THE FINAL CUT
FILMEDGE.NET's multi-release review series on the 25th Anniversary releases of BLADE RUNNER begins with our coverage of the basic Two-Disc Special Edition DVD available on December 18th, including the new and massive three-and-a-half hour making-of documentary, DANGEROUS DAYS.
Read my review of BLADE RUNNER - THE FINAL CUT theatrical release here on FilmEdge, as the same version of Sir Ridley Scott's future noir masterpiece applies — though a true comparison of the film's high-definition format transfer will be reserved for my upcoming Blu-Ray disc review. Nevertheless, THE FINAL CUT standard DVD edition presents this 1982 gem handsomely in a clean, new digitally scanned and restored image accompanied by a lively, atmospheric Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.
This Two-Disc Special Edition is a highly recommended must-own collection for BLADE RUNNER fans or anyone who appreciates landmark filmmaking at its artistic and visual height. The inclusion of the new three-and-a-half hour documentary by Charles De Lauzirika, DANGEROUS DAYS, makes even this set an invaluable addition to any home entertainment library.
DISC ONE of BLADE RUNNER — THE FINAL CUT offers Ridley Scott's bleak and beautiful vision of life and death in 2019 Los Angeles in a carefully restored and enhanced digital transfer, incorporating brief new scenes and footage with enhanced visual effects. This sci-fi noir spectacle has never looked better, thanks to the 4K restoration scan produced by Charles de Lauzirika, and the new introduction by director Ridley Scott himself declares this the version of BLADE RUNNER closest to his originally intended vision 25 years ago.
Charles de Lauzirika's restoration, along with Ridley Scott's editorial changes, preserve the integrity of BLADE RUNNER's dramatic impact while clarifying and enhancing the film's age-dated but still ahead-of-its-time conceptual power. Adding new lines and previously unseen footage, erasing minor technical flaws simply unavoidable in early-80s optical compositing, while correcting one egregious continuity error in Zhora's death scene, this FINAL CUT forgives the epic's shortcomings due to production time and budget restraints and allows the film's true spirit to shine through. It is not hyperbole to state that indeed viewers have not seen BLADE RUNNER until they feast their eyes, ears and emotions on this unprecedented FINAL CUT edition.
Equally impressive are the three feature-length commentary audio tracks included with the film on DISC ONE. Director Ridley Scott delivers the first commentary by himself with his unique first-person account on the making and impact of BLADE RUNNER while the story plays out. Occasionally Scott's monologue expands beyond the scenes on-screen into extended memoirs on a given plot point or hitch in production, but his comments continuously reinforce his personal drive to forge this pioneering vision of the near-future, and never apologizes for his uncompromising methods to achieve that vision which, at times, only Scott could imagine and realize.
The second commentary track offers the rarest of treats for BLADE RUNNER fans by putting screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples side-by-side to offer their dual — and occasionally, dueling — commentary. Also included are comments from producer Michael Deeley and production executive Katherine Haber, also recorded together but separately from the Fancher/Peoples session and intercut into one combined track. While Deeley and Haber's recollections offer a valuable insight into the production of the film, the main event of this second track is the verbal sparring between co-writers Fancher and Peoples. The two scribes alternate between praising each other's script contributions and engaging in spirited arguments over the exact sequence of rewrites and who originated them. Fireworks ensue on occasion between Fancher and Peoples, but in the end both agree that the time-told success of BLADE RUNNER's story would never have happened without their combined efforts as co-screenwriters, along with author Philip K. Dick's original novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as the base inspiration of it all.
The third and final commentary track on DISC ONE gathers the talented artisans responsible for BLADE RUNNER's visual innovations: 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. This dream team of conceptual daredevils and technical illusionists speak to the production challenges working for such a visionary director as Ridley Scott, once an art director himself. Tales of terror and strife ensue about last-minute set rebuilds, flipping over massive columns which were installed upside down, and the numerous complications filming 16 weeks of night shooting in artificial rain on the Warners backlot. Trumbull's comments are the most technical in subject, but the Oscar-winning visual effects creator explains shots clearly and in sync with their on-screen appearance in a valuable primer on how he and the EEG team realized these unprecedented images of a dark, dismal future.
Yet all the above is only half of what the BLADE RUNNER — THE FINAL CUT DVD has to offer, as DISC TWO raises the bar on home entertainment excellence notches higher with DANGEROUS DAYS, the all new three-and-a-half hour documentary on the difficult birth and dazzling legacy of this landmark cinematic achievement.
Press materials by Warner Brothers describe this documentary as "authoritative" and "definitive," two terms which only scratch the surface of this feature-length exploration of BLADE RUNNER from its early developmental genesis as novel adaptation to the film's theatrical release and now decades beyond. Simply put, Charles de Lauzirika's DANGEROUS DAYS is one of the best making-of productions ever offered on DVD, if not topping that list outright.
De Lauzirika assembled all of the film's principals, from actors Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah and Edward James Olmos, to the vast production team including Ridley Scott, Michael Deeley, Katherine Haber, Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Bud Yorkin and many of others. The documentary proceeds chronologically along the film's history in eight chapters:
INCEPT DATE - 1980: SCREENWRITING AND DEALMAKING opens with Executive Producer and Co-Screenwriter Hampton Fancher relating his early efforts and experiments to turn Philip K. Dick's novel into a marketable script and film. Fancher's first drafts mapped out a very low budget, intimate story and were not enthusiastically received by the novel's author. Original financial backing fell through and the film nearly collapsed until financiers Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin agreed to provide completion funds and a complex deal was forged. Constant rewrites took their toll on Fancher who was eventually replaced by writer David Peoples, brought in to speed up director- and producer-prompted rewrites and guide the story into what eventually resulted in the shooting script for BLADE RUNNER.
BLUSH RESPONSE: ASSEMBLING THE CAST depicts the tangled, arduous process of selecting the ensemble of actors who would bring BLADE RUNNER to life on the sets and stages of Ridley Scott's futureworld. Can you picture Robert Mitchum or Dustin Hoffman as replicant hunter Rick Deckard? Learn the details of those alternate near-realities from Scott, Producer Michael Deeley and the screenwriters. This chapter offers rare glimpses of the early and elaborate screen tests by Sean Young and Daryl Hannah in one of the last examples of this studio system process for hiring actors. Ridley Scott, Deeley and writer Fancher also spin the yarn of how Harrison Ford was finally cast as Deckard, and how Rutger Hauer was cast as Roy Batty without even meeting Ridley Scott.
A GOOD START: DESIGNING THE FUTURE illustrates how futurist Syd Mead interpreted Ridley Scott's visions of the future, along with production designer Lawrence Paull, art director David Snyder and others. The team created BLADE RUNNER's iconic Spinner police car along with countless props, costumes and neon signs to populate future-Los Angeles. Always having to conform their work to the director's exacting eye for detail, one segment quote by producer Michael Deeley summarizes the film's design experience under director Scott: "When Ridley takes out the pencil, it's hundreds of dollars; when he takes out the pen, it's thousands of dollars." Extrapolating a realistic-yet-fantastic world of 2019 was a difficult, exhausting and ultimately rewarding effort for the production artists who survived the ordeal.
EYE OF THE STORM: PRODUCTION BEGINS gathers comments and memories (good or bad) from the production team and acting cast. Ridley Scott remembers problems from the first day of shooting, as the crew struggled to interpret and enact the director's obliquely artistic vision. Star Harrison Ford also had his difficulties getting in sync with Scott's internal vision for the character and the story, and never formed any on-screen chemistry with co-star Sean Young. Yet for the weary cast and crew, the endurance test of BLADE RUNNER was far from over.
LIVING IN FEAR: TENSION ON THE SET recalls the turbulent times on-set near the end of production as budgeting pressure from financiers Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin turned up the heat on Ridley Scott to finish the film. Troubles boiled over on the backlot as a leaked British newspaper interview with Scott turned the American crew's sentiment against him, spawning a divisive "t-shirt war" rebellion. The fall-out rate of crew members was high due to the film's relentless shooting schedule of long hours on rain-soaked nights, but inevitably it was Ridley Scott's meticulous, perfectionist mindset which allowed BLADE RUNNER to leave its indelible mark on cinema history. Typical of the film's production tempo, even the last night of filming didn't finish until afternoon of the next day.
BEYOND THE WINDOW: VISUAL EFFECTS studies the groundbreaking work by special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull and his EEG crew which realized the towering megatropolis of 2019 Los Angeles, the monolithic Tyrell Corporation pyramid, and set Spinner cars flying through the rain above it all. Trumbull remembers the budget-minded mantra of his work on the film as an important creative challenge: "Do more with very little money and very little time, and that was kind of fun." This segment reveals a wealth of special effects secrets from BLADE RUNNER in numerous rare video clips and film tests that will delight any fan of the film's technical wizardry.
IN NEED OF MAGIC: POST-PRODUCTION PROBLEMS examines how the editing process reshaped and redefined the story experience of BLADE RUNNER, as illustrated by Ridley Scott's comment after seeing the first cut of the film: "I think it's marvelous, but what the fuck does it mean?" Additional shooting by Scott in London along with editing with Terry Rawlings honed the four-hour assembly, populated with 'scene missing' placeholders, into a more cohesive cut. Yet anyone (except the studio financiers) who watched the overlong version still recognized the unique visual splendor already quite apparent. It was in this editorial phase that Ridley introduced the infamously oblique unicorn dream footage, while studio pressure for clarity inserted the Deckard voiceover narration, which only increased the controversy and conflict over post-production of BLADE RUNNER.
DANGEROUS DAYS concludes with TO HADES AND BACK: RELEASE AND RESURRECTIONS, an ensemble reflection from cast and crew on the theatrical release of BLADE RUNNER, the satisfaction of seeing their arduous efforts finally appear on-screen, and their disappointment in the film's disconnection with audiences. Partly a victim of its timing, filmgoers were still riding an emotional high from Spielberg's E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, and simply refused to embrace Ridley Scott's artistic but depressing view of a dystopian future. Yet the passage of two-and-a-half decades allow for BLADE RUNNER's ahead-of-its-time brilliance to prevail as it eventually found a loyal, appreciative audience of critical and public admirers.
BLADE RUNNER's time has finally come with THE FINAL CUT, and this Two-Disc Special Edition DVD set pays well-deserved and overdue homage to a standout example of visionary cinema. History demonstrates how Ridley Scott's dystopian future-noir epic influenced a generation of films and filmmakers, stamping an indelible mark on science fiction, special effects technology, music videos, while paving the way for subsequent trips into cyberpunk cinema like THE MATRIX. Modern cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong evolve ever-closer into glowing neon mazes of metropolitan excess. The future was already here in 1982, thanks to director Ridley Scott and the entire creative team who created this enduring, enigmatic masterpiece, and now BLADE RUNNER — THE FINAL CUT is here on DVD to spin into all over again.
Please watch for additional, continuing coverage of BLADE RUNNER's new multi-set releases on DVD as FILMEDGE.NET reviews the 5-DISC ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDTION on high-definition Blu-Ray discs, coming soon!