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I have to admit to only seeing Blade Runner on perhaps two or three occasions before I bought the DVD. Only one of those viewings was of the director’s cut of the film. The last time I saw Ridley Scott’s cult sci-fi flick was over three years ago, so I sat down to watch with great expectation.

Blade Runner
The film is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019, in a perpetually dark world where artificial humans known as replicants are able to walk amongst us unnoticed. Replicants are used off world as slave labour, undertaking all the tasks deemed too menial or dangerous for humans. Unfortunately, they tend to have a predisposition toward murder, and so a special police department has been created to deal with any troublesome specimens. They are the Blade Runners. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, one such Blade Runner who is charged with hunting down and “retiring” a group of renegade replicants. The replicants, Roy (Rutger Hauer), Leon (Brion James), and Pris (Daryl Hannah), have returned to Earth in search of a way to extend their four-year life span (a fail safe device installed by their creators) and to this end they begin tracking, then killing all those connected with their inceptions.

This version of Blade Runner removes the annoying voiceover that used to accompany the film, develops a few scenes, and drops the original ending in favour of a more ambiguous one. Overall I prefer this version of the film to the one with the Harrison Ford voiceover. This is probably because the voiceover was done so poorly in the first place (in an attempt to get the studio to drop it entirely).

Blade Runner
Unfortunately for all devoted fans, Warner have seen fit to release the film on a decidedly bare bones disc. In fact, you could go as far as to say it’s very poor. The first thing I noticed was the video quality; the transfer has more in common with VHS than the DVD format. The image is filled with grain, and there are many noticeable scratches on the print. Things do get better after the hour mark, but on the whole the video is decidedly inadequate.

Sound, which is presented in the Dolby Surround format, is functional if unspectacular. Dialogue is, for the most part, clear, and the surrounds are occasionally used to enhance the atmosphere. This is limited to sporadic claps of thunder (it never seems to stop raining in the future), hover-cars (or spinners as they are known) flying overhead, and the eerie soundtrack. It is the brilliant Vangelis soundtrack that creates most of the atmosphere, and while it is an acceptable rendition, it lacks any real depth. This is a film that is crying out for a 5.1 mix that really draws you into the bleak futuristic world.

Blade Runner
The extras on the disc are comprehensive; comprehensively bad that is. There is nothing on offer, not even a trailer. In fact the disc menu is also the worst I’ve ever seen, with a static shot of the Warner Brothers logo with just two selectable options (play and scene access). The film must have so much in the way of extra content available, and it’s a crime that we are fobbed off with this barren disc. Warner really needs to get it together on back catalogue titles.

Blade Runner is an incredibly atmospheric film ruined by a below par DVD. It is of a higher quality than the VHS edition, but not by much. Warner needs to give the film the respect it deserves, and re-issue the disc as a special edition. A good remastered anamorphic transfer, a 5.1 surround mix, animated menus, a commentary track, trailers, documentaries, an isolated score and the rumoured Ridley Scott cut of the film should do nicely. I’d love to be able to rate this disc more highly, and I usually reflect the content of the feature film as my overriding factor when awarding marks, but in this case the poor quality of the disc just has to drag the whole thing down into the realms of mediocrity.