Film Christmas shopping in Chester one year, back when there was an Odeon in the city centre, I noticed they were showing Blade Runner's director's cut. There wasn't a particular reason - the film wasn't in re-release that year and it wasn't supporting one of the upteempth home releases. From what I gather, one of the staff liked the film and just decided to schedule it so he could see it on the big screen and presumably made it an open presentation to offset the price of the booking. For a four o'clock showing on a Saturday, the small screen was relatively busy and come twenty past four we were wondering when the show was going to begin. Eventually a staff member appeared - and this wasn't something that usually happened in the Odeons as where and said that they were having technical difficulties because the print they'd been supplied with was in such bad condition. They were happy to run it but would understand if anyone wanted to leave and get a refund. No one did. And so we sat and watched one of the scuzziest 35mm prints of any film I've seen.
Blade Runner's a film which I'd already seen plenty times in different ways in different places, in different formats and editions, but it was perfect. The aesthetic of the film is urban, broken and derelict already and so many lines across the screen, hairs and dust only enhanced the atmosphere of what we were seeing. Even when the sound fell out of synch briefly it simply felt like it was because were watching a transmission from the future, a future which is numerically closer to us now than the original release date of Blade Runner. However grand it is to have the pristine images of digital project and blu-ray, something organic and unpredictable has been lost from our analogue past. Plus it put in mind what it must have been like at that Los Angeles Cineplex-Odeon Fairfax Theatre in 1990 when a fan audience realised pretty quickly that they were watching one of the equally messy original workprints of the film which ultimately led to this "Director's Cut". When the doors closed at the end, Deckard and Rachel safely in the lift, I remember the audience applauding.
The first time I watched Blade Runner was during a late night broadcast on ITV, also at Christmas, I think, some time in the mid-eighties when I was still young, just before secondary school. The idea that there were different versions, that it was panned and scanned would have meant nothing to me (just as it meant nothing to the most of us) but I have a vivid memory of lying chest first across the floor on a duvet cover, watching from the across some pillows, scared witless, Dad watching on from the couch, Mum having gone to bed. Until eventually buying a VHS, my only real memory of the film was the giant advertising screens, of the echoing voice, the Geisha popping something in her mouth and the resonant voice from elsewhere advertising off-world colonies. Little would we know that of all Douglas Trumble's futurological design work, it's this which would become realised and quickly. Remember this image of an advertising screen in Beijing three years ago? Now there are half a dozen in Liverpool city centre too.
Then, of course, the boxed set of every version you could wish for was released and I finally got to see that work print version for myself and as expected, despite all the work Ridley Scott put into his final version, digitally cleaning shots, fixing continuity mistakes, notably making Joanna Cassidy cry on first seeing herself be terminated at Zhora rather than the stand in, it's this version which still feels most authentic. Yes, the music isn't wholly Vangelis's score, temping in incongruous pieces of Jerry Goldsmith and the pacing is just slightly off and the editing and continuity are flat out wrong in places, but its this first draft which seems to capture the original ideas before the studio decided they knew what was best based on the reaction of a dodgy, unreceptive test audience. The Final Cut is the work of an older man trying capture what he was originally trying to do. But for all the poor mathematics in the mission sequence and wrong Zhora, here it is.