Blade Runner: The Final Cut

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Mar 05, 2015
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Director

Ridley Scott

Release Date(s)

1982/1992/2007 (original BD release December 18, 2007)

Studio(s)

The Ladd Company/The Blade Runner Partnership (Warner Bros.)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: A+
  • Overall Grade: A+

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (5-disc Blu-ray)

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Review

In memory of Paul Prischman

[Editor’s Note: This review has been modified from the original 12/8/2007 version to focus specifically on the Blu-ray editions, and to include details on the post-2007 Blu-ray reissues.]

I’ll tell you... we’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time here at The Digital Bits. A long time.

As you might guess, we’re all big fans of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner around here. The first copy of the film I ever owned on video was the laserdisc release from Criterion back in 1987, which featured the 1982 International Cut of the film. I still prize that disc to this day. Years later, in March of 1997, the very first DVD I ever purchased – even before I’d gotten my hands on an actual DVD player – was Warner’s original release of Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut. In retrospect, it was a terrible disc, with no features and mediocre (by today’s standards) quality. But damn it... it was Blade Runner and there it was on my favorite new format, looking way better than my laserdisc. At the time, for me, it was the Best Thing Ever.

As the years passed, however, that disc’s flaws became all too apparent. And as film after film was turned into elaborate DVD special editions, the question of Blade Runner’s re-release status continued to grow in the minds of fans.

Back in 2000, an effort was mounted to produce a true director’s cut of the film, and to give it the in-depth treatment fans wanted. Work was begun at that stage, but a variety of business and legal obstacles prevented the project from gaining momentum. Eventually, however, the Blade Runner Partnership and Warner Bros. were able to come to an agreement, clearing the way for the effort to move ahead, just in time to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary in 2007. The result is Blade Runner: The Final Cut, available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD from Warner Home Video on December 18th, 2007. I’m pleased now to offer you all my ultimate, in-depth review of this release. No less than seven versions of The Final Cut will be available on disc on that day (three on DVD and four in high-definition). This review will focus on the most elaborate Blu-ray versions, the Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Editions, disc by disc. At the end of this review, you’ll find cover art for all the different Blu-ray versions, along with a list of content available in each, to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

 

The Film

It’s easy to understate Blade Runner’s impact on the films that followed it, particularly in the genre of science fiction. Based on an eclectic and complex novel by Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Blade Runner is as much a hard-boiled film noir detective story as it is science fiction. And yet on the latter score, the film’s high-concept premise ranks easily alongside such cinematic landmarks of the genre as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Forbidden Planet. All you need to do is watch almost any of the classic works of Japanese anime (Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) and you’ll see Blade Runner’s influence in nearly every frame.

Set in a gritty, run-down Los Angeles of the near future, Blade Runner follows the efforts of a somewhat reluctant police detective named Deckard (played by a young Harrison Ford, who was just coming into his own as an actor, fresh off the experience of making The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark). Deckard’s job is to “retire” (read: kill) rogue, synthetic humans called Replicants. These Replicants are made to do Mankind’s dirty work, acting as soldiers, laborers and sex servants, and they’re given implanted human emotions and memories to make them seem more realistic. But those emotions eventually become troublesome as, over time, the Replicants begin to develop real consciousness and identities of their own. For this reason, they’re also given limited, four-year life spans before they simply deactivate. But when they become aware of their own “mortality,” some Replicants grow desperate, choosing to run and hide in the shadows of society, in the vain hope of saving themselves... or at least understanding the meaning of their brief existence. When they do, it’s Deckard’s job to find and destroy them before they hurt the humans around them.

A shot from Blade Runner: The Final Cut

In addition to Ford’s steady on-screen presence, Blade Runner features great, seminal performances by the likes of Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young and Daryl Hannah, not to mention a host of fantastic character actors. The film’s production design was overseen by legendary futurist Syd Mead, giving it a highly unique visual style never-before-seen on the big screen. The film also includes a sparse but evocative score by composer Vangelis (more commercially known for his work on Chariots of Fire). But it’s the efforts of director Ridley Scott for which this film is perhaps best known.

If The Duellists was the film that first garnered Scott critical notice, and it was Alien that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience... Blade Runner is the film that solidified his acclaim among hard-core cinephiles and earned him a loyal legion of fans. Scott’s near manic attention to detail and his use of rich, stylish and atmospheric staging and camera setups were on full, unrestrained display here - a fact that caused significant problems with his producers and the studio at the time. Surprisingly, when the film was released into theaters, it was a critical and commercial bomb. Many people just didn’t know what to make of it. Over the years, however, opinions have shifted dramatically. Blade Runner is, today, considered one of the best films (if not the best) in Scott’s decidedly impressive body of work. It showcases Ridley at his most... well, Ridley. Even at the time of its original release back in 1982, Blade Runner quickly and definitively set its director apart from other filmmakers as a singular, visionary talent.

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Disc One – The Final Cut (2007)

Film Rating: A+

Video/Audio Ratings (Blu-ray Disc): A/A+

Bonus Material: A

In the years since Blade Runner first dazzled and puzzled audiences around the world, a number of different versions of the film have surfaced. There’s the original theatrical cut, the international cut, the much sought-after (and seldom seen) “workprint,” and a 1992 director’s cut that wasn’t actually a director’s cut. It’s only now in 2007 however, some 25 years after the film’s debut, that fans of Blade Runner finally have the chance to see it as its director intended.

An incredible wealth of vintage production material was unearthed from the vaults for this release, including some 977 cans of original film negative. Much of this footage was scanned at 4K resolution (some of the 65mm effects footage was even scanned at 8K) and an extensive restoration was done. Throughout this process, restoration producer Charles de Lauzirika worked closely with Warner Bros. and Ridley Scott to assemble the director’s ultimate version of the film, billed as The Final Cut.

The running time of The Final Cut is 117 minutes – virtually identical to the original theatrical release, but there have been many changes, most of them quite subtle. First, the film has undergone a painstaking frame-by-frame digital clean-up to remove unwanted dust, scratches and other age-related image defects. The film has been color-timed to Scott’s specifications, and its soundtrack has been remastered as well to take advantage of the latest surround sound technology (so when those Spinners fly by now, you’ll really hear them zoom past you and away).

As you’d expect, the film’s editing has been massaged here and there, but this time to Scott’s exact instructions. Like the 1992 version, this new Final Cut omits the Deckard narration and the happy ending. Scott has made subtle trims here and there to tighten the footage (without the narration, he felt that some shots went on a little too long), but he’s also added material. For example, the “unicorn” scene is now a bit longer and more effective (it’s actually the originally-intended version, the complete footage for which couldn’t be found for use in the ‘92 cut). Footage from both the international and workprint versions has been inserted into the film as well, including a number of street/atmosphere shots (such as the infamous hockey-masked geisha dancers) and more intense moments of violence.

The infamous hockey-masked geisha dancers

Scores of subtle digital tweaks have also been made to correct problems that couldn’t be addressed during the original production. For example, the wires supporting the practical, on-set Spinner vehicles have been removed. In a couple of street shots, members of the production crew accidentally appeared in the edges of the frame – they’re gone now. Various matte lines have been erased, and detail that was lost due to image degradation has been restored. When you see the infamous “eye” shot at the beginning of the film, the optical printing process employed at the time wouldn’t allow for a moving image of the eye to be used. So now, in The Final Cut, you’ll notice the pupil iris slightly in reaction to the plume of fire billowing before it.

Other digital corrections fix continuity errors. In the original shooting script, Leon and Deckard fought in the street before Zhora was “retired,” so the make-up reflected this on set. When the film was edited together, however, Leon and Deckard’s fight was moved after Zhora’s death. But the bruise on Deckard’s face was still there, before the fight actually happened on screen, so it’s been erased digitally. In another instance, the first time you see Roy Batty on screen in the sidewalk Vid-Phon booth, the shots were actually stolen from later in the film (a moment of Roy at the Tyrell Corporation, I believe, and a shot of him in the Bradbury building). So the lighting and the backgrounds you saw in those shots didn’t match the booth or the rain-soaked streets behind it. Now they do. There’s also a scene where Deckard is talking to an old Asian woman about the snake scale he’s found. She’s reading a serial number from a microscope... but when you saw that serial number on the screen, it didn’t match. Now it does. The vast majority of these digital effects tweaks are so subtle that only fans who are intimately familiar with the film will even notice them.

On the other hand, a few of the digital fixes correct more serious problems with the film in its previous incarnations. For example, when Roy releases the dove at the end of the film, the skyline revealed as it flies away just didn’t match anything you’d seen before. So a new digital cityscape was created for the shot that finally does match.

The dove escapes.

There’s also a scene when Deckard is talking to the snake dealer, Abdul Ben-Hassan, in which his lip movements didn’t match the dialogue. Harrison Ford was unavailable due to scheduling issues, so his son Ben was brought in correct this. Ben was shot on an effects stage from exactly the same angle, wearing exactly the same chin scar (via make-up) that his father has, saying the correct lines. His mouth was digitally inserted over his father’s seamlessly.

Of course, many of you know of the infamous reshoot from earlier this year, featuring the character Zhora. When news of this leaked on the Net, it sparked an outcry from fans who feared that Scott was drastically altering the film with all new scenes. It turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Back in 1982, actress Joanna Cassidy wasn’t allowed to do the stunt where Zhora crashes through the window panes. But if you watch the film closely, especially now in high-definition, it’s painfully obvious that it’s a stuntwoman in those shots. So Cassidy was brought back in, dressed in her original costume, and was shot on a greenscreen stage, going through the same movements as the stuntwoman. Her face and body angles were matched to those of the stuntwoman’s frame by frame. Cassidy’s head was then digitally inserted over the stuntwoman’s, and the resulting image was blended, color-corrected and matched seamlessly. So now, when you see Zhora crash through the glass, it’s actually Zhora all the way through. The result is amazing. The first time I saw the finished sequence several months ago, I was actively looking for the effect and I completely missed it. It’s only when you re-watch the original scene on DVD that you appreciate how startling the difference is... and just how good the new effects shots actually are.

Here’s a comparison: This is how the Zhora sequence appeared in the original version of the film...

Zhora’s retirement from the original film

Now, here’s the new digital effects shot from The Final Cut...

Zhora’s retirement from The Final Cut

Ultimately, when you see The Final Cut for yourself, I think you’ll appreciate the tremendous and pain-staking effort that’s been made to smooth out the rough edges in Ridley Scott’s original film. I’ll tell you, I find it extraordinary after all these years to still have the chance to discover so much that’s new in this film. If you love Blade Runner like I do, this new version is a treat.

High-definition is definitely the way to go with The Final Cut. We’ve got the Blu-ray Disc edition, and I can tell you that the video quality is, in a word, spectacular. Contrast is superb, with deep, detailed blacks. Colors are lush and accurate. There’s very light to moderate grain visible, with breathtaking clarity, texture and detail. You can see how the effects footage benefitted from 6K scanning – these shots have just simply never looked better. Best of all, there isn’t a speck or scratch to be seen anywhere. The Dolby TrueHD audio is also a significant improvement over the previous (and already great) DVD edition sound. The soundfield is smooth and wide, and the score just sounds stunning in high-resolution. The low-end here will rattle your windows if you’re not careful. What a treat!

Disc One of the Blu-ray offers no less than three excellent, full-length audio commentary tracks. The first features director Ridley Scott himself, as he discusses the idea behind many of the different scenes, the symbolism, things he was trying to convey, the differences between the various versions of the film. There’s plenty here about the production but better still there’s lots related to the story and concepts as well. It’s a great track. I should note here that this disc also features an optional video introduction to The Final Cut by Scott, which you can select from the main menu. The menus themselves are animated with sounds effects, and are designed to look like Deckard’s photo-analysis machine. Occasionally, as you wait, a bit of the Vangelis score will play for atmosphere. The menus are tasteful – nice without hitting you over the head. The high-def versions feature the usual pop-up menus allowing you to select the various options. There are 36 chapters.

The second commentary track features co-screenwriters Hampton Fancher (also an executive producer) and David Peoples, along with producer Michael Deeley and production executive Katherine Haber. This is a really fascinating track. The combination of Fancher and Peoples is fun to listen to, but they’re an eclectic pair. The obviously discuss substantial elements of story and script, which is a treat to listen to. Deeley and Haber focus much more on the mechanics and business sides of the production effort, as you might expect. They’re interesting to listen to, but the writers are better.

The final commentary includes legendary futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. This is a great track for diehard fans – particularly those who are interested in the nitty-gritty design and technical aspects of the film. They obviously get deep into the creation of the effects, the miniatures, the props and the physical world of the film. They also comments on the new effects work as well, which is fun to hear, as these guys were actually involved and/or hand input in the new effects process.

So that’s Disc One, but that’s just scratching the surface of all the material available in these new sets. Next, let’s take a look at Discs Two and Three...

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Disc Two – Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner

Program Rating: A

Video/Audio Ratings (DVD): B/B

In terms of bonus content, so much of what’s available on these discs will astonish even the most diehard fan. Nowhere is that more obvious than here on Disc Two, which features a new, 214-minute documentary on the making of the film, entitled Dangerous Days, created by Charles de Lauzirika (Ridley Scott’s longtime special edition producer, whose previous work includes The Alien Quadrilogy, the Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut, the Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition, the Gladiator: Extended Edition and the Legend: Ultimate Edition, among others).

Dangerous Days covers just about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the making of this film. Over eighty original cast and crew members were interviewed for the documentary, including Scott, both Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, producers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio, and many, many others. Seemingly everyone involved in the production weighs in here – even actress Stacey Nelkin, who was originally set to play Mary, the infamous “sixth Replicant.”

Dangerous Days

The documentary takes you through the making of Blade Runner, from start to finish. You’ll learn how the idea originated and developed, and how each participant came to be involved. You’ll learn about the process of translating Philip K. Dick’s novel into a script, as well as other inspirations for the look and feel of the film. You’ll see storyboards of Scott’s originally planned “farmhouse” opening, and learn about the unrealized “Snake Pit” sequence that would have featured Zhora dancing on stage. You’ll get to see and hear people describe what it was like to be involved in the production. Syd Mead and other artists comment on the production design. Douglas Trumbull, David Dryer and other effects crew members talk about how the stunning miniatures were created. You’ll get a blow-by-blow account of all the difficulties that occurred, and the various power struggles that developed throughout the shoot. You’ll even learn how the infamous Deckard narration became a part of the film, from no less an authority than Harrison Ford himself.

Harrison Ford discusses the film.

In one of the best sequences of the documentary, Ford describes how he was required to record new narration while Scott was away editing the film – narration written by someone hired by the producers without the director’s knowledge. You’ll actually get to hear outtakes from the recording sessions, in which Ford jokes about how absurd the narration is! The documentary then goes on to examine Blade Runner’s theatrical release, the initial polarizing reaction to it, its strange journey and growth in popularity over the years, and its powerful influence on later films, complete with additional interviews with L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan and directors like Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, Joseph Kahn and Mark Romanek.

It should be noted that throughout the documentary, you’re constantly being treated to never-before-seen production material, including behind-the-scenes footage shot on the set, rare production photos and artwork, and even unused film footage (such as alternate takes and different camera angles). As a result, Dangerous Days gives you a broader, richer look at the world of the Blade Runner than fans could ever in their wildest dreams have imagined.

Director Ridley Scott and author Philip K. Dick.

No matter which version of The Final Cut you choose, Dangerous Days is only included as a standard-definition DVD disc. In terms of video quality, the entire documentary is presented in very good looking anamorphic widescreen. In addition, all of the interviews and new footage were shot in high-definition, and much of the other film-based footage was transferred in high-def as well, so the overall video quality is excellent throughout. Some of the vintage on-set footage is a little dingy looking, but it never distracts from the presentation. In fact, you’re more likely to be so engrossed in the material that you’ll hardly notice such things. The audio is solid Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and in a nice touch, optional subtitles are also available for those who might need them (English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish). The menu scheme is identical to Disc One. The documentary has 8 chapters. Theatrical trailers are also included on the disc for I Am Legend, Invasion, Fracture and Superman: Doomsday – not that you’ll really care.

 

Disc Three – Archival Versions

U.S. Theatrical Cut (1982)

International Cut (1982)

Director’s Cut (1992)

Film Ratings (82 TC/82 IC/92 DC): A-/A-/A

Video/Audio Ratings (Blu-ray Disc): B/B

Given the different versions of Blade Runner that have been available over the years, including them all in a single disc release is a challenge. Thankfully, Warner has used the seamless branching capabilities of Blu-ray to include all three legacy versions of the film on this one disc. Available here are the 1982 U.S. Theatrical Cut (117 minutes), the 1982 International Cut (118 minutes) and the 1992 Director’s Cut (117 minutes). You simply select the one you want from the disc’s opening menu. That takes you to a submenu where you can select the various options, start the film or watch Scott’s introduction (available for each version).

The main menu for Disc Three

Diehard fans obviously know the differences between each version intimately, but for the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer: The 1982 U.S. Theatrical Cut features the Deckard voiceover narration and the infamous “happy” ending. The 1982 International Cut is basically the same as the Theatrical Cut, but with added and extended bits of violence. The 1992 Director’s Cut is a different animal altogether.

The original happy ending from the Theatrical Cut.

In the early 1990s, Warner noticed something of a resurgence in the film’s popularity (in large part due to the buzz in the fan community following an accidental public screening of the workprint). To take advantage of this, the so-called Director’s Cut version of the film was created and released into theaters in 1992. Though it wasn’t a true director’s cut, Scott was allowed some small degree of input, and he chose to remove Deckard’s much-maligned voiceover narration and the theatrical cut’s “happy” ending. He also added the infamous “unicorn” scene, which had originally been shot for the film, but was never included in any of the previous release prints.

The reinstalled unicorn scene from the Director’s Cut.

The high-definition presentation on Blu-ray Disc is very good looking overall – not as good as The Final Cut, but very solid. It’s just a little softer looking than The Final Cut, with a little more grain visible and the occasional print artifact. The sound is just Dolby Digital 5.1, but it’s a very good mix. One last quick note: The BD features pop-up menus that allow you to select the various options. You can change versions of the film while you’re watching, but the player goes back to the beginning of the new version. When you first put the disc in your player, a menu screen asks you to select the version you want, and then off it goes.

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty portion of the extras, available on Discs Four and Five...

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Disc Four – Enhancement Archive

Video/Audio Ratings (DVD): B/B

Bonus Materials: A+

The lion’s share of the bonus material included with The Final Cut is found on Disc Four, which is a standard DVD disc in all versions of the release. It’s called the Enhancement Archive, and its material is divided into three categories – Inception, Fabrication and Longevity (there’s also an Access option that will allow you to play all the featurettes in order).

The Inception portion of the disc opens with the 14-minute The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick featurette. This is a particularly interesting piece, in that it examines the life and work of Dick from the perspective of his fellow science-fiction writers, friends and admirers, not to mention various members of his family. It includes many anecdotes, photos and archival interview clips of Dick himself, as well discussion of his other novels. Fans of the author will really appreciate this, I think.

Philip K. Dick’s daughter discusses her father’s legacy.

The 15-minute Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. The Film featurette goes a step further in examining Dick’s original novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and the differences between the novel and the film adaptation. Blade Runner expert Paul M. Sammon, author of the excellent book, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, weighs in frequently here, as do the film’s screenwriters and others.

Inception also includes a cool feature called Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews. These are audio recordings of phone interviews that Sammon conducted with Dick between 1980 and 1982, the last among them done just shortly before his death in March of ‘82. The quality is only fair, but the content is fascinating. Sammon asks many questions about the novel, Dick’s experiences with Hollywood and his feelings about Blade Runner. What’s most interesting here, is that it’s clear that Dick was extremely apprehensive about the adaptation at first, but became increasingly pleased as he began to see what Ridley Scott and his production team were doing with it. Dick eventually describes his feelings about the bits of Blade Runner footage he’d seen, and how pleased with it he was. He also talks about Harrison Ford’s performance as Deckard, and the confidence he has that Ford will get the character right. This is just great stuff.

The disc’s second major section, Fabrication, starts with Signs of the Times: Graphic Design. It’s a 14-minute featurette that focuses on the work of the production illustrator and other artists involved in the film. You’ll get to see in detail tons of sketches, drawings and photographs of the various logos, props, signs, magazine covers and other objects that help make the world of Blade Runner so detailed and believable, and you’ll learn how they were created. You’ll even see stuff that didn’t appear in the actual movie. Ever wanted to know what on-street parking costs in 2019 Los Angeles? Look no further.

A sketch of a police badge.

The 21-minute Fashion Forward: Wardrobe & Styling featurette looks at the film’s costumes and multi-cultural creative aesthetic. Ridley Scott, costume designer Michael Kaplan, make-up artist Marvin G. Westmore and others discuss the look they were trying to achieve with the wardrobe and how they accomplished it. Included throughout are dozens of costume design sketches, test photos and other images. Harrison Ford even talks about how he came up with Deckard’s haircut. No kidding.

Next, Blade Runner casting director Mike Fenton introduces a 9-minute piece entitled Screen Tests: Rachel & Pris. Here we get to see original audition footage of Nina Axelrod and Stacey Nelkin, neither of whom actually appeared in the final film, and listen to them recount their brushes with the production. It’s a fascinating look at what might have been.

Of special note on this disc is The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth featurette, which is some 20 minutes in length. This is just what it sounds like – various friends, admirers, protégés and colleagues discuss the work and legacy of Blade Runner’s legendary director of photography, including many of those who worked with him on the film. Among them are his son, Jeff, who followed in his father’s footsteps and is now a cinematographer himself (his work includes David Fincher’s Fight Club). The piece is a moving tribute.

By far the best special feature on Disc Four – and one of the true gems in this release, period – are the Deleted and Alternate Scenes. Some 48-minutes of surplus film footage (yes, including the lost Holden hospital scenes) have been compiled into what is essentially a sixth version of the film. This material was culled from hundreds of rolls of original camera negative, and nearly all of it has never been seen before by fans. It’s been edited together chronologically, to create an encapsulated version of the story. You can either access the scenes individually from the menus, or play them all in order (“play all” is definitely the preferred viewing option).

An unused opening effects shot.

It starts with a completely new opening credits sequence, featuring a previously unseen special effects shot of the 2019 L.A. cityscape. Then you get sequences you’ve seen before... but they’re all compiled using alternate takes, different camera angles and other completely unused footage. There are also a number of true deleted scenes, including a few that no one outside the production even knew existed before. All of this is set to music from the film and newly-looped sound effects, as well as Harrison Ford’s voiceover narration. But this narration is actually different than what was in the original theatrical version of the film. You really won’t believe how different – there are alternate lines, new dialogue. It’s a truly different take on the voiceover.

The second Holden hospital scene.

The bartender offers Deckard advice.

Let me give you just a couple examples of some of the things you’re going to see: Turns out Deckard had a wife, who now lives in one of the off-world colonies – you see a photo of her and Deckard together (it’s worth noting that they’re standing on a porch that’s very similar to the one in Rachel’s photograph of herself with her mother – consider the implications of that). There’s also a brief scene, after Batty has killed Tyrell, where he gets back into the elevator and he’s shaking – he’s clearly disturbed at what he’s just done. The elevator announces the floor in a computerized female voice, and Batty looks up at the speaker and says “Mom?” in this sort of child-like daze. Rutger Hauer’s performance is just perfect. There’s even two alternate endings, in which Deckard and Rachel have dialogue while driving off in Deckard’s car. And this is all just scratching the surface. I’m telling you, this stuff is absolutely amazing. If you think you know everything there is to know about Blade Runner, you’re in for a real shock. Keep in mind, every bit of this footage was shot by Ridley Scott in his prime, so it’s just gorgeous. It’s even presented in anamorphic widescreen. My head is still spinning over it all.

A photo of Deckard with his wife.

The disc’s third section, Longevity, offers material related to the promotion of the film over the years. It starts with a trio of vintage promotional featurettes from 1982, including On the Set (14 minutes), Convention Reel (13 minutes) and Behind-the-Scenes Outtakes (9 minutes). Shot on film, they’re in so-so shape, but they’ve all got a very retro feel and they’re cool to see. The Convention Reel is particularly interesting, as you’ll see Syd Mead and Douglas Trumbull talking about the design and workings of the Spinner vehicles, among other things. I also love On the Set’s narrator: “This is the city...” It’s got a very Dragnet bent that’s pretty amusing. The Outtakes are just odd little bits of footage shot on the set during the production. It’s neat stuff to see.

Next up are a series of six trailers and TV spots for the film, including the 1981 teaser trailer, the 1982 theatrical trailer, a 1982 TV spot, the 1992 Director’s Cut trailer, the 2007 Dangerous Days trailer and the 2007 Final Cut trailer.

Wrapping things up are a final trio of additional, newly-created featurettes. Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art runs 10 minutes, and features interviews with artists John Alvin and Drew Struzan, who discuss their work and the philosophy involved in creating the film’s signature one-sheets – both the original design and the new one for the 2007 release. You’ll see concept sketches and other unseen material, and get a look at the posters for the film from around the world.

The 10-minute Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard featurette examines one of the key questions of the film. Various fans, as well as its cast and crew members, weigh in with their opinions. The “unicorn” scene is discussed in depth, as are the various clues offered in the different versions of the film. Ridley Scott reveals, once and for all, what he intended people to think... but of course, not everyone who worked on the film agrees, including writer Hampton Fancher. It’s one of the most interesting featurettes on the disc.

Finally, Nexus Generation: Fans & Filmmakers is a 22-minute piece that offers more interviews with many of the same directors seen in Dangerous Days, as well as additional filmmakers, the editors of Heavy Metal and Rue Morgue, and other longtime fans. Each talks about the impact the film had on them. Frank Darabont shows off his replica of the Spinner (lucky bastard!), director Steve Loter gives a tour of his collection of memorabilia from the film, etc. Of all the extras in the set, this one is probably the least interesting to film fans, but there’s definitely geek value here. Personally, I would rather have seen a featurette dedicated to the Spinner (which is covered somewhat in Dangerous Days) or Deckard’s blaster instead, but that’s a small criticism.

Frank Darabont shows off his Spinner replica.

Again, all of the video material is presented in good-looking anamorphic widescreen, except the TV spots and the vintage featurettes, which are full frame and of variable quality due to their age. Audio is offered in English Dolby Digital 2.0 only. There are no subtitles available. The menus are themed identically to those on earlier discs in this set.

The only thing that’s not included on this disc that was originally advertised in Warner’s press release are the various image galleries (including a Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover Gallery, The Art of Blade Runner, a Unit Photography Gallery and a Marketing & Merchandise Gallery). These unfortunately had to be dropped because of disc space concerns. However, I’m told that there’s talk that these may be made available online at Warner’s official website for the release at some point in the future. [Editor’s Note: These galleries were added to Warmer’s 2013 Blu-ray re-release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut in a 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. More on this in a minute.] I also wish that Ridley Scott’s 1984-inspired Apple Macintosh commercial was here, just for fun (sadly, sources say that Apple wouldn’t allow it). Like I said before, these are small criticisms. What you get here is all pretty spectacular, as you’ll see for yourself when you get your hands on this set.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s still one disc left. And trust me, it’s a good one...

 

Disc Five – Workprint

Film Ratings: B+

Video/Audio Ratings (Blu-ray Disc): C-/C-

Bonus Material: A

Here it is... the icing on the cake. The most deluxe versions of The Final Cut release includes no less than the original, fabled and long sought-after “workprint” version of Blade Runner, which had been originally created for the Dallas and Denver test screenings of the film back in 1982. This is the version that caused such a stir among unsuspecting fans who were lucky enough to see it in 70mm at the Fairfax Theater in L.A. back in 1990 (this print was shown accidentally, but proved so popular with fans that limited screenings were also later held at UCLA, at the NuArt in L.A. and at the Castro in San Francisco). The ironic thing about the workprint, is that it has nowhere near the impact today that it did back when it was first accidentally screened. In fact, if you’ve seen The Director’s Cut or The Final Cut, it’s not so very different. There are alternate opening credits – very simple ones, as you see below. There are a few different shots used here and there, along with bits of additional street/atmosphere footage. There’s no opening “eye” shot or unicorn in this cut, nor is there a tacked-on, upbeat ending. The film closes simply on Deckard entering the elevator with Rachel, followed the text: THE END. There are no other closing credits – the music just plays out over black. It’s extremely cool to see this, but you sort of have to imagine what it must have been like to see this back in the day in a theater with an audience of unsuspecting, diehard fans.

The workprint’s opening titles.

A different shot of Batty’s death from the workprint.

As with the other movie discs in this set, the Blu-ray Disc version of The Final Cut presents the workprint in full high-definition video. The footage is very dark and grainy, with only decent contrast, color and detail. The live-action material tends to be of better quality, but the effects footage is particularly rough looking. The added resolution of HD makes the print’s flaws more apparent. Despite all that, it’s amazing to finally have this version on disc, and to be able to actually see it after so many years of only hearing about it. Given that the workprint is a completely unique element, the quality simply is what it is. The audio on the Blu-ray is Dolby Digital 5.1, but there’s little play in the surrounds other than for atmosphere. It’s a very front-biased mix. The BD version features pop-up menus.

In terms of bonus material, the workprint offers another video introduction by director Ridley Scott. It also features running audio commentary by Paul Sammon, who is widely considered to be the ultimate historian and expert on all things related to Blade Runner. Sammon offers tons interesting details, trivia and other minutia related to the production, and in particular notes the differences in the workprint to all the other versions.

The only other bonus item on Disc Five, which also happens to be the final extra in the entire set, is a 30-minute featurette entitled All Our Variant Futures: From Workprint to Final Cut. This examines all the different versions of the film, and also offers an in-depth look at the work that went into making The Final Cut, and how the project came about. Producer Charles de Lauzirika and others take you behind-the-scenes, showing you such things as the warehouse of all the original camera negative (which, shockingly, had all been marked as junk back in 1988 – fortunately, it never actually got destroyed), the recent FX shoots with Joanna Cassidy and Ben Ford from earlier this year, the various digital tweaks and more.

2007 effects shoot with Joanna Cassidy

Harrison Ford’s son Ben during the 2007 reshoot.

All in all, Disc Five is the perfect finale to this release. What better way to close out the ultimate fan experience of Blade Runner than by viewing the rarest, most-coveted and seldom-seen version of the film itself?

Now let’s talk about all the different versions of The Final Cut available on Blu-ray and look at the packaging...

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Available Blu-ray Versions & Packaging (2007)

Blade Runner: The Final Cut is available on December 18th, 2007 in two versions on Blu-ray Disc. The details of each are as follows...

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Disc – standard blue plastic BD case)

Includes all five discs. Disc One – The Final Cut, Disc Three – Archival Versions and Disc Five – Workprint are all presented in 1080p high-definition video on Blu-ray Disc format. Disc Two – Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner and Disc Four – Enhancement Archive are both included in standard-definition on DVD. SRP is $39.99.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (5-disc Blu-ray)

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Disc – Briefcase)

Includes all five discs. Disc One – The Final Cut, Disc Three – Archival Versions and Disc Five – Workprint are all presented in 1080p high-definition video on Blu-ray Disc format. Disc Two – Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner and Disc Four – Enhancement Archive are both included in standard-definition on DVD. All the discs come in collectable “briefcase” packaging, with additional swag items (see details below). SRP is $99.98.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Disc – Briefcase)

The Blu-ray Disc Five-Disc Complete Collector’s Edition comes in a multi-disc versions of the usual blue plastic case used for the format. It includes an insert booklet.

The packaging for the Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition is very cool. The plastic case is a replica of Deckard’s Voight-Kampf machine briefcase from the film. When you trip the latches and open it, you’ll find that the lid holds a black file folder containing eight large cards with production artwork from the film (Syd Mead pre-production sketches, storyboard artwork, etc). Also in the lid, in its own plastic pouch, are two pieces of clear Lucite (attached magnetically) containing a lenticular-motion image from the film – a shot of Deckard raising his gun outside his apartment at the end of the film. You can view the clip either inside the Lucite or removed, but the Lucite stands, allowing you to display the image nicely on your desktop or shelf. The bottom half of the case is covered with a clear plastic sheet, on which is printed a signed letter from Ridley Scott (explaining how and why The Final Cut was created) as well as one of his own ‘Ridleygram’ drawings (of Deckard in his apartment). Lifting the sheet up, you’ll find a padded foam enclosure underneath, containing the Digipack for the actual movie discs (complete with an insert booklet listing all the features on the discs). Also included here are a pair of cool swag items. The first is a silvery plastic replica of Gaff’s unicorn origami from the end of the film – it stands about 2 ½ inches tall. The other is a 4-inch long plastic replica of the Police Spinner vehicle, complete with accurate markings and doors that swing open vertically.

Here’s a look at the complete contents of the case (this is the DVD version pictured here, but the BD version simply includes the discs in the standard blue BD case rather than a DVD Digipack)...

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition contents

And here’s a closer look at the replica unicorn origami and Spinner...

The replica unicorn origami and Spinner.

Each briefcase is individually numbered via a sticker on the bottom of the case. All in all, it’s an incredibly cool presentation. Warner really went the extra mile for fans of the film, and it’s certainly appreciated.

By the way, if you’re the kind of fan who loves Blade Runner enough to have actually read all the way through this review, I’d like to take a moment to recommend a couple of other things that might interest you. The first is Paul M. Sammon’s excellent book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, which is available now. There’s also a new 3-disc Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary CD soundtrack release coming the same day the Blu-rays street, featuring the complete remastered Vangelis score as well as new music he’s created that was inspired by the film. It’s worth a look.

 

Available Blu-ray Versions & Packaging (post-2007)

Blade Runner: The Final Cut was re-issued on Blu-ray on October 23rd, 2012 in a 4-disc box set and again on July 2nd, 2013 as a 3-disc BD Book edition. The details are as follows...

Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (4-disc Blu-ray Disc box set)

Includes four discs. Disc One – The Final Cut, Disc Two – Archival Versions , and Disc Three – Workprint and Special Features are all Blu-ray Discs. Disc Three combines all the content from the original Discs Two, Four and Five from the 2007 release, though the video material originally released on DVD is still only in standard definition. However, this disc does add the various image galleries (including a Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover Gallery, The Art of Blade Runner, a Unit Photography Gallery and a Marketing & Merchandise Gallery) that were missing from the 2007 release and they are presented in HD. The Workprint remains in HD and also now includes English 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. Meanwhile, Disc Four is simply a DVD version of The Final Cut. All the discs come in a standard Blu-ray case, in a larger cardboard box packaging, with additional swag items. These include a 72-page hardback photo book (including The Art of Blade Runner and Blade Runner: From the Archives), a different replica Spinner from the 2007 briefcase set, and a lenticular art card. You also get access to a Digital Copy version of The Final Cut. SRP is $79.99. Here’s the cover art (left), the outer box (right) and a look at the contents (below)…

                                Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc box)     Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc box)

Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc box)

 

Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (3-disc Blu-ray book edition)

Includes three discs. Disc One – The Final Cut, Disc Two – Archival Versions , and Disc Three – Workprint and Special Features are all Blu-ray Discs. Disc Three combines all the content from the original Discs Two, Four and Five from the 2007 release, though the video material originally released on DVD is still only in standard definition. However, this disc does add the various image galleries (including a Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover Gallery, The Art of Blade Runner, a Unit Photography Gallery and a Marketing & Merchandise Gallery) that were missing from the 2007 release and they are presented in HD. The Workprint remains in HD and also now includes English 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. All the discs come packaged in a 36-page Blu-ray photo book (including The Art of Blade Runner). SRP is $19.98. Here’s the cover art and a look at the contents…

Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Book edition)

 

Conclusion

The Final Cut is a breathtaking experience – truly the ultimate version of a classic. It offers one of the most fully-realized fictional worlds you’ll ever seen on screen, and its vision is even more relevant today than it was back in 1982. As for these discs, well... this special edition was an awfully long time coming, but I’m happy to say it’s been worth the wait. I haven’t had this much fun in my home theater since the Alien Quadrilogy or The Lord of the Rings: Extended Editions.

Simply put, Blade Runner: The Final Cut is the must-have Blu-ray release of the year and is destined to become one of the best-ever releases on the format. It delivers everything we love about the thoughtful, hand-crafted approach to creating special editions – the kind made for enthusiasts by enthusiasts – and brings that level of quality and comprehensiveness to the high-definition arena for the first time. Best of all, it does this without resorting to gimmicky pop-ups, picture-in-picture and other interactive trickery. There’s a lesson to be learned there. Everyone involved in this effort should be extremely proud. It’s the kind of release we live for. It deserves, and receives, our highest recommendation.

- Bill Hunt

 

March 2015 Postscript

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (poster by Drew Struzan)With all the recent breaking news that a sequel to Blade Runner is in the works, apparently set to see the return of Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard and (currently) due to be directed by Denis Villeneuve of Prisoners and Enemy fame, I thought it worth adding a couple of additional notes here about the possibility of yet another future and likely Blu-ray re-issue of the above material from Warner.

Producer Charles de Lauzirika has told me that he does indeed have additional special edition material that could be included in such a release, some of it already produced and some that could be created from scratch from the interviews and archival material he already has in hand. This includes an existing but as-yet-unseen featurette on the Spinner vehicles in the film. It’s also worth noting that his outstanding Dangerous Days documentary was originally produced in full high-definition but has never been seen that way. So that could be upgraded to HD for a future Blu-ray release as well. And no doubt Warner Bros. could create a bounty of new swag items for inclusion in a future box set.

In any case, it’s virtually certain that when the Blade Runner sequel finally emerges, possibly in 2016, Warner will release a new and still more comprehensive Blu-ray edition of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, including all the previously released special features, with complete HD upgrades and new material too. Until such time, however, the existing BD sets remain among the best special edition releases ever produced. They are must-own titles for any fan of the film or the Blu-ray format.

 

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