Blade RunnerReplicants Remastered on Blu-ray

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner wasn't a huge blockbuster on its theatrical release, but since then it has gone down in movie history as one of the finest - and best looking - science fiction films ever.

But the DVD releases, the so-called "Director's Cut", always left something to be desired when it came to audio and video quality.

Not now. With this special, five disc collector's edition, Warner Home Entertainment has released a remastered version that offers picture quality that's appreciably better than that original release and which befits the movie's gorgeous look. They also gave the same attention to the audio, which in one version is upped right up to the Dolby HD standard and which sounds far better than any of the DVD releases.

Four versions of the film are available, from the original theatrical release and the original European theatrical release (which includes some extra violence that doen't add anything to the film), to the director's cut available on DVD before - and finally to "The Final Cut", which director Scott says in his introduction is his favorite version of the film.

It isn't ours, but only because it also lacks the narration which, while apparently added against Scott's wishes, gives the film a more "gumshoe flick" feel and also makes it far more understandable to people who haven't seen it a hundred times before.

Gassing the narration does let the film's thick ambience seep over you - and instead of listening to Ford tell you what's going on, you get the opportunity to figure it out for yourself, through the background commercials, sounds etc. That makes this Blade Runner a more intelligent and satisfying film in many ways, though as we say it also can confuse first time watchers who don't have the benefit of years of the narration to help cut through the fog. We've experienced this first hand with new Blade Runner viewers.

This means we're thrilled to have both (well, all) versions available so you can choose yourself which one to watch.

All versions (all but the "Final cut" are on disc three, and work via the technology's branching feature. All, including Final, feature introductions by Ridley Scott, though there's a lot more meat to his commentaries than the introductions.

Of course, the four versions of the movie have all been restored and remastered and, though to our eyes it seemed as is the final cut looked the best, all look terrific - this treatment has been a long time coming. The colors are rich and deep, the detail is, well, detailed, and the contrast is terrific. The picture is lush and luscious, just as it should be.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 (remixed from the original, and remixed very well, with good use of the subwoofer and surround tracks) on all versions except Final, which also offers the choice of Dolby True HD. We recommend the latter track when you're watching the Final Cut, 'cause it offers you the best dynamics and is the most rewarding version.

Okay, so that takes care of two discs in this five disc set (1 and 3, which contain the film versions). Disc Two is "Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner," (in standard definition, unfortunately) which incorporates outtakes, deleted scenes and newly shot interviews to make its case. Disc Four is the "Enhancement Archive," (also in standard def), which includes features such as one remembering Philip K. Dick, whose novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was the basis for the film. You also get "Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel Vs. The Film" and "Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews." Incidentally,m Dick also penned the stories upon which Total Recall, Minority Report and Next were based.

The disc continues with looks at the graphic design, costumes and cinematography, as well as screen tests of Daryl Hannah and Sean Young, promo stuff, trailers, poster ar and more.

Disc five may be really exciting for aficionados, because it contains the first ever home video release of the pre-release work print of the film - in 1080p - with alternate footage, music and stuff. It also comes with a commentary by Paul M. Sammon, who wrote a book on the making of Blade Runner.

Also on this disc is a standard def featurette on the film's various versions and the creation of The Final Cut.

Incidentally, Warner Brothers made a mistake in packaging some of the sets. Disc five in some instances was a second copy of Disc one. The company realized the error and is offering to send the correct disc at no charge. You can tell if you got the wrong disc 5 because it has three commentaries on it instead of one. We tried getting in touch with Warners to have ours corrected, left a message, and months later are still waiting to hear back from them.

Despite that, Blade Runner fans will probably love this collection. Not only is it the first video version to really do justice to the film's look and sound (and, therefore, its feel), but it also comes with enough substantive extras to keep you watching for hours.

We love it.

Blade Runner, the 5 disc Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray disc, from Warner Home Entertainment
117 min. (Work print is 110 min.) 1080p, anamorphic widescreen (2.4:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1/Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos
Produced by Michael Deeley,
Written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Directed by Ridley Scott

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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