My word, this one has been a very long time coming. A special edition DVD of 'Blade Runner' was mooted as early as 2002 and those of us who passionately love this film have been very patient over the duration.
It has been worth it. This five disc set, which in Region 2, comes in a nifty little tin, is the last word in the 'Blade Runner' saga. It's everything you could possibly want - all versions of the film supported by a wealth of material, much of which has been talked about but never seen until now.
OK, let's start with the film itself. Sir Rid introduces his Final Cut on Disc 1 and categorically states this is his preferred version. He hasn't made any huge changes, just fine tuned a bone fide classic, so anyone getting hot under the collar about the re-shoots that were done recently should take a chill pill and relax.
Changes range from the very subtle, where various FX shots have been tweaked or alternate takes have been used through to extended scenes such as the unicorn day dream and Batty's murder of Tyrell, which is significantly more violent now. And I defy you to pick holes in the two sequences which have been corrected - Zhora's death and the conversation between Deckard and the owner of the snake emporium. It's quite amazing what they've done there. And the finale, with Batty's release of the dove, is much improved.
The film hasn't looked better in my opinion. It's a clean, pristine transfer and the blacks and detail in shadow are phenomenal. It's also clear that some attention has been paid to the colour grading and highlights and hues are certainly less fizzy here than on previous transfers I've seen. It's debatable if the grade here will please everyone but for me it suits the dystopian aesthetic.
The remixed sound is also a great improvement. Stereo elements are well placed across the sound stage, and you'll notice this particularly when Spinners go whizzing by your head, and Vangelis' music is treated with great subtlety and given its due prominence.
It's still a stunning, thought provoking film and one of the first truly immersive cinematic experiences where the future-world building is so detailed, complex and 'real' that Los Angeles 2019 and its inhabitants become second nature to those of us who love this film. And beneath all of the art direction and visual effects there is a very human story unfolding where the supposedly in-human, child like replicants undergo an emotional rites of passage and achieve a nobility that the humans who reject them can only dream of achieving. The central figure of Deckard is still the focus of all of our questions about humanity, whether that is the sum of our memories or our unconditional love or both. Sir Rid works on the premise that Deckard is a replicant but the film itself leaves it open to interpretation and I think it's better left that way. Ford's performance is restrained but appropriate, with bursts of emotion entirely fitting with his repressed nature.
All the performances are terrific, particularly Rutger Hauer as Batty, William Sanderson as J.F. Sebastian and Joe Turkel as Tyrell. Hauer specifically tunes into Batty's child-like view of the universe and brilliantly essays the character's enforced maturity and God-complex. If there is a weaker performance, then it's probably Sean Young as Rachel. It is clear that she was an inexperienced actor and it does often show in the performance with a little too much hesitation and tentativeness. But it doesn't unbalanced the film and she looks utterly stunning.
I haven't explored the three commentaries on the first disc yet but you'll be pleased to know that Sir Rid is featured on one track, the writers on a second track and the visual effects team on a third. Enough to satisfy ardent fans, I think.
Disc Two - This contains the three hour 'Dangerous Days' documentary and all I can say is you will not be disappointed. It is the most detailed film about the making of 'Blade Runner' and takes you in measured stages from the writing, through the casting, shooting and visual effects of the film. It covers in depth the screen testing for Pris and Rachel, the antagonisms between Sir Rid and the U.S. crew, including the infamous T-Shirt wars, and the building of sets, vehicles and the shooting of effects as well as the reception that awaited the film on release. It is exhaustive to the nth degree and features interviews with all the major players, including Harrison Ford. I sat down to just watch a segment of this and ended up stuck in my seat for nearly three hours! It is that engrossing, I assure you and all the way through you will be jumping up and down in your seat as all sorts of rare footage goes whizzing by.
Discs Three And Five - These contain all the versions wou will ever want to own of 'Blade Runner'. You've got the one with the voice over, the international cut, the Director's Cut all branched on Disc Three and finally, the very rare Workprint on Disc Five. This is the version that sneaked out in 1990 and prompted the release of the Director's Cut in 1992. The Workprint also has a commentary on it from 'Blade Runner' expert Paul Sammon. Also on Disc 5 is a great little documentary - All Our Variant Futures - which delves into all the different versions of 'Blade Runner' and the restoration of the film as well as all the changes made for the Final Cut including the shooting of the new Zhora sequence. To see Joanna Cassidy's face as she watches the revised version is very sweet indeed.
Disc Four - All the documentaries you could possibly shake a stick at. Three featurettes on Philip K Dick, featurettes on graphic design, costume, a tribute to cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth....yadda....poster art....yadda....the true nature of Deckard....yadda. I haven't watched all of these yet - I've only dipped into the Dick, poster art, Deckard featurettes. But if you value your life make directly for the deleted and alternate scenes package. This is a lovingly put together 40 minute plus package with score and sound effects of all the deleted and alternate takes in film chronological order. Which means you watch a mini movie version of 'Blade Runner' that contains all the bits you've never seen with a Harrison Ford voice over you've never heard until now. It is fantastic!
I highly recommend this set if you're a fan. You'll think all your birthdays and Christmases have all come at once. If you've never seen the film, then now is the best time to experience it. There's a very comprehensive review here that I would recommend: www.thedigitalbits.com and this also looks at the Blue-Ray and HD-DVD versions too. And finally, a hearty congratulations to Charles de Lauzirika for masterminding it all. Fans will be worshipping your name from now on, sir.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut 5 Disc Ultimate Collectors Edition (Region 2 DVD Warner DY20836)
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
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