When director Ridley Scott arrived in Los Angeles to helm his first American film, Blade Runner, he knew that the dense, kaleidoscopic images of urban dystopia required to bring the narrative to the screen would have to be created with great care. With this in mind, he selected Jordan Cronenweth, ASC, (Altered States, Peggy Sue Got Married) to capture the film’s now-legendary visuals. To achieve Scott’s vision, Cronenweth worked closely with conceptual designer Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David Snyder, costume designers Michael Kaplan and Charles Knode, and special photographic effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull. Scott wanted the film to look dark, with several visible layers of light, so Cronenweth meticulously framed and calibrated each shot with complicated color palettes, often using heavy light sources just off-camera to illuminate his subjects in a unique way. (As his son, Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, notes in one of this package’s supplements, the cinematographer’s mantra was, “It’s not what you light; it’s what you don’t light.”)
Blade Runner’s exhibition history is a complicated one. Originally released in 1982, the film had a disappointing run at the box office, but quickly earned a cult following when it was released on the then-emerging home video frontier. The Criterion Collection, which used to produce high-end laserdiscs, released a landmark edition of Blade Runner in 1988 that featured a sharp, letterboxed presentation of the film, plus numerous supplements. Recognizing the film’s fan base, Warner Bros. re-released Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut theatrically in 1992. That version — which eliminated the peculiar happy ending and voiceover narration featured in the original cut — was released in 1993 as a letterboxed VHS tape and a superlative laserdisc transfer, earning high sales. When the DVD format made its debut in 1997, The Director’s Cut was an early title, but it sported a transfer made for the 1993 laserdisc, which resulted in a low-quality picture. Fans were further frustrated when the title was reissued on DVD in 2006 with the same transfer.
With this four-disc collector’s edition, however, Warner Bros. has finally done justice to Blade Runner in the DVD format. The set’s crown jewel is The Final Cut, which was released nationwide in 2007 in select theaters and features a luminous digital remastering of the original negative source elements, along with some retooled visual effects. After a brief video introduction by Scott, disc one presents the beautifully rendered The Final Cut, which illuminates detail in the darkest corners and makes Blade Runner appear more filmlike and colorful than it ever has before on home screens. There are no instances of artifacting in even the darkest, most diffused or most contrasty sequences. The new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is pronounced and enveloping, with virtually no sign of age in Vangelis’ ethereal, electronic score. Disc one also features three feature-length commentary tracks, leading off with one by Scott. The second commentary is shared by screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley and production executive Katherine Haber. The third unites Mead, Paull and Snyder with photographic-effects supervisors Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer.
Disc two features the definitive Blade Runner supplement: Charles de Lauzirika’s Dangerous Days, a 214-minute documentary about the making of the film. This exhaustive feature offers new interviews with most of the cast and crew, as well as interviews with critics, fans, filmmakers and other industry professionals. It is also full of behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes and screen tests. Disc three has three other cuts of Blade Runner, each introduced by Scott: the 1982 U.S. release, the 1982 international release (featuring scenes of violence that were excised for U.S. audiences) and The Director’s Cut. All of the presentations were remastered for this package and look exceptionally clean, and all feature solid 5.1 audio mixes.
The “Enhancement Archive” featured on the fourth disc offers an additional two hours and 14 minutes of interviews, outtakes, drawings, trailers and promotional art produced and directed by de Lauzirika. Among this material is a 20-minute segment called “The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth,” which features interviews with the late cinematographer’s son and colleagues, including ASC member Steven Poster, who, along with Brian Tufano, BSC, and Haskell Wexler, ASC, shot segments of Blade Runner for Cronenweth.
This definitive DVD package reinforces the vitality of Blade Runner as a seminal science-fiction noir. Novelist Philip K. Dick’s nightmarish vision of Los Angeles circa 2019 was perfectly captured by Scott and his incredible team of collaborators, and with this release, their work has never looked better on home screens and will certainly be received with pleasure by the film’s longtime fans.