The extra features are spread across the four discs in this set as follows:
There are three completely separate commentary tracks for the Final Cut version of Blade Runner, the first one a solo track courtesy of director Ridley Scott. Scott takes a retrospective approach to the commentary and he talks about the reasons that certain decisions were made with the film, detailing things as subtle as the title and opening scene, to casting decisions and cinematography. He's quite blunt and quite honest about the whole ordeal, explaining why he chose Vangelis (claiming it's one of his best scores) and how impressed he is that the score doesn't sound dated at all. Some of the more interesting aspects of the commentary include Scott's thoughts on what should or should not be explained to the audience and how that relates to the imposed narration that was in the theatrical cut. He covers the effects and gives away a few secrets about the film such as which props and sets were re-used and how certain angles were used to make some sets look bigger than they really were. He explains why we don't see Deckard do much detective work, and he points out odd little quirks about the film that for various reasons still stand out. He covers the co-relation between comic books and movies at one point and shares some interesting ideas about the two mediums, and he talks about how and why he pushed a few performers in certain parts of the production. He touches on some technical aspects, such as the intricacies of filling an anamorphic frame, and he talks about shooting some of the film's more infamous scenes (the fight between Deckard and Pris for one). Overall this is an excellent track - it's informative, it's honest, and its' interesting. Scott talks at a good pace and there's very little dead air which insures that the track remains engaging throughout.
The second commentary comes from executive producer/co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher and co-screenwriter David Peoples; producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine Haber. This is a very relaxed, low-key talk that tends to be fairly screen specific. They cover a few revisions that were made to the script and about how a few key lines were put into the picture and why. There's a fair bit of good natured banter here, going back and forth about who did what and who wrote what and there are also some rather interesting stories about some of the influences that can be seen in certain bits of dialogue, Blake's poetry in particular. They elaborate on characters here and there and point out some interesting details in the script that you may not necessarily pick up on the first time around. All in all, it's a decent track.
The third and final track features visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. This track isn't quite as interesting as Scott's and at times it is very technical but the participants spend a fair bit of time simply discussing what we're seeing on screen. During the more interesting parts they relate how the visuals were created for these scenes but there's a fair bit of dead air from time to time. That said, this is still worth a listen for the die-hard Blade Runner fan as it does reveal some valuable information in regards to who did what and why, and from their own unique perspective.
Some very stylish animated menus and chapter stop options are found here, as is an optional introduction to the movie (0:36) from Ridley Scott in which he gives a brief explanation of what makes this his preferred cut of the film and which he plainly states that he oversaw and supervised the transfer to ensure that it looked the way he wanted it to look.
The second disc in the set features Dangerous Days: The Making Of Blade Runner which is an excellent and incredibly extensive three and a half hour documentary that takes a look at pretty much every aspect of the production. This documentary (presented in 16.x9 anamorphic widescreen, sadly NOT flagged for progressive scan playback) is broken up into eight chapters that are available on their own or through a 'play all' option:
Inception Date - 1980: Screenwriting and Dealmaking (30:33): The introductory chapter features thoughts from the primary cast and crew members (much of which differs in terms of describing the on set ambience) and some nifty behind the scenes and test footage. From there it delves into the origins of the story behind the film starting with Hampton Fletcher's story about how he decided to produce an adaptation of Dick's original novel. Author Tim Powers talks about the various drafts of the script and how they differ, and Fletcher tells us where the name for the film came from. Scott talks about how he was brought on board to direct after initially turning down the script. From there we learn how various investors were brought on board to get the project off of the ground and we learn about the intricacies of getting Dick's novel turned into a feature film and how Scott, once he was on board, very definitely had a clear vision of how he wanted to make the picture. There's also a fair bit of time spent covering the importance of David Peoples' work on the film. There's some great film clips, archival photos, storyboards, and interesting visual tidbits scattered throughout.
Blush Response: Assembling the Cast (22:42): As the title implies, the focus here is on how the cast was put together for the film. Deckard's part was apparently not described in the script and how initially it was thought that Robert Mitchum might play the part, and then later Dustin Hoffman. From there they cover how Ford came on board to play the lead, and Ford shows up and talks about how it was really 'the luck of the draw' that found him as a popular sci-fi actor and that Barbara Hershey initially suggested him for the part. Ford talks about what he likes about the character and what he likes about the picture and about various revisions that his character went through. Scott talks about the importance of Ford's involvement and how he feels now that he confounded Ford with the project. Casting director Mike Fenton talks about the importance of Ford's performance, and from there we learn about how some of the supporting performances were cast. Hauer talks about how he had a meeting with Scott and how he came on board, and how Scott sold him on the part. They cover how and why Sean Young was cast in her part, Scott saw her as the perfect Rachael, and Young chimes in and talks about how she was 'freaked out' when she got the part. Hannah talks about her part as do most of the other actors and we see some screen test footage and some storyboards here, and Stacey Nelkin talks about how exceedingly smoky the set was and how it was hard to work on it!
A Good Star: Designing the Future (26:31): The focus here is on art direction and set design and how the sets were built on a back lot. There's a lot of behind the scenes footage and photographs here, and Scott talks about what influenced his thoughts on how the picture and the city in which it plays out should look. Scott also talks about how the crew had to retro-fit things for the film as there was no way they'd have the budget to build completely functional versions of the sets. We learn how an actors strike let the design team work on the film much longer than normal, and production illustrator Tom Southwell tells how Scott oversaw all the drawings and design work as it was being done, hoping to make it more like the Mobius strips that would appear in Heavy Metal around the same time the film was made. Some of Syd Mead's artwork shows up here. There are some fascinating stories in here about the hiring of specific artists to design only the vehicles, how budgetary restraints came into play, and more. We also see some of the models being built through some great archival footage, and some interesting test footage as well.
Eye of the Storm: Production Begins (28:46): With the pre-production work, we then learn about what it was like on set when production actually started. Scott talks about changes he wanted made to some of the sets, and we start to learn about some of the problems that arose on set. Scott became quite demanding in terms of lighting and design and make up and costume, and he was quite hard on some of the actors, keeping Sean Young separated from the other cast members for much of the time. Producer Michael Deeley talks about Scott's dedication and author Paul Sammon talks about the commonality of the director's Ford had worked with before working with Scott on this film. Ford states that part of him wanted to be in synch with Scott but that there was another part that didn't feel that really mattered and that it was more important to be truthful, saying 'fuck it, it's just a movie, let him worry about it.' Young says Ford was never happy on set, and we learn how Scott got angry at the studio when they complained about how many takes he was shooting. We learn about some of the difficulties Scott had with the crew, and some of the difficulties that the crew had with Scott and how unions came into play. Plenty of dailies and outtakes are included in here, and its' all quite fascinating. Hauer states he'd never been on a production like this and he tells his side of the story about what it was like on set, the pros and cons of the production and more. There's a fair bit of attention paid, and rightfully so, to cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, while Hannah talks about the joys of working in constant rain while James Hong talks about 'working in a fridge.'
Living in Fear: Tension on the Set (29:21): Here we learn about the turmoil that started to brew on set during the production. Joanna Cassidy talks about the 'hair' noticeable in her stunt scene and Scott talks about shooting that scene. This leads way into talking about some of the other problems that occurred, many of which were starting to stem from financial issues and time restraints. Scott became increasingly frustrated with studio pressure and there was very much a trickle down effect because of this. Walsh sums it up by saying 'No one knew what the Hell was going on.' The producers chime in and give their side of the story, while Scott states that he was not deliberately trying to ignore the budget or schedule, he was trying to make an important movie. Some of the more difficult scenes are covered in a fair bit of detail (Pris' attack on Deckard for one) and we see some interesting behind the scenes footage of a stalky male stunt double covering for Hannah. Hauer describes the film as a tough shoot while production designer Lawrence Paull talks about how some people took the film more seriously than others. Ford states that ever ambitious movie is touchy, while some of the stunt men talk about the difficulties of getting it all right. Again, the wealth of behind the scenes footage, stills and other bits from the production make this visually interesting but it's the stories here that make this chapter so very interesting.
Beyond the Window: Visual Effects (28:45): Art Director David L. Snyder calls Blade Runner the last analogue sci-fi movie as it was shortly after it was made that computers started playing a huge part in the effects. From there the effects team tell their stories, and we learn how Scott's vision started to expand during the production putting more and more pressure on the team. Obviously budgets played a big part in this and the budget really wasn't that big considering the scope of the picture but the daring do of the effects team helped to pull it all off. Here we cover the importance of the city itself as a character in the film, and from there we learn about how and why some of the effects were done they why they were. Models, photo etching and drawings were all used to bring backgrounds and effects to life, and how things were shot to scale and how smoke density was used to cover things for the camera. Again, some excellent behind the scenes and test footage is here and it really goes a long way towards bringing us there and showing us how much work went into getting the 'look' down for this picture.
In Need of Magic: Post production Problems (23:03): Blade Runner was a film that needed a lot of post-production work. The original cut was long and very dark and in some ways impenetrable. This part of the documentary explains how and why the various studio edits and changes were imposed on the film. Additional shooting was done in England, and we learn how the picture was edited and then edited again and how various bits were completely removed. The production team states that the money-men didn't like the picture no matter what they did to it, and we learn about the differences in the original version of the love scene between Deckard and Rachael and we learn about the infamous unicorn scene. Scott talks about preview responses and we learn about how Ford's narration was imposed on the film and why. Ford talks about doing the narration and how it was all done in a rather clandestine manner, and we're then allowed to hear some of the initial recordings of Ford's voice over sessions (some of which are quite amusing). Guillermo Del Toro shows up and talks about how he loves the voice over, but a few opponents of the voice over make some very solid cases as to why it should have never been recorded in the first place. We also learn about the studio imposed 'happy ending' and why it was put on the end of the theatrical cut, and we hear from the people who shot this footage about their experiences. Scott gives his unabashed opinion on this footage and we see clips from the scenes that are discussed as well as more behind the scenes bits and pieces.
To Hades and Back: Release and Resurrection (24:07): The eighth and final segment of this massive documentary covers the importance of the film and how it was, really, a peek into the future. Del Toro shows up again and claims that it changed his life, and then the financier shows up and talks about how despite expectations the picture did not do well at all upon its original theatrical release. Audiences were fairly divided about the picture and not everyone 'got it' and reviews were not particularly positive. Ford goes on record saying he liked it all except for the happy ending, whereas Douglas Trumbell admits he didn't like the movie very much. We learn how the film spawned 'cyberpunk' and how it was really the first sci-fi film to deal with an oppressive corporate culture. Of course, from there we learn about how cable and home video lead to a rediscovery of the film and a new appreciation of the film which lead to the various re-releases of the film, bringing us full circle to the DVD being discussed in this very review.
This disc also includes trailers for I Am Legend, Invasion, Fracture and Superman: Doomsday in addition to some animated menus.
Disc three contains the Theatrical Cut, the International Cut and the Director's Cut by way of some seamless branching, and each cut includes a brief audio introduction from Scott explaining how they differ, but no other supplements outside of the standard animated menus and chapter selections options.
The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick (14:21): There are some interesting clips in this segment where Dick talks about what science fiction is thought of and what it can really be before we hear from Dick aficionados about the brilliance of his writing. Fellow authors talk about the scope of his writing and the importance of the themes and ideas which he dealt with and how they came out through his writing. Isa Dick Hackett, his daughter, talks about her father's challenges and how they came through in his writing (he was agoraphobic) and we learn how Dick used sci-fi as a platform to write about what it's like to be human. The documentary covers the periods of his work and the differences between his early and later works, and we learn how he was happy to embrace being labeled as a science fiction writer. It's an affectionate and interesting tribute to the man who made this entire film possible, complete with plenty of personal photos and memories.
Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. The Film (15:08): This segment examines, as the title implies, the differences between the novel that the movie was based on and the movie itself. Authors and experts talk about how distinct the two works are despite having a very strong DNA in common with each other. Examples are given to point out where the film turns left when the movie turns right and some audio interviews are supplied in which Dick talks about the film from his own personal perspective. A fair bit of attention is paid to the main differences in the way the Replicants are portrayed and he way that Deckard is portrayed and they talk about scenes in the book that were not filmed and scenes in the film that don't exist in the book.
Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews (audio): Included here are fourteen audio recordings made by author Paul Sammon while he was researching Dick's life and work. The titles more or less describe the subjects covered: Inspiration For Electric Sheep, The Meaning Of Electric Sheep, Wanting To Write The Script, Hollywood, Not Asked To Write The Script, Adapting Movies To Books, Being Left Out Of The Production, Problems With The Screenplay, Hating Hampton Fancher's Script, Lashing Out Against Blade Runner, Meeting Ridley Scott, Loving David Peoples' Script, Viewing Blade Runner Footage, and Harrison Ford. It's pretty interesting to hear the author's thoughts on the film and its various development issues as it lends a very different insight into the project than that given by the director, cast and crew.
Signs of the Times: Graphic Design (13:38): This featurette provides a look into the graphic design process that went into making the film. We hear from the Tom Southwell, who worked on the project, and how various items and details were revised time and again to give things a more aged look. They cover small details like Deckard's ID card to bigger things like the wear we see on some of the signs and buildings. There's a wealth of artwork and clips in here and it paints a fairly well-rounded picture of the process involved in this aspect of the film.
Fashion Forward: Wardrobe & Styling (20:39): As the title implies, this featurette looks at the wardrobe used in the film and how it was influenced by films from the past but also how it went on to influence a lot of what would come after it. Scott (who describes the work as 'shockingly different') talks about Charley Knodd's production design work and some VHS sourced footage shows us how Scott interacted with some of the designers to get the right look for what the characters wore in the film.
Screen Tests: Rachel & Pris (8:51): Casting director Mike Fenton introduces the two film tests for actresses who were considered for these respective parts in the film. Sean Young and Daryl Hannah are not represented here as the audio has been lost for their portions. Nina Axelrod talks about her audition and the time she spent with Scott, and Stacey Nelkin shares similar memories about her audition.
The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth (20:01): Paul Sammon introduces these segment before Scott chimes in and calls him 'the best of the best.' A few of the other crewmembers share their memories about the late cinematographer, and his son shows up to provide some biographical information about his father. This is an interesting and affectionate tribute to the man who really did so much to nail the very important visuals for this picture. Some interesting behind the scenes footage and photographs paint an interesting portrait of a man very driving to deliver the best possible shot every single time.
Deleted and alternate scenes (47:39 combined): This is absolutely the most interesting material included on this fourth DVD. By way of a play all button or individual chapters, we're treated to the following scenes: Tears In The Rain (Alternate Opening Titles), I'm Deckard, A Real Dandy, Bryant's Point Of View, Visiting Holden, Rep Detect File, Zero-Zero-Zero, 1187 Hunterwasser, Chew's Specialty, Heading Home, An Oddball Genius, Memories, Food For Thought, The Street Of Bad Dreams, Looks Like Blood, Washing Up, I Want You, Metaphysics, Tyrell Security Protocol, Closing In, Every Second Of It, Old Richter Route (Alternate Ending), and Made For Each Other (Alternate Ending). An introduction tells us these were taken from original elements but that quality will vary from scene to scene, which is true though they're all quite watchable. Some of this material elaborates on plot points touched on in the feature, while some of it simply serves to provide a bit more character development and background information but it's great to see it included here - fans should really enjoy this.
1982 Promotional Featurettes: Included here are a trio of vintage promotional featurettes: On The Set (14:18), Convention Reel (13:14), and Behind The Scenes/Outtakes (8:42). These are interesting to see in that they do give us a fly on the wall look at the production and feature some vintage interviews shot during filming with some of the key cast and crewmembers. The third segment is silent and is more or less a compilation of random shots taken on set but it gives us a look at the soundstage during the shoot, which in itself is quite interesting.
Trailers And TV Spots (11:15 combined): Included here are a teaser trailer from 1981, a theatrical trailer from 1982, and a TV spot from the film's original theatrical release in 1982 as well as trailer's for the director's cut of the film from 1992, a television spot for Dangerous Days from 2007 and a promotional spot for the Final Cut version of the movie from 2007. You can use the 'play all' button or watch each one on its own.
Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art (9:36): A brief but rather interesting look at how artists John Alvin and Drew Struzan went about creating the now instantly recognizable poster art for the film.
Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard (9:30): Those who know the film's history will immediately clue in to what this featurette is about - is Deckard a Replicant or not? This documentary takes a look at the various hints and clues that are scattered throughout the film and examines this question and then allows Scott (who states that yes he IS a Replicant) and Ford (who says that there's no reason at all for Deckard to be a Replicant) to give their respective viewpoints and explanations. Frank Darrabont and Paul Sammon give their thoughts and feelings on this as well. It's an interesting discussion that approaches both points of view and which more or less let's us make up our own mind on the matter.
Nexus Generation: Fans & Filmmakers (21:50): The final featurette allows filmmakers who have been influenced by the film to express their admiration. Guillermo Del Toro proclaims that the film changed his life while director Mark Romenak states that he wanted to live in the future depicted in the film. Jovanka Vuckovic (who has a very impressive Blade Runner tattoo!) of Rue Morgue talks about the density of the film and the themes that it deals with, and Kevin Eastman, the current publisher of Heavy Metal and co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tells how the poster drew him in. Joseph Khan, Joe Carnahan, Frank Darabont, and others all express their love for the film and do a fine job of explaining why it means so much to them.
Warner Brothers has done a fantastic job with this release. The audio and video presentation is top notch across the board and the extras are plentiful and, more importantly, genuinely interesting. Blade Runner remains one of the most influential science fiction films ever made and this set finally gives the film the respect it so justly deserves. The only reason this isn't getting the Collector's Talk rating is because the limited edition trumps it by including the work print. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.