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The new-er-est "Blade Runner"

View image This shot has always been there.

Steven Boone over at The House Next Door has seen the latest -- er, "Final" -- cut of what may now, 25 years after its debut, be "Ridley Scott's" "Blade Runner," in the new version premiering at the New York Film Festival. Above all, Boone was wowed by the digital presentation: "The Final Cut" is remastered from original 35mm elements and transferred to High Definition digital video at 4K (4096 horizontal pixel) resolution. Projected in HD at 24 frames a second for this year's New York Film Festival, this "Blade Runner" has no visible grain, dirt or scratches, stuttering frames, reel-change "cigarette burns" or soft-focus moments when the film gets loose in the projector gate. Funny how I thought I'd miss all those things, their "organic" qualities, but this restoration gives us a pristine image without sacrificing warmth. The picture even fooled our editor, who at first thought he was looking at a 35mm projection. This "Blade Runner" removes every barrier to getting lost in Scott's fire-and-rain Los Angeles short of presenting it as interactive theater.I saw the original version first-run in 70 mm at Seattle's Cinerama Theater in 1982, and grain was evident, probably for a couple reasons: 1) many of the visual effects involved multiple, non-digital exposures; and 2) the film wasn't actually shot in 70 mm, but was blown up from 35 mm.

According to an extensive, multi-sourced Wikipedia article on the film, the 1990 version advertised as a "Director's Cut" and shown at the Nuart in LA and the Castro in San Francisco was actually a 70 mm workprint. (In the days before digital, effects were often done in 70 mm, even for 35 mm releases, for better optical quality.) Scott approved the 1992 Director's Cut, but wasn't entirely satisfied with it. Wikipedia offers comparisons of the various versions, citing the primary changes as: * The removal of Deckard's explanatory voice-over * The re-insertion of a dream sequence of a unicorn running through a forest * The removal of the studio-imposed "happy ending," including some associated visuals which had originally run under the film's end-credits.It was apparent from the beginning that the voiceover was a big problem -- and Harrison Ford (who didn't get on with Scott, much less the studio execs who were calling him in to read narration) has said he did it badly and begrudgingly, hoping they wouldn't even be able to use it. (It's that cringe-worthy at times.) Scott, however, says he wasn't taken off the picture, and that he completed the original release version after it tested badly with audiences.

But the movie was a theatrical flop anyway, producing rentals of only $14.8 million at roughly the same time "E.T." was on its way to zooming past $300 million. According to a definitive piece by Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times Magazine (September 13, 1992), the film may have died then and there. But the new home video market extended its commercial termination date: "Blade Runner's" availability on video kept it alive in the eyes of the always loyal science-fiction crowd, and gradually, over time, the film's visual qualities and the uncanniness with which it had seemed to see the future began to outweigh its narrative flaws. Scott says he saw the interest rise, "And I thought, 'My God, we must have misfired somewhere; a lot of people like this movie.' " And not just in this country. In Japan, where the film had always been successful, "I was treated like a king," art director [Snyder reports. "The fans would be too in awe to even look at you." The film's look began to show up in art direction and design: Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" and the stage design for the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels tour were influenced by "Blade Runner." And when laser discs appeared on the market, "Blade Runner" was one of the films that everyone just had to get. It became Voyager's top-selling disc immediately upon its release in 1989, never losing the No. 1 spot. (Are spoiler alerts now becoming unfashionable because we should just assume everybody's seen the movie or knows the ending? I don't care. This is one.)

In Sunday's New York Times ("A Cult Classic Restored, Again"), Scott says of Ford's character, Deckard: “Yes, he’s a replicant. He was always a replicant.”