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This year, it was 25 years ago that the modern classic Blade Runner first flashed across the silver screen. Just in time for the anniversary, the film has emerged from years of copyright limbo and it has finally become possible for director Ridley Scott to finish a final cut of the film that matches his original vision — as he sees it today – as closely as possible. Blade Runner: The Final Cut comes out in October, but unfortunately won’t see theatrical release, though special screenings will be held in New York and LA, so copies for cinematic presentation will at least exist — important when one takes into consideration the film’s enduring life in theatres worldwide since its original release in 1982.

The official release, however, will be on HD & Blueray DVD, in five different sets (image here), the most complete of which will include all existing versions of the film, except the so-called ‘San Diego Preview’ but including the hallowed, elusive ‘Workprint’ (click here for an overview of the different versions) – which includes a good deal of other material that didn’t make it into the theatrically released versions – as well as copious amounts of extra material, including a comprehensive documentary on the film. This is, of course, great news to all Blade Runner afficionados, but one cannot but worry a little that Scott has tampered too much with it, negating some of the imperfections that made the old Blade Runner magic.

To be sure, the 1992 Director’s Cut was a definite improvement over the original 1982 Theatrical Release. The omission of the condescending, producer-overseen voiceover and the incongruous happy ending made for a more expansive, poetic film, in which Vangelis’ score soars. And while the infamous unicorn scene perhaps had the opposite effect, going a little far in circumscribing the subtle ambiguity of Deckard’s ontological status, it did add an acutely memorable sequence and provide a more resonant sense of closure at the end. However, it has long been evident that the Director’s Cut was a rush-job, implementing only the most fundamental changes on Scott’s wish list.

It remains to be seen whether the Final Cut will incorporate the two cut scenes in which Deckard visits fellow Blade Runner Holden, who is in life-support at the hospital after his run-in with Leon in the opening scene. I’ve seen the lousy screen capture of some of the first scene available on the web, which is awful, and read the script, which strikes me as clunky and out of character, plus it doesn’t add anything of importance to the plot. On the basis of that, I hope they have left it out of the Final Cut.

The press release says that several scenes have been extended. What this implies is of course hard to say, but if it means that Tyrell’s bleeding eyes from the patricide scene, the extra shot fired at Pris by Deckard at their showdown, and the nail pushing through Roy’s hand — as seen in the 1982 International release, but cut from the American one to protect the innocent — are in, I’m perfectly OK with it. Also, the extra time given Roy Batty at his introduction in the phone booth in the San Diego preview, which I have never seen, would probably be a welcome addition. Additionally, I can live with digital removal of the very visible wires holding the spinners throughout the film, if they choose to do that. On the other hand, I’m not sure about the inclusion of the sequence showing two girls in hockey masks gyrating in a plastic bubble outside Taffey Lewis’, which was in the Workprint, and, judging from the trailer, has made it into the Final Cut, will add much to the film — there’s a distinct possibility that it will just seem silly.

What I’m more concerned about, however, is the digital manipulation of the footage showing Joanna Cassidy’s stunt double in the scene where Zhora runs through the plate glass, mortally wounded by Deckard. According to Scott, they have digitally inserted Joanna Cassidy’s (25-year older?) face over that of the stunt double’s, using greenscreen. Also, they have manipulated Harrison Ford’s lower face for the through-the-window interrogation scene of Abdul Ben Hassan, using Ford’s son’s (!) jaw as the template. This report from the Blade Runner panel at this weekend’s San Diego Comicon suggests that the changes are flawless, but they sound a little Frankensteinish to me; I’m not sure I applaud them — who cares if it’s a stunt double, or if Deckard doesn’t mouth the correct words? It’s not something you notice unless you look for it, or watch the film repeatedly. Anyway, I of course hope it is indeed done flawlessly.

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Also, I’m nervous about them tampering too much with the early inserts of images, either of never-seen situations, or anticipating later scenes in the film: the one where Tyrell smiles at Deckard in their scene together; Roy clenching his hand, saying “time… enough”, in the phone booth, prefiguring the stigmata scene later in the film; and — in the same scene — the flipped image of him turning his head to look at Tyrell, whose hand is on his shoulder, excerpted from the patricide scene later in the film. I realize that all these images were inserted because the filmmakers needed footage that wasn’t covered in the shoot – that they are imperfections — but they have taken a life of their own; they add to the poetic magic of the film, providing as they do, in the case of the former, a glimpse of something that will never happen, and, for the latter, precognitive visions of what will eventually happen (this is fully in step with the tone of the film, which explicitly makes similarly anticipatory use of dialogue in the scene where Deckard Voight-Kampff tests Rachel). It would, quite simply, be a loss to the film if these inserts were removed or changed to hide the fact that they were originally shot for a different purpose. The same goes, to an extent, for Bryant’s mysterious mention of a fourth replicant at the beginning, referring to the character Mary, who got cut from the film before her one projected scene was even shot, but now adds an extra tinge of mystery to the proceedings. Apparently a shot where Bryant accounts for this missing replicant exists and was put in the workprint, but I kind of hope they have left it as is.

Also, it would be seriously disturbing for the flow of the film if they have recut the aftermath of Zhora’s killing, the encounter with Leon, and the exchange between Deckard and Bryant, to fit the original plan and not have the bruise on Deckard’s face, originally meant to be caused by Leon, disappear after he actually meets him. Or if they used different, more congruous footage of the dove flying towards the sun, than the really weird shot that’s in the current versions. But I’m sure they wouldn’t go that far — would they?

In any case, I’m of course hoping for the ‘definitive versions’ that they’re promising us, not a desensitized construct like Apocalypse Now: Redux. In any case, we will always have the other versions available, and thus hopefully a Blade Runner for each of us.

The anniversary also sees the release of a new edition of Paul M. Sammon’s indispensable book on the film, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, which contains a new interview with Scott, the final interview conducted with Philip K. Dick – who wrote the book on which the movie is based, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) – and, of course, full coverage of the Final Cut.