness are fair but the grain and film debris obscure quite a bit. Audio: The audio track is in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, but you would never really know it. The track features a few directional effects, but it sounds like a stereo presentation. The sound levels fluctuate as does the quality of the track. LFE’s are minimal. Since we are now up to the fifth disc in the set, I would almost recommend just watching this version with the commentary on. Bonus Material: Commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner: by now, Sammon has been seen on many of the bonus features on the other disc, but he presents an excellent commentary and trivia about this version. As it goes on, he explains the differences the workprint is known for and why these changes were made. He provides a good end cap to the set. All Our Variant Futures (28:31) (in standard definition, MPEG-2, 480p): as we close out disc five and this spectacular set, we are shown the history behind the film’s multiple versions and we get a look at what went into making The Final Cut. We get to see some archival footage of when this process of restoring Blade Runner began in 2001 as The Blade Runner Partnership. de Lauzirika guides us through the shooting of Cassidy’s redo of the Zhora death scene, Ben Ford’s dubbing scenes, the generation of new effects and sound elements. This piece could be considered an epilogue to this set allowing de Lauzirika to have an after word. Conclusions: Ladies, gentleman and replicants, I give you my pick for release of the year. This is one of the best, if not the best, collector’s edition I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. A good home presentation should have equality between the picture itself, the audio, the video and the extras. Blade Runner excels at each of these, and Charles de Lauzirika and his team should be congratulated for such an effort. The fact that we get to see it in high definition is icing on the cake. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!