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Blade Runner

Replicants Remastered on DVD

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 original DVD, which is the so-called "Director's Cut", came out early in the life of the DVD format and, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the picture quality always left something to be desired.

Now Warner Home Entertainment has released a remastered version that offers picture quality that's appreciably better than that original release. It's too bad they didn't give the same attention to the audio, but at this point in time we'll take what we can get.

The Director's Cut supposedly puts this film back into the form in which it should always have been, which means that director Scott scrapped the narration and the happy ending he had supposedly hated (and was apparently forced to add) when the film was released originally. He also made a couple of other minor changes. When the director's cut was first released, we thought it the best version of the film. Now we're not so sure.

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, though 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'd like to see both versions available so people can choose, and we've heard that may happen in 2007, the film's 25th anniversary. We hope so.

If they do that, we hope they'll upgrade the audio quality at the same time. This version, like the original DVD, features very low volume and there isn't a lot of exercise for your subwoofer. A nice remix and remastering of the soundtrack is definitely in order.

But as mentioned, the video quality is appreciably better than the original. There's still some grain, notably in the special effects sequences, but the rest of the film is much cleaner and easier on the eyes. Colors are rich and vibrant, and the overall result is a much better home theater experience of a film whose visual style has always been one of its biggest selling points.

The single disc release features anamorphic widescreen video, as opposed to the original DVD's inclusion of Pan&Scan on one side, but that's fine with us; we'd much rather dump the artificial panning and scanning in favor of the original aspect ratio.

Audio is Dolby Digital surround stereo.

There are no extras.

Let's hope the rumored special 25th anniversary edition ups the ante substantially; this movie deserves such a presentation, and we wish this were it.

On the other hand, if there is a new version coming, what's the point behind this one?

Blade Runner, the Director's Cut, from Warner Home Entertainment
117 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital
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 through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

We welcome your comments!