Sunday, January 6, 2008

Immersed in Blade Runner

I've spent the last hour or so immersed in the four-disc collector's edition of Blade Runner, released this December complete with director Ridley Scott's definitive cut of the film, plus a megaton of extras.

The four-disc set comes with an attractive fold-out package, with nice scans from the film on the packaging. Each of the four discs is painted with black and white images of one of the four major characters from the film, including Deckard, Rachel, Pris, and (of course) Roy Batty.

Needless to say I'm in geek heaven right now. There's so much to watch here, including the following:
  • Disc 1, which contains the final cut, as well as three separate commentaries: One by Scott; one by Executive Producer/Screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Screenwriter David Peoples, Producer Michael Deeley, and Production Executive Katherine Haber; and a third by several art and production folks.
  • Disc 2, which contains Dangerous Days, a documentary of the making of Blade Runner, including outtakes, deleted scenes, and all new interviews.
  • Disc 3, which contains three complete versions of the film, including the U.S. theatrical cut, the international theatrical cut, and the 1992 director's cut. Each has its own introduction by Scott.
  • Disc 4, which contains an "enhancement archive," more than a dozen segments chronicling aspects of production and other features.

As I'm typing I'm watching the final cut with the Fancher/Peoples/Deeley/Haber commentary turned on. This interests me the most as the thing I like best about Blade Runner is its exquisite script (though its rich visuals are of course amazing, especially completely restored and on a remastered DVD). Listening to these four chat about the film some 25 years after its initial release is fascinating. For example, here's their take about why Blade Runner fared so poorly at the box office on its release:

(Deeley): One of the reasons was timing misjudgement. The picture should not have been released in the summer. It was being treated as a big expensive picture for it wanted a summer audience, but it wasn't the standard summer fare. We knew that we were following E.T. by 4 or 5 weeks, but we figured that E.T. would have done its job with the audience by then, and that audiences would have been willing to move on to something much harder, much tougher. Well, that was completely wrong. E.T. just went on and on and on, and we were out of tune with that moment in the market. I think if it had been released as a Christmas picture, it might even have done as well at the Oscars as it perhaps should have done.

(Haber): Apart from anything else, the cinematography, the production design, the visual effects, sound, everything, was overlooked by the academy, which was insane.

(Deeley): It is insane, but it's our fault for releasing it then. You'll remember on Deer Hunter, the decision was made to release it in December, so it came as near to nomination time as possible. And it was still fresh in the voters' minds. This (Blade Runner) had been forgotten. Everyone agrees that it is remarkable in terms of texture. But it was just bad timing. And I have to attribute that bad timing to a desire to recover the cost of the picture as soon as possible, because we had gone over budget, there was more money to recover, and there was not much patience with this. Which was a mistake.

Damn you E.T.!

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