Some months back I talked about seeing Blade Runner: The Final Cut at an LA screening; last weekend I finally picked up the DVD set and have been indulging in a rewatching/commentary track/etc. mode all this past week, as a way to relax after work each day.
Wonderful stuff to see, of course, and since I’ve already conveyed my most recent thoughts on the film in its presumably last ever edit I’ll stick to some brief observations of the extra material:
- The Dangerous Days documentary, at three and a half hours long, is one of the most exhaustive of its kind I’ve seen in terms of after-the-fact making-of efforts, and one of the best. Perhaps conveniently, it had an excellent model to follow, namely Paul Sammon’s Future Noir, itself a superior story of the making of a film from an observer who was there for most of the process. Sammon’s unsurprisingly involved throughout as one of the commentators, but it was also very enjoyable to see pretty much everyone one could hope to talk to still — only a couple of the key performers and filmmakers have passed on (actor Brion James, cinematographer Jordan Cronenworth); with the exception of William Sanderson, whose portrayal of J. F. Sebastian is possibly the film’s most affecting performance, pretty much everyone else is there. Which means that at long last…
- Harrison Ford talks in some detail about Blade Runner for the first time in years upon years. It’s long been noted that he’s just about the only one who hasn’t engaged in past retrospections, in print or in film/TV interviews, aside from brief comments here and there which were all fairly mixed or negative. There’s a good bit that appears in the Dangerous Days trailer where Edward James Olmos asks the camera crew/interviewers in an aside, “Did you get Harrison?,” which is its own immediately recognizable joke for the aficionados. As with any such presentation it would have been interesting to see the full interview uncut but there’s only so many hours (so far — I’m sure the Blu-Ray types are deducing what can else be done for a 35th anniversary edition), but to hear his thoughts in the mix makes for a richer mix than before. (I would have loved to have heard more from Joe Turkel as well, given he was inadvertantly left out of Future Noir, but there you go.)
- Besides the main documentary there’s another two and a half hours or so of extra documentary footage obviously filmed for the same project but which covers a variety of things in more detail, ranging from a very nice study of Philip K. Dick himself, featuring some archival video footage of him discussing his life and work (the Paul Giamatti movie will, I hope, be as successful as it can be), to a remembrance of Cronenworth, whose cinematographic excellence really speaks for itself, to a nice little ‘fans and filmmakers’ segment, talking with just those kind of folks, both the hyperfans and the many directors who are obsessed with the movie.
I did like this sequence as well as the equivalent part in the documentary but I also thought it was a bit limited and reflective of its time of creation — Blade Runner‘s impact being so immediately monumental in terms of film design, it would have been very interesting to bring in not only those people now fully hitting their stride in the past decade (Guillermo del Toro, Ron Moore and so forth) but those who were working in the eighties and onward who were indebted to it or reacted against it. Examples might include Terry Gilliam, who specifically designed Brazil as a partial response to Blade Runner, or David Fincher, not to mention any number of music video directors (George Michael’s “Freek” video is shown at one point, and it is a very conscious homage to the film, but a study of eighties videos that interpreted the film would be more immediately interesting). Finally, aside from del Toro all the filmmakers are (I believe) American, where getting a sense of how the film’s wider impact played out elsewhere in the world would have been of interest — I especially think they missed a trick not studying, even briefly, what influence it’s had over in Japan, if any (and it might be less than I’m guessing but Akira alone surely indicates that there’s something up).
- John Alvin, who I discussed in another post upon his passing, gets a deserved showcase here, so I’m quite glad they had a chance to talk to him before it was too late. It was wonderful to finally see him get his full due for that astonishing poster design of his, which remains deservedly iconic; he has as much a key role to play as anyone in the film’s afterlife.
- Finally — and this is something I’ve wondered for a long, long while — is it just me or were trailers just fantastically awful back then? Most of the trailers for films I’ve seen as bonus features when it comes to seventies and early eighties efforts are terribly clunky and hilariously point-missing; arguably in Blade Runner‘s case this was clearly due to an attempt to try and market the film as a slam-bang adventure in hopes of drawing crowds, but the voiceovers here — which are very clearly NOT done by Ford, but by some anonymous actor trying to interpret Ford’s forced noir narration — are utterly laughable. It’s not quite as bad as the guy who they get to do a similar fake noir narration for a 1982 promotional feature on the film, though — he’s agonizing, and hearing/seeing the end results is plain painful.
Anyway, point being — get this or rent this set if you’re at all interested in the film. An obvious thing to say, but true. I’ve very glad to have it.