During my tenure at the Deseret Morning News, I have twice reviewed "Blade Runner" once in 1982, when the film was initially released, and again in 1992, when we got the theatrical "director's cut."
So it was with interest that I trekked over to The Gateway no small feat in itself these days to see the latest version, the so-called "Final Cut."
"Blade Runner's" history is one of those storied artist vs. studio sagas that litter the Hollywood landscape, and is well-known to film buffs, albeit full of contradictions (depending on your source).
Prior to "Blade Runner," director Ridley Scott's only hit was "Alien," whose basic concept was to place the haunted-house theme in a spaceship (with essentially the same plot as a 1958 B-movie, "It! The Terror from Beyond Space").
But Scott did "Alien" with such style and bravado that it caught on, became an enormous hit and remains unquestionably influential in the style of many sci-fi movies to follow, right up to this day.
When Scott finished "Blade Runner," however, that pedigree didn't do him much good. With too many companies jointly putting up the film's budget, he had a number of bosses to answer to. And some of them took issue with the film being too low-key, too visually dense, too slow and especially its dark, enigmatic ending.
It seems the financiers wanted something that was simple to follow and had a formulaic happy ending despite the fact that, especially in science fiction, unique often trumps cookie-cutter sameness.
So the film was taken from Scott and several changes were made a voiceover narration (by star Harrison Ford) was added and a happy ending had Ford and his replicant (read "android") babe (Sean Young) sailing into the sunset ... if they could find it in all that rain.
But the film was a bust in its '82 theatrical debut, and on several levels a disappointment.
The filmmaker went on to make more movies but didn't have another huge hit until "Thelma & Louise" in 1991.
Meanwhile, however, "Blade Runner" had amassed a cult following, which only grew when it went to home video.
Scott was approached about revisiting "Blade Runner" for a "director's cut" something pretty rare in those days (today, of course, director's cuts are as common as reissued DVDs).
So recut it he did, eliminating both the voiceover narration and the happy ending.
This version of the film received a wide theatrical release, but its box-office earnings were unremarkable. Later, it went to DVD.
Since 1992, Scott's career has had its ups and downs, with one more megahit in 2000, "Gladiator." And his latest effort opens in theaters today, "American Gangster."
But he still can't let go of "Blade Runner," which is currently in a national theatrical run in its "Final Cut." Or so the press material says.
On Dec. 18 this version comes to DVD, along with a five-disc set that has no less than five versions!
But who's to say he won't get the itch again in a few years. DVD certainly allows rejiggering movies to maximize merchandizing.
As for whether "Blade Runner" is any better now than in 1992, it's hard to say, and very subjective, of course. I sort of liked it more, the pacing seems better, the special effects still dazzle (and Scott reportedly bolstered those with computer graphics this time around). And it certainly has more power on the big screen than on even the biggest TV.Or maybe it's just growing on me.
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