I find it ironic that film studios and producers make such a big deal about releasing “Director’s cuts” and “Unrated editions” on DVD, when they obviously didn’t show as much concern for the films when they released them theatrically. At best – and rarest -, these editions restore films to the way the filmmakers intended them to be seen, but I suspect that more often these uncut versions are merely a) a way of restoring filler from the cutting-room floor, b) an excuse for indecisive directors to keep tinkering with their work, or c) a shameless excuse to sell the same title over and over again.
A new case in point is Warner Brothers’ forthcoming release of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, a film with a long and difficult history, and with a strong cult following. First released in 1982 with an awkward ending tacked on at the last minute (made from outtakes from the opening sequence of Kubrick’s The Shining) and a heavy-handed voiceover narration, both imposed on the film against Scott’s wishes, the film was reissued in 1992 in a “Director’s Cut” based on the director’s work print. The latter version was not without problems of its own, but it’s been the only version available on DVD. This week, after a brief period out of print, Warners is again releasing the “Director’s Cut”, in a “Remastered Limited Edition” which will be taken off the shelves in a few weeks.
Why? Because once you’ve already put your money down for the latest release, Warners is hoping you’ll pull out you wallet again next year when they release a 4-disc collection containing:
The original 1982 release;
The European version of the above, which is slightly more violent;
The 1992 Director’s Cut; and
A new “Final Director’s Cut” prepared by Scott.
Wow, why’d they leave out the pan-and-scan version, or the “edited for television” cut, or every outtake and rough cut they could find?
Before you make that commitment to devote 8 or 9 hours of your life, ask yourself “how many versions of Blade Runner do we need?”
If the new version is truly Scott’s final word, why preserve the interim 1992 cut?
And while I can see the historical value of keeping the original 1982 version (I’ve used the ending in classrooms a few times), why not stick with the European cut, assuming that the US release was just a censored version?
Whatever your opinion of this ambitious but flawed work, turning it into a multiple-choice question isn’t likely to change it.