Blade Runner appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Fans expected a lot from this transfer, and they should feel exceedingly satisfied with the virtually flawless result.
Sharpness seemed immaculate. Despite the challenging, complicated nature of the image and all the wide shots, the movie always appeared crisp and well-defined. Not a hint of softness marred the proceedings, as the flick consistently presented tight visuals. Jagged edges and shimmering were absent, and no signs of edge enhancement appeared. Source flaws also were absent. The film looked devoid of specks, marks or other concerns; it was a splendidly clean image.
With its often bright neon palette, the colors of Blade Runner excelled. The hues really lit up the screen, as they provided dazzling tones throughout the film. More subdued sequences looked just as good as the bubbly street scenes; those sections may have lacked the same “dazzle factor”, but they demonstrated equally full, rich colors. Blacks were tight and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. The film came with quite a few dimly-lit scenes, and they all demonstrated excellent delineation.
Really, this transfer looked about as close to perfect as one could expect. It lived up to any potential hype and dazzled from start to finish. I hate to say that a 25-year-old flick looks like it could’ve been filmed yesterday, but it’s true in this case. Blade Runner leapt off the screen with a vivacity never seen.
While not quite as stunning as the visuals, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Blade Runner also worked very well. The soundfield favored environmental elements, which made sense given the nature of the story. Though the film offered a smattering of action beats, it usually went with a more “subliminal” feel. The movie’s ever-present rain filled the room in a satisfying way, and the thunder added oomph to those scenes. Vehicles zipped from spot to spot well, and the whole package created a smooth, immersive impression.
The Vangelis score got the biggest bump via this 5.1 track. The music poured from all five speakers in a warm, inviting manner. The score’s presentation never felt gimmicky or awkward, as the music helped involve us in the movie. Though the soundfield rarely dazzled, it served to accentuate the film in a very pleasing manner.
While the audio quality occasionally showed its age, the material still sounded quite good. Speech probably demonstrated the weakest link, as some of the lines appeared a little edgy. However, dialogue stayed perfectly intelligible and was usually more than acceptable in terms of natural qualities.
Effects also sometimes minor weaknesses, mostly due to a smidgen of distortion for some bits. Those occurred infrequently, though, and the effects sounded pretty good for the most part. I suspect that some of them were re-recorded for this new release, though I don’t know that for certain. In any case, despite those occasional examples of distortion, the effects came across well. They usually seemed full and dynamic, with really good impact in the louder sequences.
Speaking of nice range, the score benefited most of all from this new track. The music consistently sounded rich and warm, with crisp highs and firm lows. I felt the score added immeasurably to the movie, especially when it sounded so good. Wrap up all of that and you find a very positive soundtrack. The mild edginess and distortion almost knocked my audio grade down to a “B+”, but I thought too much of the film sounded too good too often to rate below an “A-“.
How did the picture and audio of this 2007 Blade Runner DVD compare to those of the original 1997 release? The 2007 set totally blew away the old version. The new disc looked and sounded so much better than its predecessor that I can truly regard it as a “night and day” difference. The original DVD was mediocre at best, so this one’s excellent picture and audio marked a tremendous step up in quality.
While the old 1997 Blade Runner DVD came with almost no extras, Warner Bros. has rolled out the goodies for 2007. In fact, fans can find three flavors of Blade Runner on DVD: a two-disc Special Edition, this four-disc Collector’s Edition, and a five-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition. I already covered the Two-Disc Special Edition, so if you read that review, you can skip ahead to my comments about DVD Three; DVDs One and Two are identical for all three releases.
On DVD One, we begin with an introduction from director Ridley Scott. In this 34-second clip, Scott tells us a little about the restoration. It seems painless but it doesn’t really add anything.
We also find three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ridley Scott, as he gives us a running, screen-specific look at his film. He discusses the film’s opening sequence and its various cuts, the score and audio, different effects and other visual elements, storyboards, costumes, set design and locations, themes, interpretation, cast and performances, and a few other subjects.
In other words, Scott tells us at least a little about almost everything involved in the flick. That doesn’t mean that the commentary proves exhaustive and complete, but it sure does offer a nice overview of the different areas. At times I think Scott waxes a little too philosophical, as I’d prefer a bit more focus on the actual filmmaking processes, but that’s a minor complaint. Overall, he presents a very informative and compelling chat.
For the second track, we hear from executive producer/co-writer Hampton Fancher, co-writer David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley and executive producer Katherine Haber. The writers sat together as one pair and the producers chatted together as a second pair; the two running, screen-specific pieces were then edited together into this result. The track looks at budgetary issues and problems during the shoot, adapting the original work and script/story-related subjects, altered/dropped segments, sets and locations, the movie’s reception and legacy, cast and performances, and a few other production topics.
To my surprise, the producers’ side of things works better. Usually producers tend to play it safe while writers provide more insight, but that doesn’t occur here. For the most part, Fancher and Peoples do little more than bicker about who wrote what as well as praise various elements. They do provide a smattering of good insights, but they don’t add much to the proceedings.
Haber and Deeley don’t excel either, but their remarks prove more informative. They throw out some nice details and help make the commentary decent. Unfortunately, it remains a lackluster chat. It only sporadically engages and sheds less light than I’d hoped it would. It merits a listen, but keep your expectations low.
The final commentary features visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder, and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. They sit in various screen-specific groups for another edited track. We learn about locations and set design, various effects, visual choices, props, and other technical topics.
Although the material could become dry, the participants keep things pretty lively. They cover the different topics in a thorough manner and let us learn a lot about the creation of the various elements. The situation rebounds after the disappointing writers/producers track to provide a nice look at the technical side of the production.
Over on DVD Two, the main attraction comes from a new documentary called Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. This program runs a whopping three hours, 33 minutes and 56 seconds as it combines movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Scott, Deeley, Trumbull, Fancher, Mead, Peoples, Snyder, Haber, Paull, Dryer, Yuricich, Future Noir: The Making of “Blade Runner” author Paul M. Sammon, author Philip K. Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett, The Anubis Gates author Tim Powers, Ridley Scott’s sons Jake and Luke Scott and daughter Jordan Scott, associate producer Ivor Powell, Ladd Company president Alan Ladd, Jr., financiers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio, Heavy Metal publisher Kevin Eastman, casting director Mike Fenton, production illustrator Tom Southwell, vehicle fabricator Gene Winfield, assistant art director Stephen Dane, key grip Cary Griffith, director’s brother Tony Scott, script supervisor Ana Maria Quintana, lighting gaffer Dick Hart, cinematographer’s son Jeff Cronenweth, makeup artist Marvin G. Westmore, marketing consultant Jeff Walker, stunt coordinator Gary Combs, first assistant cameraman Mike Genne, supervising editor Terry Rawlings, matte painters Michelle Moen and Rocco Gioffre, chief model maker Mark Stetson, model maker Bill George, lead model painter Ron Gress, EEG still lab Virgil Mirano, filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Joseph Kahn, Mark Romanek and Frank Darabont, film critic Kenneth Turan, restoration producer Charles de Lauzirika, veteran visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ronald D. Moore, and actors Daryl Hannah, Harrison Ford, Joanna Cassidy, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Morgan Paull, Stacey Nelkin, Joe Turkel, James Hong, and M. Emmet Walsh.
With more than three and a half hours at its disposal, one might expect “Days” to offer a thorough examination of the production of Blade Runner. And one would expect correctly, as it leaves few stones unturned. The show looks at the adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story and script issues/rewrites, the project’s development and path to the screen, how Scott came onto the project, visual influences, abandoned concepts, and various forms of production preparation.
From there it digs into casting and performances, conceptual art, sets and locations, prop and visual design, Scott’s behavior on the set and connected conflicts, various problems and issues during the shoot, and stunt work. Once production finally ends, “Days” gets into visual effects, editing and cut scenes, reshoots, the voiceover and the 1982 theatrical edition of the flick, the score, the film’s initial reception and subsequent opinions, and its legacy.
Most documentaries of this sort ladle out lots of praise and happy talk. “Days” isn’t one of those programs. Of course, it does present positive reflections on the film at times, but it also hands out lots and lots of honest appraisal of all the production’s difficulties. This makes it a pretty objective piece, right down to pro-voiceover remarks from del Toro and anti-voiceover comments from Darabont.
Plenty of great visuals help flesh out the comments. There’s surprisingly little repetition here after all the commentaries, and even some of the more commonly known issues like the problems with the dove get a boost from the outtakes. It’s one thing to hear that the bird wouldn’t fly, but it’s much more fun to actual see the little guy hop around after Hauer releases him. We also get great elements like unused voiceover recordings and other fine archival pieces. “Days” presents a truly terrific documentary that gives us a thorough and engaging view of the flick.
In addition, DVD Two includes some trailers. We find promos for I Am Legend, Fracture, Invasion and Superman: Doomsday.
As I mentioned, DVDs One and Two of this set are identical to those of the two-disc Special Edition. For new material, we head to DVDs Three and Four. DVD Three contains three different versions of Blade Runner. These include the original 1982 US Theatrical Cut (1:57:18), the 1982 International Theatrical Cut (1:57:34) and the 1992 Director’s Cut (1:56:31). The first two are essentially identical; the main difference comes from a little more graphic violence in the International Cut. Both feature the narration and happy ending that were part of the flick for its first decade.
1992’s “Director’s Cut” made substantial changes. Not only did it drop both the happy ending and the narration, but also it gave us a few other elements like Deckard’s infamous “unicorn dream”. Blade Runner becomes a moderately different movie in this form, though the current Final Cut largely resembles it. The biggest changes came between 1982 and 1992, while I see the 2007 Final Cut as being more of a refinement of the 1992 edition.
Earlier I indicated that the Final Cut is probably the best of the bunch, and that opinion hasn’t changed in the intervening period. Does that mean the others are nothing more than curiosities here? No, I think they’re worthwhile on their own, and I expect that I’ll occasionally watch one of the 1982 cuts in the future; that’s the Blade Runner I grew up on, and I’m happy I can still experience it. For me, the Director’s Cut becomes the odd man out, as I can’t imagine I’ll ever want to watch it again, but I’m still pleased that it’s here. I really like that this set allows us to choose which version of the flick we prefer and doesn’t force us to stick with only one.
In terms of picture and audio quality, I didn’t think these versions looked and sounded quite as good as the Final Cut, but they came close enough to make me happy. It’s clear that the Final Cut got the bulk of the restoration attention. That said, the quality of the other versions seems more than satisfactory. They offered very strong picture and audio, so they should please those who prefer one – or all – of them to the Final Cut.
We can find Introductions from Director Ridley Scott for all three cuts of Blade Runner. The clip for the US Theatrical Cut lasts 34 seconds, the one for the International Theatrical Cut goes for 28 seconds, and the opening to the Director’s Cut fills 37 seconds. Scott’s US intro basically just tells us a little about that version and lets us know it’s not his preferred edition. The International opening informs us about how it differs from the US cut, while the DC intro let us know how it changed the prior versions. As with the intro to the Final Cut, none of these prove terribly valuable, but they’re worth a look.
That finishes DVD Three, so let’s go to the copious extras on DVD Four. Most of these come from a slew of featurettes. The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick goes for 14 minutes, 22 seconds and includes notes from Sammon, Isa Dick Hackett, Fortress of Solitude author Jonathan Lethem, Supertoys Last All Summer Long author Brian Aldiss, The Anubis Gates author Tim Powers, The Life and Work of Jean-Leon Gerome author Gerald Ackerman, Homunculus author James Blaylock, Dick’s step-sister Lynne Aalan, biographer Greg Rickman, and author’s son Christopher Dick. It also provides some archival footage of Philip Dick himself.
“Dreamer” offers biographical info about Dick along with some notes about his work and film adaptations. The show provides a decent overview of Dick’s life and career. Don’t expect a particularly detailed program, but the featurette creates a good recap of essential details and facets of Dick’s personality.
For adaptation information, we head to the 15-minute and seven-second Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel Vs. The Film. It features Sammon, Lethem, Deeley, Fancher, Aldiss, Peoples, Powers, Rickman, and Scott. As implied by the title, “Sheep” compares the movie to the book. We learn about the change from “android” to “replicant” as well as other differences and similarities. “Sheep” provides a tight little recap of the alterations.
Audio-only elements arrive with Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews. This collection of audio clips runs a total of about 22 minutes. Dick chats about inspirations for some aspects of his work, his attitude toward collaborating with Hollywood, and elements of the Blade Runner experience. Dick proves forthright throughout the piece, as he makes his feelings clear in no uncertain terms. That attitude makes this a short but very interesting extra.
We go back to the featurettes with Signs of the Times: Graphic Design. It lasts 13 minutes, 40 seconds and gives us remarks from production illustrator Southwell. He looks at many of the movie’s visual elements with an emphasis on details instead of a broader scope. This results in many fun details about different tidbits that make the grand visual feast of Blade Runner.
Fashion Forward: Wardrobe and Styling runs 20 minutes, 40 seconds and provides info from Scott, Ford, Westmore, Young, Turkel, Hauer, Hong, Olmos, Cassidy, Hannah, and costume designer Michael Kaplan. “Forward” digs into clothes, hair and makeup. The perspectives flesh out the material well, especially since we hear a lot from the actors; they add nice thoughts about working with the different visual elements. This is another solid featurette.
Audition material pops up with the eight-minute and 54-second Screen Tests: Rachael and Pris. We hear from casting director Mike Fenton before we see tests for Nina Axelrod (for Rachael) and Stacey Nelkin (for Pris). Those actors also chat about their experiences. I like this look at alternative casting choices.
For thoughts about the late cinematographer, we find the 20-minute The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth. It includes notes from Sammon, Scott, Jeff Cronenweth, Hart, Griffith, Genne, Paull, additional photography Steven Poster, and cinematographer Ernest Holzman. As you’d expect, “Burns” looks at the life and career of Jordan Cronenweth along with his work in Blade Runner. I’m surprised we don’t learn more about Cronenweth’s other films, but we get a good examination of the styles featured on Blade Runner and it becomes a quality show.
Possibly DVD Four’s most intriguing element, we get a collection of Deleted and Alternate Scenes. The disc includes 24 of these in all, and they fill a total of 47 minutes, 40 seconds of material. We find “Tears in the Rain (Alternate Opening Titles)”, “I’m Deckard”, “A Real Dandy”, “Bryant’s Point of View”, “Visiting Holden”, “Rep Detect File”, “Zero-Zero-Zero”, “1187 Hunterwasser”, “Chew’s Specialty”, “Heading Home”, “An Oddball Genius”, “Memories”, “Food for Thought”, “The Street of Bad Dreams”, “Backstage Pass”, “Looks Like Blood”, “Washing Up”, “I Want You”, “Metaphysics”, “Tyrell Security Protocol”, “Closing In”, “Every Second Of It”, “Old Richter Route” (Alternate Ending), and “Made for Each Other (Alternate Ending)”.
That’s a lot of footage, but not much of it stands out as memorable or even particularly intriguing. Much of the new material comes from narration. We get tons of Deckard voiceover here, most of which we never heard, even back in the 1982 cut. Maybe I’ve just gotten too accustomed to a narration-free Blade Runner, or maybe the deleted voiceover stinks, but the vast majority of that stuff doesn’t work well.
We do learn a little more about Deckard’s ex-wife, though – that’s one of the intriguing threads developed here, at least in a marginal way. There’s also a removed tagline from Gaff that further opens up the question of Deckard’s humanity; I’m glad it got cut, since it’s pretty on the nose.
Speaking of “glad it got cut” footage, the shots of Holden in the hospital fell into “gotta go” territory. These are hammy and not particularly helpful for the plot. In addition, Holden’s hospital gown looks like something a nine-year-old cut out of tissue paper. In a flick that’s barely dated, that costume doesn’t hold up well.
As a fan, I’m very happy to see this collection of deleted/alternate footage, but I must admit it’s a disappointment. The material simply isn’t very interesting for the most part, and there’s nothing here I could call hidden gold. However, it’s still cool to see it; even the crummy stuff like the Holden shots are nonetheless fun to finally inspect for myself.
Next come three 1982 Promotional Featurettes. This area includes “On the Set” (14:19), “Convention Reel” (13:12) and “Behind-the-Scenes Outtakes” (8:43). The first two include some remarks; across them, we hear from Ford, Hauer, Scott, Young, Mead, and Trumbull. “Set” is little more than a recap of story and characters; some decent shots from the set do emerge, but we don’t get much hard data. “Reel” works better. It comes with unique opening and closing comments from Scott and also presents some nice information. It’s much more satisfying despite its terrible 70s-style music.
As for “Outtakes”, it provides a silent reel of footage from the shoot. In addition to images of the cast and crew on the set, we see close-ups of models and miniatures. While it’s too bad this material lacks audio, it includes a lot of fine pieces.
We also find five Trailers and one TV Spot. In terms of the former, we get a “1981 Teaser Trailer”, a “1982 Theatrical Trailer”, a “1992 Director’s Cut Trailer”, a “2007 ‘Dangerous Days’ Teaser Trailer” and a “2007 Final Cut Trailer”. The TV spot comes from 1982. The older material is the most interesting, especially the 1981 teaser.
With that we shift back to the featurettes and Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art. The nine-minute and 35-second show offers notes from poster artists John Alvin and Drew Struzan. They talk about the original Blade Runner theatrical release poster as well as the art for the new DVD sets. The information is good, and we also find a nice look at international ads.
Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard runs nine minutes, 30 and presents remarks from Sammon, Scott, Romanek, Olmos, Rawlings, Darabont, Fancher, Luke Scott, Peoples, Del Toro, Jake Scott, Ford, Cassidy, Powell, Hauer, Hannah, Rue Morgue Magazine editor-in-chief Jovanka Vuckovic, and filmmaker Joe Carnahan. It examines the movie’s big question: is Deckard a replicant? Some say “hell yeah”, others say “no way”, and we get some “definitely maybe” replies as well. I won’t reveal who takes which sides – it’s more fun to hear the arguments as you watch – but we get a lively discussion here.
Finally, DVD Four concludes with Nexus Generation: Fans and Filmmakers. It goes for 21 minutes, 49 seconds and includes statements from Del Toro, Muren, Romanek, Vuckovic, Eastman, Kahn, Carnahan, Rickman, Jeff Cronenweth, Darabont, Turan, Moore, Jordan Scott, Lethem, Luke Scott, motion picture archivist Bryan Ebenhoch, director Steve Loter, CHUD.com editor Devin Faraci and Bladezone.com editor Gary Willoughby. The participants reflect on their love for the film and what makes them fans of Blade Runner. Inevitably, some gushing praise emerges, but we find decent insights into the film’s positives, so it’s not just a collection of puffery.
Blade Runner remains a seminal science fiction piece that only seems to improve with additional viewings; its place within the annals of film appears secure. This set includes the director’s “Final Cut”, which indeed probably offers the most satisfying rendition of the film. The DVD looks absolutely stunning, and it adds very good audio and a strong roster of interesting extras.
Without question, Blade Runner is a movie that belongs in your collection, and if you already own the vastly inferior 1997 DVD, you should chuck it out the window and upgrade to this “Final Cut” set immediately. The only question becomes which 2007 Blade Runner package is for you. In addition to this four-disc release, you can find both two-disc and five-disc editions.
I can say this: the 5-DVD package is just for the movie’s biggest fans. With a retail cost of about $79, it’s vastly more expensive than the other two, so it’s not going to appeal to less obsessive viewers.
That leaves the debate between the two-disc and four-disc releases. Both have their merits, especially since its $20.99 MSRP makes the two-disc set the bargain of the year. But I think this four-disc version will be the one preferred by most fans. At $34.99, it remains reasonably priced, and it packs in more than enough good extras to make it worthwhile. All three Blade Runner sets are excellent, but the four-disc “Collector’s Edition” is my pick as the best of the bunch.
To rate this film visit the Final Cut (2 Disc Special Edition) review of BLADE RUNNER