One Last Visit With Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Warner Bros.)


Blade Runner is one of a handful of films that have had a major impact on my life. I saw it opening weekend in June of 1982 – my mother took me for my birthday because I loved Harrison Ford, after Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, what pre-teen kid didn’t? I have to assume she had to be unsure of the ‘R’ rating – when the blood and nudity spilled out, I can assume she regretted taking me – but mom was a good sport and didn’t mention any of that (as far as I can recall). We went for deep dish pizza afterwards (Nancy’s – also, my mother’s name), and I even got to pick out a toy laser gun at Toys ‘R Us. It was a grand day.

I doubt I understood most of the film’s themes at 11 years old, quite frankly, 35 years later I still watch the film (repeatedly) and discover new things. But I was in awe of the look, feel and sound of Ridley Scott‘s masterwork. I didn’t understand it, but I knew I loved it. I was never a “bright, shiny” type of kid (though I did enjoy Benjy flicks in my younger years) and something about the haunting, dilapidated, disturbing future world envisioned by Scott and his team spoke to me in a way I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

Over the next 11 years I would see the film on cable and marvel at it. I recall seeing an episode of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel‘s movie review show discussing something called “laserdiscs” and highlighting a “Criterion Collection” version of the film which brought back the splendor of the film’s visuals from the murky depths of VHS. This was back around 1987 when the disc was released.

Then came 1991 and there were rumblings in film magazines about a lost workprint being screened in several cities on the West Coast. Of course I was jealous that Chicago’s great revival house, the Music Box, wasn’t part of it. Then 1992 rolled around and a “Director’s Cut” based on the popularity of the workprint was to be released in theaters. This version removed the clunky voiceover by Ford (who apparently tried his best at doing a crap job to hopefully get it scrapped – it didn’t work), a truncated ending (lopping off the literal riding into the sun one of the original – sun, not to mention green pastures – something the whole film never once showed or even intimated existed) and something else.

Seeing this version in the theaters was nothing short of a revelation. Back then it was nearly impossible to see older films in the theater again. The year before, Spartacus had a revival with a homosexual-suggested scene added back in between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis where Olivier asks Curtis about preferring “snails” or “oysters” while taking a bath. Like I said, rare. I wanted to go back again and again and again to see Blade Runner’s Director’s Cut, but I think I only went the one time. Maybe twice. I might have seen it at the Fine Arts theater if I remember correctly. Talk about a theater I miss.

So the Director’s Cut became the single version for 15 years, until… The Final Cut was released in theaters on October 5, 2007. There was some more tweaking done, some sprucing up of effects work (like putting Joanna Cassidy‘s face on the stunt woman’s body in her death scene for one) and a crisp, 4K transfer. The theatrical release was just a primer for the DVD / blu-ray release in time for Christmas (my ex-wife was so sweet and bought me this which I still have even though I eventually bought the hardbook version on blu-ray – the cover you see at the top left).

And that’s where the film has been left. I’ve watched every version of this film I don’t know how many times now in my life. I won’t be ridiculous and say over 100, but I know it’s been more than 50. I just went and saw The Final Cut in an AMC Dolby Cinema this Wednesday ahead of the sequel’s release. If you have a chance to see a film in a Dolby Cinema or in IMAX, you have to do it. The Dolby Cinema experience is fantastic, especially when a film is tailor designed for it. There are speakers all over the theater, the seats rumble and the picture is beyond perfect.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find another film that I have this much of an obsession with. Part of the allure was the lack of clarity to the story (let’s be honest, it’s not a perfect film, but beauty in art rises above perfection in my opinion), the trouble of filming, the interference of the money men necessitating changes that, though they seemed fine to my 11 year old eyes, became glaringly stupid as I grew older. Paul M. Sammon‘s book, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner is an excellent read if you’re interested. But I expect that I’ll be watching this film repeatedly the rest of my years.

Check back for a full review of Blade Runner 2049 once I’ve seen it a couple of times and can adequately unpack what I’ve witnessed. Spoiler: It’s pretty freaking amazing.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut


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