TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
Blade Runner

Replicants Replicated on DVD

Blade Runner embraces the new medium

by Jim Bray

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner has gone down in contemporary movie history as one of the finest - and best looking - science fiction films of our time. Even in its original form, with Harrison Ford's obtrusive narration and the tacked on "happy ending," the film is a powerful experience.

The "Director's Cut" of Blade Runner puts this film back into the form in which it should always have been - and the DVD format shows the film to its best advantage. Scott went back and scrapped the narration and the happy ending and made a couple of other minor changes that in my opinion make this the best version of the film available

Gassing the narration lets the 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. This makes Blade Runner a more intelligent and satisfying film - and I had always thought it was intelligent and satisfying before the Director's Cut was made available.


But on to what the DVD format does for this movie.

The single disc gives you both widescreen and pan-and-scan versions, one on each side. This is fine but, as with other DVD releases, the labelling of the versions is in tiny print around the spindle hole - and it really makes you squint to read it. Again, though, this isn't only a problem with Blade Runner, but rather with most of the DVD's we've seen. Perhaps colour coding the sides would be a better way to do it, with red letters indicating the widescreen version and the white letters denoting the pan-and-scan. This way you wouldn't have to read the little letters - you'd only have to tell the difference between red and white.

To be fair, the "widescreen" label is in a different colour, but it's too small; if they'd use red letters for all the text it would be easier to figure out.

Of course this won't help the colour blind, but it would be better for the rest of us.

That feature aside, the video quality of Blade Runner is nothing short of superb. The Scott film looks terrific to start with, but thanks to the high resolution and rich colours allowed by the digital DVD format, this video looks more like film than a video transfer. And that's great! The picture positively leaps off the screen and becomes even more involving than before. Well done!


Unfortunately, the audio isn't as well done. I found the soundtrack transfer to be at a low volume compared with other discs, which resulted in my having to crank the stereo to a higher level than I should have. Digital technology allows you to have a very high signal-to-noise and dynamic range, but it's not used to its best capability here. Too bad; the Vangelis score sets a perfect mood for the piece, but you almost have to strain to hear it properly.

What's worse, the background and ambient sounds, like the commercials that blare from the overhead blimps, are even harder to pick up, and as mentioned above they do a lot to set the scene and let you know what's going on. A soundtrack with a little more "oomph" would have gotten around this easily.

This is a fairly minor criticism, though, and the fact that our test viewing was performed on a DVD-ROM drive running into a home theatre may have skewed the test somewhat, because we noticed the same problem with our copy of "Contact" when we viewed it the same way. However, we've noticed over the years that audio volume on laserdiscs (the closest analogy we have to DVD) can be all over the map - something we hope won't be continued with DVD technology.

I can't imagine getting all this movie's subtle aural details off this disc if I were only listening to it through my TV's speakers, which makes me feel sorry for those who haven't yet married their audio and video systems together.

Another flaw - and this one is also shared by many other DVD titles - is the clumsy user interface. You're allowed to jump to certain scenes the manufacturer has deemed, and there's other extra information included on the disc as well, but it's not particularly convenient getting at them. The DVD industry needs to make their products as user friendly as the laserdisc or the audio CD, with track and feature access that works easily and with no fuss.

Still, I'd rather have Blade Runner - the Director's Cut on DVD with its tiny labels and clumsy inteface than have it on videocassette or even laserdisc. The improvement to the picture is worth the price of admission alone - and those used to watching the film on laserdisc will like not having to flip the thing over half way through.

Blade Runner - the Director's Cut, from Warner Home Video.


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy

Updated May 14, 2006