Blade Runner Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner: The Final Cut is to be released as a limited 5-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition packaged in a silver briefcase, a scaled down version of the briefcase Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) used in the film. If you’re lucky enough to own a plasma or LCD TV along with a HD DVD or Blu-ray player, you’ll be well prepared: both high definition formats will be supported.

If you’re unfamiliar with the film, Blade Runner tells the story of Rick Deckard, a disillusioned police bounty hunter given the task of tracking down genetically engineered androids (replicants) who have escaped from an off world colony and have landed in a dystopic 21 st century Los Angeles.

Interestingly, Dustin Hoffman was Ridley Scott’s first choice to play the lead role of Deckard, but Hoffman had different ideas about how the character should be played, reportedly not agreeing that Deckard needed to be so “macho”. Interesting too is the fact that Deborah Harry was the original choice to play one of the female replicants, Pris (Daryl Hannah).

Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley took the film’s title from the book The Blade Runner by Alan Nourse. William S. Burroughs had already written a screenplay and a novella based on Nourse’s book, but the title was all Ridley wanted. A blade runner in Burroughs’s screenplay is someone who sells illegal surgical instruments.

In one of the last interviews before his death, Philip K. Dick revealed that the film looked exactly as he had envisioned it when writing, but Ridley claimed never to have read Dick’s novel.

Ridley Scott has been working on Blade Runner: The Final Cut since 2000, carefully restoring footage, shooting new material, correcting errors and enhancing special effects. Every film has its mistakes and not every director gets the chance to go back and refine what they have created (certainly not twice as Ridley has with Blade Runner ), but now that the wait is over, it will be interesting to see if he has managed to improve on what is arguably one of his finest works.

Legal wrangling over distribution rights and Ridley’s other film projects have held up this release for some time.

Die-hard fans have pointed out clear mistakes in the original version, some but not all of which were corrected with the release of Ridley’s first Director’s Cut in 1992. Mistakes included a scene where Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh) claims that six replicants had escaped when there were only five, a scene where Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) has a hand on his shoulder in a phone booth when he was meant to be alone, and Pris’s hair being wet and then immediately not wet when she steps into Sebastian’s apartment. Equally, strings were clearly visible when Gaff’s (Edward James Olmas) spinner first lifts off from a city street and a stunt double was visible when one of the five rogue replicants, Zhora, played by Joanna Cassidy, is gunned down by Deckard .

In the case of Gaff’s spinner, Scott reportedly saw the wires, but decided to keep the shot in because the effect “looked wonderful”. There were also lip sync issues in various places and scenes that never reached the technical and artistic levels Scott had been hoping for.

I’m not too fussed about fixing mistakes, since most of the ones mentioned above I’ve never noticed anyway, even after repeated viewings of both the original version and the Director’s Cut . However, the prospect of extra footage, a high definition experience on Blu-ray or HD DVD, new dialogue along with enhanced sound (with an all new Dolby 5.1 soundtrack), makes me immediately reach for my credit card.

There’s enough inside the Ultimate Collector’s Edition to cater for even the most fanatical Blade Runner enthusiast. Along with the remastered, extended and enhanced Bladerunner: The Final Cut , the Ultimate Collector’s Edition contains the 1982 Theatrical Version , the 1982 International Version , and the 1992 Director’s Cut which famously omitted Rick Deckard’s voice over, added a unicorn dream sequence, and removed the clichéd Hollywood happy ending.

Which was just as well too, footage used in the happy ending sequence was left over material from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining ( if you’ve watched The Shining , it was the title sequence, everything except the footage of the road).

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition is jam packed with extras. Highlights include a feature length documentary Dangerous Days , with cast, crew, critics, and colleagues all having their say; and even better, a rare version of the film that includes a different opening sequence, altered dialogue between Roy Batty and Tyrell (Joe Turkell), and a different soundtrack.

The documentary could be especially intriguing if it touches on reported rifts between Harrison Form and Ridley Scott during filming and other on set tensions between the cast, crew and director. Presumably because everyone was under such pressure on set, some crewmembers made T-shirts that read: “Will Rogers never met Ridley Scott”. One of Will Roger’s famous quotes was, “he never met a man he didn’t like”. Some crewmembers also referred to the film as “Blood Runner”.

Unfortunately there’s no mention of the two hospital scenes with Holden (Morgan Paul) and Deckard that were deleted from the original theatrical version before it was released, but it’s likely they’ll make an appearance in the DVD extras or in the new final cut. Holden appeared briefly at the start of the film before being shot by one of the escaped replicants, Leon (Brion James), as he administers a Voight-Kamff test, a fictional psychological measurement scale designed to determine whether an individual is a human or a replicant by assessing emotional responses.

There are a few novelty items in the Ultimate Collector’s Edition too: a miniature origami unicorn figurine and miniature replica spinner car. For those of you who have already watched the film, you’ll remember Deckard picking up the unicorn figurine left by Gaff outside his apartment.

Screen tests, collectors photographs, a letter from Ridley Scott, trailers, TV spots, director’s commentaries, the feature list goes on and on: I’ve only scratched the surface.

Of course, as you can imagine, it’s not cheap, but if you just want to buy Blade Runner: The Final Cut separately on HD DVD, Blu-ray or just plain DVD, you can do that too. Remember to check out the region encoding if you’re not buying the Ultimate Collector’s Edition locally, most HD DVD and Blu-ray disks and players now have some from of region encoding protection.

Hopefully Warner Bros will give the new version a theatrical release too, as they did with the 1992 Director’s Cut.

You can pre-order the Blade Runner Ultimate Collector’s Edition now. The official release date is 18 December.