Versions of Blade Runner
Seven different versions of Blade Runner have been shown, either to test audiences or theatrically. The best known are the International Cut, the Director's Cut and the Final Cut. (In the 2007 documentary Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner, there is a reference to director Ridley Scott presenting a nearly four-hour-long "early cut" that was only shown to studio personnel and has never been shown since.)
The following is a timeline of these seven versions.
Workprint prototype version (1982)
The Workprint version (1982, 113 minutes) was shown to audience test previews in Denver and Dallas in March 1982. It was also seen in 1990 and 1991 in Los Angeles and San Francisco as a Director's Cut without the approval of director Ridley Scott. Negative responses to the test previews led to the modifications resulting in the US theatrical version, while positive response to the showings in 1990 and 1991 pushed the studio to approve work on an official director's cut. (Re-released as part of the 5-disc Ultimate Edition in 2007.)
- There is no voice-over, no "unicorn vision", and no "happy ending". However, Deckard does have a brief narration directly after Batty's death.
- There is no opening crawl: a static screen of text, showing a dictionary definition of the word "Replicant", replaces it.
- The scene in which Holden is shot by Leon (while giving the Voight-Kampff test) lasts slightly longer, and shows more of Holden after he is shot and comes to rest on the desk before it cuts to the next scene.
- In the scene at the Asian restaurant at the beginning, there is an insert shot of the dish Deckard orders. Also, we see Deckard eating his noodles (with great difficulty) while the waiter says, "He say you Blade Runner." In the Theatrical Release, we just see a cut to Deckard with his mouth full of noodles.
- From Deckard's arrival at the Bradbury building to the end of the film, the Vangelis music score is missing, presumably not yet composed at the time this version was made. It is replaced by placeholder music.
- Deckard is seen taking a few moments struggling to remove the tie that Zhora choked him with, before beginning to chase her.
- Batty addresses Tyrell as "father" (not "fucker") when asking for more life, as in the Final Cut.
- When Batty kills Tyrell, the scene is a combination of the "violent" footage from the International Edition and the "non-violent" footage from the theatrical original. Batty still pokes out Tyrell's eyes with his thumbs, but Tyrell is seen falling to the floor as in the original.
- When Pris attacks Deckard, the scene is again a combination of the International Edition and the original. Pris hits Deckard three times, and also holds him up by his nostrils. However, Deckard still shoots her only twice.
- The scene in which Batty pushes a nail through his hand is identical to the "non-violent" version in the Theatrical Release.
- There are no ending credits.
San Diego Sneak Preview version (1982)
A San Diego Sneak Preview shown only once in May 1982. This version is nearly identical to the 1982 US theatrical version, except that it included three additional scenes not shown before or since, including the Final Cut version (2007). These scenes are not on any Blu-ray, DVD, VHS, or Laserdisc version available.
- The full body introduction of Roy Batty inside a "VidPhon" booth.
- Deckard attempting to reload his weapon after Batty has broken Deckard's fingers.
- A complete high-angled shot of Deckard and Rachael driving off into a clear clean mountainous area with real trees, also known as "the happy ending" (using leftover aerial footage from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining). This scene was tacked on by executives at Paramount after the first test audiences reported poorly about the ambiguity of the original ending, and was shot weeks after the original shooting had been completed. Actors Ford and Young had to reprise their roles, but only a partial segment of it was ever used in the subsequent US theatrical release.
US theatrical release (1982)
The US theatrical version (1982, 116 minutes), known as the original version or Domestic Cut. This version was released on Betamax and VHS in 1983. This version remained unreleased on DVD for many years. (Re-released as part of the 5-disc Ultimate Edition in 2007.)
The 1982 American theatrical version released by the studio included the "happy ending" but with the addition of Harrison Ford's voiceovers. Although several different versions of the script had included a narration of some sort, Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott decided to add scenes to provide the information; but financiers rewrote and reinserted narration during post-production after test audience members indicated difficulty understanding the film. It has been suggested that Ford intentionally performed the voice-over badly, in the hope it would not be used, but he stated in 1999: "I contested it mightily at the time. It was not an organic part of the film." Later in a 2002 interview with Playboy magazine, he clarified: "I delivered it to the best of my ability, given that I had no input. I never thought they'd use it. But I didn't try and sandbag it. It was simply bad narration."
International theatrical release (1982)
The International Cut (1982, 117 minutes) also known as the "Criterion Edition" or uncut version, included more violent action scenes than the US theatrical version. Although initially unavailable in the US and distributed in Europe and Asia via theatrical and local Warner Home Video laserdisc releases, it was later released on VHS and Criterion Collection laserdisc in North America, and re-released in 1992 as a "10th Anniversary Edition". Home Box Office broadcast this version to U.S. audiences in the 1980s and 1990s.
It is similar to the US theatrical release but has more violence in three specific scenes:
- When Batty confronts Tyrell in his bedroom, in addition to crushing Tyrell's face with his hands, Batty pokes out Tyrell's eyes with his thumbs, releasing blood.
- When Pris has somersaulted onto Deckard's back, rather than hitting him three times and then dropping him (as she does in all other versions), she hits him twice, then inserts her fingers into his nostrils and releases her legs, holding him up by his nostrils for a few seconds before he falls to the floor. The shot of him falling to the floor is identical in all versions. Deckard also shoots Pris an extra time, and the scenes of her thrashing spasmodically on the floor after having been shot are slightly extended.
- At the end of the film, Deckard hunts Batty, who pushes a nail through his own hand, which again bleeds profusely.
The violent scenes in the International cut were later inserted into the Final Cut.
US broadcast version (1986)
The US broadcast version (1986, 114 minutes) was the U.S. theatrical version edited by television company CBS to tone down the violence, profanity, and nudity to meet broadcasting restrictions. However, they only edited 3 minutes for its 1986 network television premiere.
Some of the missing scenes included:
- Bryant's line "Don't be an asshole Deckard" was changed to "Don't be an ass Deckard".
- The word "Christ" was cut from Byrant's line "Christ Deckard, you look almost as bad as that skin job you left on the sidewalk"
- The word "goddamn" was cut from Bryant's line "He's a goddamn one man slaughter house."
- All scenes showing Zhora's breasts have been removed.
- Roy's line to Tyrell, "I want more life, fucker", was changed to "I want more life."
- Roy's murder of Tyrell is much shorter than in all other versions.
- The fight between Pris and Deckard is heavily edited - all shots of Pris thrashing on the ground after being shot were cut, as were all the scenes where Deckard's head is trapped between her legs.
The Director's Cut (1992)
The Ridley Scott-approved Director's Cut (1992, 116 minutes)was prompted by the unauthorized 1990–1991 workprint theatrical release and made available on VHS and laserdisc in 1993, and on DVD in 1997. There were significant changes from the theatrical version. Ridley provided extensive notes and consultation to Warner Bros. although film preservationist & film restorer Michael Arick was put in charge of creating the Director's Cut. (Re-released as part of the 5-disc Ultimate Edition in 2007.)
In October 1989, film-restorer Arick discovered a 70 mm print of Blade Runner at the Warner Bros. vaults while searching for footage from Gypsy. When the Cineplex Odeon Fairfax Theater in Los Angeles learned of this discovery, the theater management successfully got permission from Warners to screen the print for a film festival set for the following May. Until the screening, no one was aware that this print was that of the workprint version. Owing to this surprise, Warners booked more screenings of the now-advertised "Director's Cut" of Blade Runner in 15 American cities.
Ridley Scott publicly disowned this workprint version of the film as a Director's Cut, citing that it was roughly edited, lacked a key scene, and the climax did not feature the score composed for the film by Vangelis (it was a temp track using Jerry Goldsmith's score from Planet of the Apes). In response to Scott's dissatisfaction, Warners briefly allowed theatrical screenings of the workprint beginning in the fall of 1991, but only at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles and the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. As a response to these sell-out screenings of the workprint (and screenings of the theatrical cut in Houston and Washington, D.C.), in addition to the film's resurgent cult popularity in the early '90s, Warner Bros. decided to assemble a definitive Director's Cut of the film, with direction from Scott, for an official theatrical re-release in 1992.
Warners hired Arick, who was already doing consultation work for them, to head the project with Scott. He started by spending several months in London with Les Healey, who had been the assistant editor on Blade Runner, attempting to compile a list of the changes that Scott wanted made to the film. He also received a number of suggestions/directions directly from the director himself. Three major changes were made to the film, which most people agree significantly changed the feel of the picture:
- The removal of Deckard's explanatory voice-over
- The 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. This made the film end ambiguously when the elevator doors closed.
The original sequence of Deckard's unicorn dream was not found in a print of sufficient quality; the original scene shows Deckard intercut with the running unicorn. Arick was thus forced to use a different print that shows only the unicorn running, without any intercutting to Deckard. This footage was inserted into what had previously been a continuous tracking shot. The unicorn scene suggests a completely different ending to the film: Gaff's origami unicorn means that Deckard's dreams are known to him, implying that Deckard's memories are artificial, and therefore he would be a replicant of the same generation as Rachael. The cut did not include much of the extra violence included in the "International version" of the film.
Scott has since complained that time and money constraints, along with his obligation to Thelma & Louise, kept him from retooling the film in a completely satisfactory manner. While he is happier with the 1992 release of the film than with the original theatrical version, he has never felt entirely comfortable with it as his definitive Director's Cut.
In 2000, Harrison Ford gave his view on the Director’s Cut of the film saying, although he thought it "spectacular," it didn’t "move him at all." He gave a brief reason: "They haven't put anything in, so it's still an exercise in design." Originally released as a single-disc DVD in March 1997, with both pan-and-scan and widescreen versions on different sides, the Director's Cut was one of the first DVDs on the market. However, it is of low quality compared to DVDs of later standards, due to it being produced in the early days of the format. Warner Home Video re-released it with a new transfer in 2006 as a "Digitally Remastered Version". The 1997 stereo (2.0) audio track remained unchanged, however.
The Final Cut (2007)
Ridley Scott's Final Cut (2007, 117 minutes), or the "25th Anniversary Edition", briefly released by Warner Bros. theatrically on October 5, 2007 and subsequently released on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray in December 2007 (UK December 3; US December 18). This is the only version over which Ridley Scott had complete artistic control as the Director's Cut was rushed and he was not directly in charge. In conjunction with the Final Cut, extensive documentary and other materials were produced for the home video releases culminating in a five-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition" release by Charles de Lauzirika.
Scott found time in mid-2000 to help put together a final and definitive version of the film with restoration producer Charles de Lauzirika, which was only partially completed in mid-2001 before legal and financial issues forced a halt to the work. Although the Special Edition DVD was originally rumored to be released in 2002 to coincide with the film's 20th Anniversary as a three-disc set, Warner Bros. delayed the "Special Edition" release after legal disputes began with the film's original completion bond guarantors (specifically Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin), who were ceded the copyright to the film when the shooting ran over budget from $21.5 to $28 million.
After several years of legal disputes, Warner Bros. announced in 2006 that it had finally secured full distribution rights to the film, and that there would be a three-stage release of the film:
- A digitally remastered single-disc re-release of the 1992 Director's Cut was released on September 5, 2006 in the United States, on October 9, 2006 in Ireland and the UK, and in the following months in continental Europe.
- Ridley Scott's "Final Cut" of the film began a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles on October 5, 2007; in Washington, D.C. at the Uptown Theatre on October 26, 2007; Chicago on November 2, 2007; in Toronto on November 9, 2007 at Theatre D Digital's Regent Theatre; Sydney, Australia at the Hayden Orpheum on November 8, 2007; Melbourne, Australia on November 15, 2007 at The Astor Theatre; Boston at the Coolidge Corner Theater on November 16, 2007 and Austin, Texas on November 18, 2007.
- A multi-disc box set—was released on the DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray disc formats.
The set would include the Workprint, the two 1982 original theatrical versions (US domestic and uncensored International cuts), the 2006-remastered Director's Cut, the 2007 Final Cut, and several hours of bonus features.
On November 10, 2008, The Final Cut premiered on US television, broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel.
A brand-new DVD featurette titled All Our Variant Futures profiled the making of the Final Cut version, including behind-the-scenes footage of Harrison Ford's son, Ben Ford, and the filming of new scenes for the Final Cut. According to the documentary, actress Joanna Cassidy herself made the suggestion to refilm Zhora's death scene while being interviewed for the Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner documentary, and footage of her making this suggestion is intercut with footage of her attending the later digital recording session.
The Final Cut contains the following differences (in order of appearance) from the 1982 Theatrical Cut:
- The fireballs in the opening refinery shot are correctly synchronized with the associated light play on the smokestacks. Some of these had been off-sync in earlier versions.
- The sound effect for the close-up fireball during the opening sequence has been changed.
- The close-up of an eye overlooking the Hades landscape is no longer the static image seen in previous versions. The eye's pupil now reacts to the fireball and the eyelids move realistically. Also, the reflection of the cityscape below appears to move ever so slightly.
- Deckard's explanatory voice-over has been removed from the entire film.
- The shot of Deckard waiting to eat at the White Dragon has been shortened, its editing reminiscent of the workprint version of the shot.
- The cables lifting Gaff's police spinner are no longer plainly visible. Cables were also removed from another shot of a spinner late in the film, just before Deckard enters Sebastian's apartment building.
- In addition to English, the voices on police radio during Gaff's and Deckard's flight to the police headquarters can be heard speaking German, Japanese, and Swedish.
- A repeated visual effects shot showing the city outside Gaff's Spinner has been adjusted very slightly: The once-obvious radar dish has been removed in the second use of the shot.
- As Deckard enters Bryant's office, Bryant's statement "I've got four skinjobs walking the streets" is no longer obviously a spliced-in re-recording.
- Bryant's line "One of them got fried running through an electrical field" is changed to "Two of them..." to remove the numerical inconsistency later on.
- Bryant adds a new line about Leon being able to "lift 400 pound atomic loads all day and night." This is from the workprint.
- A new cityscape horizon has been added to the shot of Gaff's Spinner coming in for a landing at the Tyrell Corporation.
- Additional Spinner air traffic has been added in the distance outside the large window of Tyrell's conference room.
- When Gaff and Deckard first appear at Leon's apartment, the landlord now says "Kowalski," another small bit originally from the workprint.
- A background behind Batty when he is first introduced speaking to Leon has been changed and the thumb on his shoulder has been removed. As the shot was taken from a later scene, this has now been corrected to appear as if Batty is actually in the phone booth as Leon finds him.
- The matte painting establishing the cityscape down the street from the Bradbury Building has been adjusted for improved realism, including fixing the perspective of the Pan-Am logo on one animated billboard.
- A dream sequence of a unicorn running through a forest has been inserted.
- The sequence at the fish booth now shows Deckard leaving.
- Deckard's conversation with the snake merchant Abdul Ben Hassan has been altered so that the dialogue is no longer out of sync; Ford's son, Ben, lip-synched the spoken dialog and his mouth was digitally placed over his father's.
- A shot of the busy crowds in the streets was restored. Immediately after that, a shot of two strippers wearing hockey goalie masks was restored. Finally, there's a shot of Deckard talking to another police officer just prior to Deckard entering the Snake Pit. These three shots had previously appeared in slightly different form in the workprint version.
- During Deckard's pursuit of Zhora, Joanna Cassidy's face has been digitally superimposed over that of stunt double Lee Pulford. This scene was re-filmed specifically for the Final Cut. Although great effort had been undertaken to replace the stunt double face with Cassidy's, the tan-colored protective suit Pulford wore to protect against glass cuts is still visible.
- A scar on Deckard's face after his "retirement" of Zhora has been removed. Originally, the scene in which Deckard meets Bryant after retiring Zhora was to take place after his encounter with Leon, explaining the scar. This was done prior to the removal of the "sixth replicant", creating a continuity error. Due to the re-ordering, the scar was always present before Deckard had actually received it.
- When Batty confronts Tyrell, he says, "I want more life, father"; this is from the workprint version, an alternative take intended for—but never used in—television broadcasts of the film, as opposed to the original line, "I want more life, fucker." The line also has a noticeably deeper tonal quality than the previous versions.
- In addition to crushing Tyrell's face with his hands, Batty pokes out Tyrell's eyes with his thumbs, releasing blood
- After killing Tyrell, Batty says "I'm sorry Sebastian. Come. Come." In the original he merely approached the frightened Sebastian. This is also from the workprint.
- As Deckard moves through Sebastian's apartment, the once-obvious shadows of the camera crew have been digitally removed from the back wall.
- The fight between Pris and Deckard is partly altered in the Final Cut; after hitting him three times, she then inserts her fingers into his nostrils and releases her legs, holding him up by his nostrils for a few seconds before he falls to the floor.
- Deckard now shoots Pris three times instead of two.
- When Batty puts the nail into his hand after Batty and Deckard had fought in the bathroom, he bleeds profusely and he pushes it through and the nail is shown coming out of his hand on the top.
- As Deckard climbs up the roof, Batty was digitally placed into the open window, because he was missing there between two scenes.
- Deckard does not wander around the roof as long as he does in the Theactrical Cut.
- As Deckard flees Batty, the matte painting with a TDK neon sign has been cleaned up a bit to look more realistic, and the TDK sign itself has been added to a subsequent shot for better continuity.
- After Batty releases the dove, it now flies up into a dark rainy sky instead of a clear blue sky. Also, the original building (the undressed side of a soundstage) has been replaced with a more appropriate retrofit apartment building. The background has also been enhanced with a cluster of circa 2019 buildings more in keeping with the film's dark futuristic setting.
- The studio-imposed "happy ending" has been removed. As such, some associated visuals which had originally run under the film's end-credits now appear in front of black instead. This makes the film end ambiguously when the elevator doors closed.
Scott also chose not to reintegrate a number of scenes that had been cut from previous versions of the film, such as:
- Tears in the Rain (Alternate Opening Titles): An alternate title sequence featuring huge water drops splashing onto the ground in slow motion, in time with the Vangelis music.
- I'm Deckard: An alternate introduction to Deckard, featuring different angles of the blimp, the noodlebar and the scene where Gaff arrives. There is also a new voiceover here, with Deckard talking about his wife leaving him for a rich prospector on one of the colonies.
- A Real Dandy: An alternate version of the scene where Gaff and Deckard arrive at the police station, revealing more of Union Station. In the new voiceover, Deckard explains that Gaff is new to the job and hungry for promotion.
- Bryant's Point of View: A truncated version of the scene where Deckard and Bryant watch the incept tapes. The voiceover here talks about how Bryant knows something about everyone.
- Visiting Holden: Deckard visits Holden in the hospital. Holden tells Deckard how life like the new Nexus 6 model is, and they speculate as to whether the Voight-Kampff will work on them.
- Rep Detect File: As Deckard and Gaff approach the Tyrell building, Deckard flips through a file on the four replicants and the voiceover explains the background of each one.
- Zero-Zero-Zero: A alternate version of Rachael's Voight-Kampff test. The voiceover talks about how difficult it was to determine that she was a replicant, and expresses disgust at what Tyrell is doing.
- 1187 Hunterwasser: An alternate version of Deckard and Gaff searching Leon's hotel room. More of the geography of the room is seen, and additionally, at the end of the scene, Leon is revealed to have been hiding somewhere in the bathroom, the whole time the two policemen where present.
- Chew's Specialty: An alternate introduction to Roy, who is shown in full profile standing in the phone booth. A voiceover explains who Chew is.
- Heading Home: An alternate version of the scene where Deckard arrives at his apartment block, showing him getting out of his car and running to escape the rain. The voiceover talks about how poorly the case is going.
- An Oddball Genius: An alternate version of the meeting between Pris and Sebastian, showing a high angle shot from overhead as Pris approaches the Bradbury. The voiceover talks about how difficult being a Blade Runner is, and why the replicants wanted to see Sebastian.
- Memories: A different version of the scene where Deckard uses the Esper. In this version, the graphics seen on the Esper screen look completely different to all other versions of the film. Additionally, when Deckard asks for a hardcopy, the print out matches the image on-screen. The voiceover here talks about how demoralizing the job is, and there is some more information on Deckard's ex-wife, who we see in a photograph.
- Food for Thought: A scene of Deckard sitting at the noodlebar eating. The man beside him gets fish, and Deckard suddenly realizes that maybe the scale he found belongs to a fish. The voiceover here basically just summarizes what is shown.
- The Street of Bad Dreams: More footage of Deckard approaching Taffy Lewis' club, which reveals a lot more of the street. Also, an alternate take of the conversation between Deckard and Taffy. The voiceover discusses how unreliable Taffy is.
- Backstage Pass: A barman tells Deckard that Taffy won't know anything about the scale, but the performers might, and he tells him to go backstage to find out. The voiceover here talks about how he suspects Zhora is a replicant, but isn't 100% sure.
- Looks Like Blood: An alternate version of the scene after Deckard has killed Zhora. The voiceover here talks about the moral ambiguities of the work.
- Washing Up: An alternate version of the scene where Deckard washes up and goes to sleep, with more footage of Rachael simply watching him.
- I Want You: A longer version of the sex scene, which shows both Deckard and Rachael undressing one another.
- Metaphysics: Deckard again visits Holden, who thinks Deckard had slept with Zhora and mocks him for it. Holden then tells Deckard that the replicants are looking for God. Bryant and Gaff are shown to be spying on the scene, discussing whether or not Deckard knows where Rachael is.
- Tyrell Security Protocol: Different versions of Roy and Sebastian approaching the Tyrell suite, and of Roy leaving. Both scenes involve a security pass that has to be input into a slot on the elevator within a certain time or the elevator will be locked down. Additionally, as Roy leaves, he is clearly upset, almost frantic.
- Closing In: A different version of the scene where Deckard calls Sebastian's. In this version, the conversation with the Spinner cop is longer, and the cop is actually seen on a small TV in Deckard's car. The real difference, however, is the voiceover. At this stage, Deckard doesn't know that Tyrell is dead. However, Rachael has guessed that the replicants want more life, which means they need to see Tyrell. Deckard explains that only 6 people have access to Tyrell, so he is calling each of them. Sebastian is the last one he calls.
- Every Second Of It: An alternate version of Roy's final monologue. Different angles are used throughout, and the shot of the pigeon flying away is at nighttime. Additionally, when he arrives on the roof, Gaff points out to Deckard that he can't be sure if he is in fact human. The voiceover here is the same as that used in the Workprint.
- Old Richter Route (Alternate Ending): An alternate version of the theatrical cut's happy ending. The voiceover muses about how much in love Deckard and Rachael are.
- Made for Each Other (Alternate Ending): Another alternate version of the theatrical cut's happy ending, with Deckard and Rachael discussing Deckard's ex-wife and their own relationship. Rachael tells Deckard that it is the happiest day of her life. Interestingly, Rachael then says, "You and I were made for one another," to which Deckard responds strangely, looking at her rather bemusedly (this line has been suggested to be another hint that Deckard is a replicant).
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