Case Number 12645

BLADE RUNNER: FIVE-DISC ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION

Warner Bros. // 1982 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 21st, 2007

The Charge

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." -- Roy Batty

Opening Statement

Blade Runner was the reason I bought a DVD player. Even though back then the only version available was a bare-bones non-anamorphic widescreen version of the 1992 Director's Cut, I wanted the clarity and satisfaction of having it in digital. I had worn out my VHS copies, because I played the film on an almost continuous loop in my living room for several years. Yet as the format grew up, I always wondered why there was never a better edition or double dip for the movie. For more than a decade director Ridley Scott (Alien) talked about how he had in the can a special edition of the film ready to go with an entire array of the various cuts made over the years. I drooled at the thought, and dreamed of electric sheep waiting for the day to arrive. A rights struggle prevented it from happening on the twentieth anniversary of the film, as the original production company and distributor had been bought and sold in many pieces creating a legal battle to know who owned which version. A new edition of Blade Runner kept being pushed back, and I wanted to corner a Warner Brothers executive in a back alley and scream "Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch!" while I threatened to take his eyes out with my thumbs.

The release of Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition is cause for celebration among the legions of fans who have embraced the 1982 film and waited patiently for a definitive DVD release. It comes just in time to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary. Ironically the original theatrical release of Blade Runner was regarded as a disappointment, and Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford both seemed to disown what was shown back in the day claiming the studio made a lot of badly thought out revisions to the final product. For the tenth year anniversary of 1992 Scott was offered a chance to release a "Director's Cut" which was assembled under his remote guidance while he continued work on Thelma and Louise. He claimed even back then that it was not a true "director's cut," because there were more things he wanted to do. But now all of that has changed. Ridley Scott has supervised an overhaul of the film, gotten his favorite DVD extras producer to go crazy, and gathered up all the versions of his seminal sci-fi classic to offer to the faithful. Never has a film gotten so lavish a set with so much supplemental material without Criterion being involved. This Warner Brothers release finally suggests the studios "get it." DVD is a format where movie buffs can finally see every scrap of film in the vaults, and they'd really like to. Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition is an embarrassment of riches, and the best release of 2007.

Facts of the Case

Blade Runner is the extremely loose adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in which Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark) plays a hard-boiled cop named Rick Deckard in Los Angeles 2019 who has disturbing criminals to execute. He is a "Blade Runner" (a term actually coined by William S. Burroughs for a book), an executioner who hunts down androids or biomechanical robots built to look and act human. They are called Replicants, and used for slave labor to build off-world colonies where healthy humans are migrating to now the planet is polluted. Their presence on Earth is illegal, and it is up to Deckard to find them and shoot them. Yet technology has a funny way of catching up to modern man, and this latest batch of four "skin jobs" seems more human than humans. Included in this rogue group are not-so-bright but brutal Leon (Brion James, 48 Hrs.), sexy Zhora (Joanna Cassidy, Ghosts of Mars), gymnastic Pris (Daryl Hannah, Kill Bill: Vol. 1), and their lethally cool leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher). They are stronger and more intelligent, and viciously clinging to their last remaining days before a built-in four-year termination date. The Replicants have evolved, and Deckard's job has gotten a hell of a lot harder this time around. Worse yet, Deckard finds himself falling for a legal Replicant named Rachael (Sean Young, Dune) who might be his next target.

The Evidence

Somebody once told me all good science fiction should ask the basic question of "What does it mean to be human?" What makes Blade Runner work so damn well is it only dwells on this question. The story makes us think about the lines between souls and circuitry, and it does so in a simple stylish way. The film is dark and moody, and follows the rules of noir. At the time of its release Harrison Ford was always the wisecracking hero, but in Blade Runner he was a depressed alcoholic killer who wasn't good enough to get off the planet. In 1982 aliens and robots were often cute cherubic sidekicks, but here we had dark gritty psychotic "almost humans" who we somehow cared for before they died. Everyone was evil and everyone was good. One raging debate around Blade Runner has always been "Is Deckard a Replicant?," and seems Scott and Ford always disagreed. It all depended on who you asked and when you asked it. Finally in the commentary of this set Ridley Scott says it truly doesn't matter one way or another, because the line is set out to be blurred so much. The robots are humans, and the humans are robots. Nobody is one hundred percent one thing or the other by the film's end. The journey is one you'll put your own personal stamp on, and there are many takes on how you could interpret the metaphors and subtext.

Speaking of tons of options, check out the number of different ways you can buy this movie. Blade Runner is being released in several different iterations, so you can choose exactly how in-depth you want to go and even select your favorite digital format. There are choices including DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD. The only differences include the number of discs, and each set is packaged differently with completely unique cover art. Also the ultimate collectorsâ edition comes in a metallic briefcase which looks like the Voight-Kampff machine case featured in the film.

Disc One -The Final Cut
This 2007 remaster of Blade Runner is stunning. Ridley Scott personally supervised the transfer, remastered sound elements, even reshot a small sequence using Harrison Ford's son, and found a way to get Joanna Cassidy's face on to her stunt double. It is the director's preferred version of the film with every single frame scrutinized and scrubbed clean. The level of detail is startling, and the sound has never been better. As far as technical specs go this is a demo-level disc to showcase your television and sound system. This version has more control of blues and greens, and it is darker with far more depth than any other version I've seen to date. This disc includes an introduction from Scott, and three separate commentaries, including one from Ridley Scott talking solo over the entire film. Original screenwriter Hampton Fancher (The Minus Man), revision screenwriter David Peoples (Twelve Monkeys), producer Michael Deeley (The Man Who Fell to Earth), and production executive Katy Haber(At Close Range) chime in together for a group discussion on the second track. Visual effects gurus Syd Mead (Aliens), Doug Trumbull (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Richard Yuricich (2001: A Space Odyssey), and David Dryer (Never Say Never Again) are joined by art director David Snyder (Demolition Man) and production designer Larry Paull (Back to the Future) join forces to provide the final dissection of the film.

Differences in the new 2007 cut include (list adapted with help from the Internet Movie Database or IMDb.com):
* In the opening shot, the flames shooting up have been digitally altered to look more realistic;
* In the second shot of the staring eye, you see the pupil react to the setting of 2019 L.A.;
* A couple of sequences are shortened (such as the intro shot of Deckard reading the paper);
* Spinner wires have been removed and matte lines erased;
* Captain Bryant now says "two" replicants were fried in the electrical field;
* A new voiceover from Captain Bryant was inserted, describing Leon's job;
* New Cityspeak comes over on the police scanner in Gaff's spinner rides both to the police station and the Tyrell building;
* The original shot of Batty in the VidPhon booth recycled from the later confrontation in the Bradbury Building has been digitally altered so the hand does look like Batty was in the booth;
* The hotel manager mutters "Kowalski" as he opens the door to Leon's room for Deckard and Gaff;
* Harrison Ford's son Ben Ford was used as a stand-in during the silhouetted bathroom scene;
* It includes the unicorn dream footage which suggests Deckard may be a Replicant;
* When Deckard is drinking on his balcony, you can see a lighted billboard reflection on one side of his face;
* New footage of the L.A. streets before Animoid Row and Taffey Lewis's club, including hockey-masked geisha dancers, is taken from the work print;
* The serial number on the snake scale now matches the Animoid Row lady's dialogue;
* The lip flap between Deckard and Abdul Ben Hassan has been corrected again using Ben Ford and CGI wizardry;
* Zhora's snake tattoo on her face from the photograph has been digitally added for continuity;
* In Zhora's death scene, you can tell it is her the entire time. While previously it was obvious her stunt double was in the shot, Joanna Cassidy's face was digitally superimposed over her double. There is still a continuity goof with the "heels"; however, it is more subtle and harder to spot;
* The 15 seconds of "extra violence" footage from the International Version is inserted, stretching out the confrontation with Pris and Roy Batty;
* During Batty's confrontation with Tyrell, he says, "I want more life, father," in addition to saying "Come Sebastian, come" when Sebastian is trying to escape after Batty murders Tyrell;
* When Batty releases the dove, it now flies up into a background that matches 2019 L.A.

Disc Two -- Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner
(there is a Blade Runner -- The Final Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition) which includes only these discs 1& 2)
An exhaustive double feature-length look at the film incorporating new interviews, deleted footage, and out takes. Famous DVD extra producer Charles de Lauzirka (Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition) has composed a breathtaking look at the film with so much thrown in you'll have to watch with the pause button always ready. He somehow has gotten the entire cast, much of the crew, and just about anyone who touched Blade Runner and is still alive to tell the tale to talk about the film from inception to its legacy. Hell, even Ridley Scott's son Luke shows up to talk about his dad's state of mind during the filming. And yes, there are bits of the "Deckard visits Holden" in the hospital included. Did I mention this documentary is over three-and-a-half hours long? I've never seen anything like this, and it's amazingly well-done. Charles de Lauzirka claims this is his favorite film, and he has been working on this project for over seven years. His passion is evident from the depth of this documentary which chronicles how a movie is made in exquisite detail. Somehow this man got over eighty stars to chime in on the influence of the film, so he's not alone in his fervor for Blade Runner.

Disc Three -- Three Complete Archival Versions
Through branching we get to see three distinct versions of the film including the U.S. 1982 Theatrical Release with the infamous voiceover and "happy ending," the 1982 International Cut with fifteen seconds of extended violence, and the 1992 Director's Cut which includes the removal of the voiceover and an inserted unicorn dream sequence. Each version gets an introduction by Ridley Scott who talks about how they came about.

Disc Four -- Enhancement Archive
(there is Blade Runner (Four-Disc Collector's Edition) which includes up to this one discs 1-4)
This disc is dedicated to two more hours of new featurettes including: "Remembering Philip K. Dick," "The Novel vs. The Film," the graphic design, the costumes and fashion, screen tests for the female leads with Mike Fenton's introductions, remembering director of photography Jordan Cronenweth, a look at the poster designs, analysis of Rick Deckard and the Replicant debate, and fans who are filmmakers where current directors talk about how the film influenced them. Also found on the disc are deleted and cut scenes, outtakes, production photographs, vintage promotional featurettes from 1982, and every trailer used in cinemas or on television.

Disc Five -- The Assembly Cut
(available exclusively in Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition, Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition [Blu-ray], and Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition [HD DVD])
This version was used in test screenings, and it has been cleaned up to a degree yet remains rough around the edges. You can see matte lines, Spinner wires, and it appears grainier than the other prints. The opening credits and music are different, and the opening crawl is replaced with the definition of a Replicant. The transfer is a non-anamorphic widescreen, and the sound is simple stereo. Ridley Scott shows up again to talk about how this cut came about.

Differences in the Assembly Cut also include (source is the Internet Movie Database or IMDb.com):
* The Alan Ladd Company logo has a white background;
* Sounds of slicing knives and only Harrison Ford's name appear in the opening credits;
* Sound contains numerous differences in sound effects, music, and dialogue as compared to the standard mixes we've heard. Temp music is used as the film progresses more and more. Watch the last reel, and you'll be amazed at the differences;
* Opening shots do not include close-up and subsequent pull-aways from Holden's eye as he looks out the window, it simply cuts closer and closer to the Tyrell building until we enter the interior questioning room;
* After Leon fires on Holden and Holden crashes through the wall, hitting the table, the shot stays on Holden as fan blades brush his hair and his back smokes from the gunfire;
* Deckard's meal at "The White Dragon" can be seen being laid on the bar in front of him, rather than merely being heard. You see he only gets two large ugly shrimp when he wanted four;
* More information is given about Leon when Deckard is debriefed on the case. The conversation synchs audio to visual which it often did not in other cuts;
* No narration during the scene where Deckard awaits a seat at "The White Dragon," but the blimp's advertisement is unaltered in the background (unlike in the "Director's Cut," where it was altered to cover the narration over);
* When Deckard and Gaff inspect Leon's address and the attendant opens his room for them, he says, "Kowalski," indicating the current tenant. Kowalski is Leon's "last name";
* Roy does not ask Chew, "Now...where would we find this J. F. Sebastian?"; the scene merely cuts to Deckard driving home;
* When Deckard plays the piano in a depressed stupor there is no unicorn vision, there is no background music, and we hear the one or two notes Harrison Ford actually played on the set;
* Deckard's search for Abduul Hasaan lasts longer: we see more of Animoid Row and the back streets of the sector;
* After Zhora attacks Deckard and flees, we see Deckard loosen his tie from his throat...as if he was nearly beheaded;
* "If I Didn't Care," by the Ink Spots, is heard in the background when Deckard purchases a bottle of Tsing Tao after shooting Zhora. This was replaced later by "One More Kiss" due to a rights issue;
* In Deckard's apartment, there originally was no "Love Theme" as we all know and love; the initial music track merely continues on longer. Also, Rachel plays a different selection on the piano when testing herself; it actually was the sheet music we see displayed;
* When Roy kills Tyrell, the footage of Tyrell dying was more in tone with the International Version (yet still a touch tamer) and Roy then turns to Sebastian saying, "I'm sorry, Sebastian. Come. Come!," as he stalks J.F. to kill him;
* Bryant's info to Deckard over the CB about Tyrell's and Sebastian's deaths are heard as we see Deckard driving through the tunnel. When Deckard is parked in his sedan on the street, he is merely preparing to call J.F.'s apartment before the police spinner interrogates him;
* We actually see Roy break Deckard's fingers, in close up, with a prop-hand;
* More shots of Deckard as he hangs on to the neighboring building for dear life, after "jumping the gorge";
* Different, farther-away shots of Roy as Deckard watches him die with alternate narration;
* No end credits and no tacked-on ending. It just fades to black and we get music.

The Assembly cut includes a commentary by Paul M. Sammons who wrote a book on the history of Blade Runner, and he chronicles all the differences and inserts history and trivia at a rapid pace. He cites over seventy differences in this version that are not in any other cut of the film, although he admits to not having seen the 2007 version when he recorded the track. It's a well-done audio discussion that rivals the one Ridley Scott delivers on the first disc. Also included on the fifth disc is a featurette called "All Our Variant Futures," which features Paul Sammons, Ridley Scott, and Charles de Lauzirka talking about all of these cuts and how they came about. There is also a look at the restoration, and why it took seven years to finally get this thing out and on to retail shelves. Included is footage of Brian Ford and Joanna Cassidy doing green-screen work to perfect visual flaws in the movie.

Fans looking for the high-definition versions should note that Warner Brothers is offering the five discs outside of the collectible casing for much less, although for DVD fans you have to splurge on the collectible packaging to get everything. Inside the replica of the Voight-Kampff case is also included art stills, an origami unicorn, a Matchbox-style model of the Spinner, and more elaborate artwork on the discs and in the foldout gates that hold them. There is also a lenticular motion film clip in Lucite to round things out.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The differences in all of these cuts are minimal, and I'm not sure if anyone but true fans will see much to catch their eyes or claim a sequence of extra violence truly changes the plot. I'd say the two-disc DVD release is fine for most normal people, because it includes the best version of the film along with the great documentary on the making of Blade Runner. Three commentaries and a long, loving look at the film is enough, and the collector's editions just add more for the sake of excess. True fans will immediately snatch up the metallic brief cases, but cheaper alternatives will satisfy those who just want the film in their library. I hate to admit it, but not everyone wants to watch this film five times over. It seems a bit much to expect high-definition consumers to see a value of twenty bucks just to get the elaborate packaging, some art stills, and toys. Certainly some will, but it's something you have to weigh.

Closing Statement

This is an incredible way to handle a DVD release, and it's remarkable the studio is offering this many options to purchase. Of course my instinct is I want as much as I can get, and I would immediately grab the Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition just because I am a completist freak. Something tells me I am not alone. With the 2007 digitally improved version, a lot of people are accusing Ridley Scott of the same patterns George Lucas had with his Star Wars trilogy. To an extent they are right, but there is a difference in the way he is honoring the fans. All I can say is yes he has tweaked shots here and there, but he has also provided sets that include every version of the film even with what preview test audiences saw before release. If you don't like Roy Batty saying "Father" instead of "F -- -er" all you have to do is switch discs. Want a happy ending or more violence? Here, have both. Ridley Scott and Warner Brothers honor fans by giving them the option to own either a new version or the one from their childhood simultaneously.

It's an amazing amount of material that boggles the mind with six hours of behind the scenes footage, new interviews, vintage footage, four separate commentaries often with four and five participants, and five versions of the film all offered in their original form. This is how a DVD set should be done, and we rarely see sets like this. Ridley Scott, Charles de Lauzirka, and Warner Brothers have raised the bar on a studio release. For the longest time this kind of lavish obsessiveness has been the territory of companies like Criterion; hopefully this marks a new realization by studios and film producers as to what DVD can do. This set traces every step of progression for a well-loved movie, and chronicles how it came to be a cult obsession with many variations.

Blade Runner itself remains an amazing "ahead of its time" feature that has only grown more fantastic as time marches on. The film still looks fresh even with all the '80s trademark stylistic choices, and it still resonates because it is great science fiction. 2019 will be here before we know it, and certainly in a few years we won't be sending robotic slave labor to build colonies throughout space. But what Blade Runner says about what constitutes a soul is still as powerful today as it was back then. The difference is more people respect the film than when it arrived in theatres back in '82. If you need proof, just look at all of these sets around of the movie. It's about time.

The Verdict

Guilty of being the event DVD of the year, Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition was a long time coming. And now we all have multiple versions of the film to obsess and argue over. There's never been a DVD set like this before, but hopefully one day it will be considered run of the mill. But like the film, it remains extraordinary.

Review content copyright © 2007 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 100
Acting: 98
Story: 98
Judgment: 100

Special Commendations
* Top 100 Discs: #19
* Top 20 Review Debuts: #17

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary by Director Ridley Scott
* Commentary by Original Screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Revision Screenwriter David Peoples, Producer Michael Deeley, and Production Executive Katy Haber
* Commentary by Visual Effects Team Syd Mead, Doug Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer Joined by Art Director David Snyder and Production Designer Larry Paull
* "Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner" -- Feature Length Production Documentary
* 1982 US Theatrical Cut
* 1982 International Cut
* 1992 Director's Cut
* Featurette -- Rembering Philip K. Dick
* Featurette -- The Novel vs. The Film
* Featurette on the Graphic Design
* Featurette on the Costumes and Fashion
* Screen Tests with Mike Fenton's Introductions
* Remembering Jordan Cronenweth, Director Of Photography
* A look at the Poster Designs
* Character Analysis of Rick Deckard and the Replicant Debate
* Featurette on Fans that are Filmmakers
* Unit photography gallery
* Deleted and alternate scenes
* 1982 promotional featurettes
* Trailers and TV Spots
* DVD Restoration Comparison
* Vintage Featurettes
* Assembly Cut
* Commentary by Paul M. Sammons on The Assembly Cut
* "All Our Variant Futures"--A Look at the Different Versions
* Lenticular Motion Film Clip in Lucite
* Spinner Model
* Origami Unicorn
* Production Art and Illustration Cards
* Collectible Voight-Kampff Case Packaging

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/combined

* Blade Zone Fan Site
http://bladezone.com/

* Blade Runner On-Line Magazine
http://www.devo.com/bladerunner/

* Blade Runner Fan Site
http://www.blade-runner.it/