What a difference 25 years makes. In 1982, Ridley Scott’s “chilling, bold, mesmerising futuristic thriller” (as the original poster awkwardly hyperbolised) was dissed and dismissed by crowds and critics (“a stunningly interesting visual achievement, but a failure as a story,” wrote Roger Ebert, in one of the kinder reviews). Two-and-a-half decades on, Scott’s future noir is a canonised classic: a touchstone for filmmakers; a fixture of Greatest Ever polls; and now commemorated with this five-disc, more-human-than-human, ultimate anniversary edition. Truly, a film ahead of its time…
Where do you start with a behemoth like this? Well, if you haven’t caught up with the current theatrical release – superlative package or not, BR has to be seen on the big screen – first port of call is the restored, rejuvenated Final Cut. Eyes right for the full lowdown on the tweaks made and creases ironed-out (un-synced lips, bad wigs). Unlike some special editions, this is a commendably restrained revision-job: fastidious but not fussy, with nothing too jarring, gratuitous or liable to spark any chatroom riots. After all, the major changes were already made in the last definitive Director’s Cut, over a decade ago.
After thrilling to how pristine and un-dated the movie looks (Daryl Hannah’s apparel and logos for now-defunct corporations notwithstanding), next stop is Dangerous Days: Making BladeRunner, included on both the five-discer and its less pricey counterpart (two platters, none of the featurettes or earlier cuts). Filling its own disc, this is an afternoon’s worth of Making Of nirvana, starting with Philip K Dick’s source novel (Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?), ending with the film’s glorious cult rehabilitation and tracing every step in between. As any sci-phile will tell you, Blade Runner travelled a rocky road. And at over three hours plus change, there are more than enough grumbles to balance any gush. “It wasn’t the most pleasant shoot,” growls Harrison Ford, whose role as replicant-chaser Rick Deckard could’ve gone to Dustin Hoffman (or Robert Mitchum, Peter Falk or Burt Reynolds). “I don’t think people wanted to see the future, particularly as it is in the film,” sighs supervising editor Terry Rawlings, as others lament the ill fortune of releasing such a drizzly, dystopian downer during the summer of ET. True, many of the behind-the-scenes stories have been told before. But the talking-head action is offset by spools of unseen B-roll footage, alternative takes, master shots, bloopers, outtakes… the latter revealing that there were some laughs during the long, testy night shoots: witness Ford mugging in a fruity head-dress.
Named after one of BR’s working titles (others include the clunking Mechanismo), Dangerous Days might’ve been called RidleyScott: Auteur. There’s a stirring sense of a hard-headed perfectionist crossing swords with cast, crew and suits in pursuit of his grand vision. “My weapon is that camera – I’ll get what I want. If you’re there with me, great; if not, too bad,” declares the bullish Brit. But the director’s pragmatic side comes across too, as he talks up his budget-mindful use of smoke-and-mirrors-and-more-smoke stylisation.
Elsewhere, stimulating debate rages over the 1982 version’s par-boiled voiceover (Guillermo Del Toro confesses to loving it) and the Big Question: is Deckard a replicant, or what? Yes, say some; Maybe, say others; “It’s about him rediscovering his humanity!” raves an impassioned Frank Darabont, sitting cross-armed in the No camp. The variety of theories only underlines the film’s rich, enduring ambiguities. Other bonus features are more straightforward – screen tests, vintage trailers, 47-odd minutes of (somewhat patchy) deleted scenes – but all add up to a package completists will drool over. OK, there are niggles: some of Scott’s introductions to the five different cuts are terse to the points of redundancy; too many crew, not enough cast on the commentaries; and where on earth is Vangelis? The Greek composer’s soundtrack is all over the extras, but what a shame the man himself doesn’t turn up to discuss it. Maybe on the next special edition… But this one will certainly do in the meantime: as meaty, dense and upfront as the AlienQuadrilogy, home to another seminal, unforgettable Scott sci-fier. He really should visit the future more often…