Although the film wasn't appreciated at the time of its initial theatrical release, for my money, BLADE RUNNER ($20) was and is one of the best science fiction films of the 1980's. Over the years, and thanks largely to home video (and the Criterion Collection Laserdisc), BLADE RUNNER gained major cult status, which in turn, enabled director Ridley Scott to re-tool the film and get a limited theatrical re-issue back in 1992. And while this so called "Directorís Cut" brought BLADE RUNNER closer to Ridley Scottís original intentions, it would take an additional fifteen years before the filmmaker would deliver "The Final Cut" of this 1982 cinematic masterpiece.
Set in a bleak and surprisingly, none too distant dystopian future, BLADE RUNNER places Harrison Ford in the role of Rick Deckard, a specialized police detective, whose job it is, is to terminate (or retire) artificial human beings known as Replicants. Four of the Replicants, which have been banned on Earth, show up in Los Angeles and it falls to Deckard is to track down and retire them. BLADE RUNNER also features Rutger Hauer in an unforgettable performance as the Replicant leader, Roy Batty, who is searching desperately for a way to expand his four-year lifespan. BLADE RUNNER finds the lovely Sean Young, at the pinnacle of her cinematic career, as Deckardís romantic interest Rachael. Also along for the wild ride are Edward James Olmos, M. Emmett Walsh, Darryl Hannah (my favorite performance of hers next to Elle Driver), William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, James Hong and Joanna Cassidy.
BLADE RUNNER is a film that raises questions about the quality of life. The Replicants come to Earth because they are desperate for more life. However, life on an ecologically ravaged Earth is like a perpetual prison sentence, with mankindís only hope for tasting the joys of life existing on the off world colonies, places where few actually seem to go. So who is truly better off, the Replicants who "live" for a short period of time off planet, or the humans, whose longer existence really isn't a life?
Like the previous Director's Cut, the Final Cut of BLADE RUNNER depicts a much bleaker and more focused version of the story than what was released into theaters in 1982. For these reasons, amongst others, this BLADE RUNNER is a much better film than what originally materialized. The Final Cut of BLADE RUNNER eliminates the inane voice over narration contained in the original theatrical release, as well as excising the tacked on happy ending. Additionally, the editing has been refined by a number of trims and additions, plus the special effects have been tweaked in the digital domain. The icing on the cake comes in the form of digital restoration work that revitalizes the image, making BLADE RUNNER appear virtually pristine and new- not bad for a film that took a quarter of a century to achieve its definitive release.
Warner Home Video has made BLADE RUNNER available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. For a quarter of a century old movie, BLADE RUNNER looks incredible on DVD and I can only image how much better it looks in hi-def. Much of the film takes place at night, in the rainy darkness of a smoke filled city, and the transfer does a great job of bringing the wealth of visual detail to the screen. The image appears very sharp and very nicely defined. Colors are generally excellent, appearing deeply saturated, but completely stable. Additionally, flesh tones are always appealing. Blacks are right on the money and the whites appear accurate and crisp. Contrast is generally smooth and shadow detail is very, very good. There is some grain, but it enhances the intentional grittiness of the film. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
For this release BLADE RUNNER comes with an upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The mix is far more involving than the original Dolby Surround track. Directional effects and channel separation are stronger and more distinct, plus sounds pan through the soundstage in a far more convincing manner. Fidelity is good, although the Vangelis music is recessed into the mix a little more than I would like and comes across somewhat thin. Dialogue is completely understandable. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features an Introduction By Director Ridley Scott, plus three separate running Audio Commentaries. The first commentary is with director Ridley Scott, the second features executive producer/co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher and co-screenwriter David Peoples; producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine Haber, while the third includes 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.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming, which consists of a single extensive program: Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner is a monumental three and a half hour documentary that covers every facet of the production of the film, as well as the its rediscovery. There are a few trailers also included on disc two, but they are unrelated to the film and inconsequential to the documentary.
Twenty-five years after its original release, BLADE RUNNER finally gets all the respect it deserves. Warnerís DVD release is truly first rate. Absolutely recommended.
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