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Dec. 18, 2007: Finally, Seeing Things We Wouldn't Believe

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dmohrUSC

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Post Fri Jul 27, 2007 12:10 pm

Dec. 18, 2007: Finally, Seeing Things We Wouldn't Believe

The last 24 hours? worth of announcements from Comic-Con and Warner Bros. have been incredibly emotional for all lifelong BR fans, myself included, and I just wanted to share a little of the story of my own lifelong BR love affair with the group.

BR was the first R-rated movie I ever saw, in 1983 or 1984, over at my best friend?s home in the suburban Twin Cities of Minnesota when I was 13 years old, on a home video recording off the ?Spectrum? cable channel. Up until then, my parents had been very strict as to what they allowed me and my younger brother to watch around the house ? no crime dramas, no violence ? just family TV series and nature programming on PBS.

Seeing BR was an incredibly powerful experience, but not what you might expect: I was so overwhelmed by its industrial-apocalyptic world of the future, I was literally depressed for 3 months straight. But even as a kid, I couldn?t shake its story and images from my head. I would end up sneaking over to my best friend?s house and watching his videocopy of BR again and again. In later years, like everyone else, I thrilled to checking out the differences between this original ?domestic? version and the even darker and more violent un-rated ?international? version that had somehow, magically, found its way onto video shelves in the United States.

I remember reading Pauline Kael?s original pan of BR in 1982, and although I sincerely treasure her writing, Kael?s review of BR is still one of the reviews of hers (like her pan of ?2001: A Space Odyssey?) I personally disagree with the most. It occurs to me that BR presents the flip-side of the nightmare future that Cormac McCarthy writes about in his equally brilliant and devastating recent Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel ?The Road,? only in this case, it?s not nuclear holocaust that?s laid waste to our planet, but rather unchecked corporate industrialization and its resulting global warming. (It?s ironic to me that Kael panned BR as she did, when she?d much earlier noted in her praising of Kon Ichikawa?s 1959 ?Fires on the Plain,? about survivors in the postwar wastelands of Asia after World War II, ?what ends up being beautiful about Ichikawa?s movie is its portrayal of humanity?s will and desire to live, and to cherish life, even in a desolate and hopeless wasteland.? You could certainly use those very same words to describe the effect of McCarthy?s latest novel, and that description also applies perfectly to the dramatic and artistic power of BR?s vision, as well.)

Anyways - I ended up going to arts high school in Minneapolis from 1989-91, and then moved to L.A. to attend USC in the fall of 1991; after applying four times, I finally got into USC?s undergraduate film production department in the spring of 1993. In the advanced ?480? production class during my first semester of film school, a guy named Charlie Lauzirika was one of the four students selected to direct a prestigious ?480? student short. I remember him as being a really nice guy, friendly, good-natured, straightforward, unpretentious, and very committed to making quality movies.

After college, I lived in L.A. for several more years, then moved back to Minnesota, and am now living in cozy Madison, Wisconsin, writing in my spare time and as big a cinephile as ever (also got married this past April). Charlie graduated with the Class of ?93 (I think?) and deservedly got his terrific job producing DVD content for Ridley Scott?s Scott Free film company. I was never a close friend, just an acquaintance, plus I had my own film school class (Class of ?95) and network of friends to keep in touch with. But I remember Charlie as being one of the good guys, someone you hoped would make out alright and go on to do good things in the industry someday.

Anyways, back to BR. I remember in the fall of 1991 when the infamous ?workprint? was mistakenly and magically pulled out of utterly forgotten obscurity in the Warner Bros. vaults, and got a showing for 2 weeks at the Nuart theatre in Westwood. I saw it twice there during that run. I remember that lines were around the block, the fans simply couldn?t believe that such a thing had actually been discovered; it was almost as astounding as if someone discovered Orson Welles? original director?s cut of his ?The Magnificent Ambersons,? before the RKO Studio execs chopped it to pieces while Welles was out of the country in 1942.

(I also remember checking out the BR workprint on the big ? very, very big ? screen a few times again in 2000, at the legendary Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd., when the management had announced that they were showing the official 1992 director?s cut for a 1-week run, and were advertising that on the placards outside the theatre, but in actuality they?d gotten ahold of the beloved BR workprint and were showing it a few times a day. There?s nothing quite like calling up your pals and fellow film buffs and telling them excitedly, ?hey, you?re not gonna believe it, the BR workprint is playing over at the Cinerama Dome RIGHT NOW!!!?)

As we all know, things built to a head, and in 1992 Warner Bros. allowed Ridley Scott to release an official new, so-called ?director?s cut? version of BR without the narration or the tacked-on happy ending, and with his cherished unicorn dream sequence at long last.
What most of us didn?t know at the time (and was under-reported in the press) was that the suits at Warners steamrolled Ridley Scott into doing a ?rush job?, rather than the exhaustive restorative work that would have brought a truly definitive director?s cut into the world. It was as if they?d said to Scott, ?hey, just be grateful we?re giving you an inch here, rather than letting you go crazy with it and do the very best job you can.?

Thank god for Charles de Lauzirika and his stubborn obsessiveness, which is shared by all genuine BR enthusiasts, including me. Wading through almost a thousand separate bins of BR dailies and outtakes from the Warner Bros. vaults, and in the process helping Ridley Scott to once and for all create the definitive version of his very finest movie, is nothing short of a BR enthusiast?s wildest dreams come true; just think how many of us have wondered, ?if only we could see what Charlie?s seen with our own eyes!?

As for yesterday?s historic announcements?

Even if Ridley Scott?s ?Final Cut? was never realized (which, like everyone else, I cannot wait to live to behold), the supposed 45 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes alone are worth waiting 25 years for. So fantastic to see a piece on Jordan Cronenweth and his truly legendary work (only a few years back, BR was picked by the American Society of Cinematographers as being one of the top ten greatest works of cinematography of all time). Good god, I don?t know what I?m going to have to do to get ahold of one of the limited-edition 5-DVD ?Deckard briefcases?, but if I have to drive all the way from Madison, Wisconsin to the Virgin Megastore on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood to get one, I?ll do it.

I, too, am a little surprised to see the excellent ?On the Edge of Blade Runner? and ?Future Shocks? documentaries missing, though as others have already said, I?m sure the 3 ? hours of ?Dangerous Days? and all the accompanying bonus features will more than compensate.

Also, while I?m sure it will be analyzed in the exhaustive documentary material, I?m a little surprised to not see any specific features on Disc 4 of the supplementary material regarding the music of BR: Vangelis? historic, exquisitely beautiful score, or the additional music in the movie. Aside from being one of the most important and compelling aspects of the movie (it set a new standard in ambient-electronic soundtracks that holds to this very day), the story of Vangelis? score for BR, in all its varying incarnations over the years, is almost as legendary among BR fans as the movie itself, who because of conflicts with licensing rights had to deal with the crummy ?New American Orchestra? faux-soundtrack for years. I remember discovering eBay around 2000, and the very first thing I purchased was an original CD copy (limited run) of the absolutely extraordinary unreleased/bootleg Romanian ?Gongo? score for BR, for $50. It was fifty of the best bucks I?ve still ever spent; there?s no question that the ?Gongo? release still completely blows away the ?officially? released BR score, which was marred by so many cheesy and totally out-of-place new tracks by Vangelis, corny dialogue ?samples? from the movie, etc. For any true BR fan out there, I cannot urge you enough to seek out the Gongo CD copy of the BR soundtrack: it?s unquestionably one of the ten greatest and most important soundtracks of the last fifty years of movie history. Burning CD copies of this soundtrack for my friends in the movie biz (and friends with regular day jobs), and experiencing their absolutely stunned and elated reactions when they finally listen to it, reminds me of what it must have been like for people to secretly pass around ?banned? copies of the Marquis de Sade?s writing in medieval France: scandalous, ravishing and totally blissful.

But, really: can any movie with as much endless history and legacy as BR ever have a truly ?completist? package produced? Maybe it?s for the best that a few things are still missing from the otherwise-exhaustive upcoming 5-DVD collection, for the most devoted BR fans to talk and share the remaining BR rarities that still exist beyond this last set of ?official? releases. (Along with the new 5-DVD set, I?d reckon all a true BR fan really needs to complete their definitive BR collection are Paul Sammon?s extraordinary, thesis-worthy ?Future Noir,? the ?Gongo? CD soundtrack, and the ?On the Edge of Blade Runner? and ?Future Shocks? documentaries, and you?ve got it pretty well wrapped up.)

So cheers, celebrations, and a toast to my dear fellow USC film school alum Charles de Lauzirika for having finally pushed one of his ? and our ? greatest lifelong movie-lover?s dreams all the way through to fruition. Even if I won?t be able to make the October 5 ?BR Final Cut? screenings on either of the coasts, I?m definitely going to be taking a day off work on December 18 and soaking up every last little detail and tidbit of magic and miraculousness in the 5-disc Ultimate Collector?s Edition, which I and so many other ardent devotees of Ridley Scott?s greatest masterwork feel like we?ve been waiting to feast our senses on since our childhoods ? and now, because of Charlie?s unyielding efforts in talking to everyone who was originally involved with BR?s making, scouring the Warner Bros. vaults, and grappling with the execs, the floodgates are finally opening, and soon we?ll all be seeing things that even Rutger Hauer?s Roy Batty wouldn?t believe?

On behalf of all the lovers of BR out there, THANK YOU, Charlie Lauzirika.

Sincerely,

Daniel Mohr
Madison, WI, USA
July 2007
dmohr06@gmail.com

P.S. Aside from the DVD specs and cover art already out there, this is the only article I?ve seen so far to feature extensive quotes from Charles de Lauzirika about the project:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR111796 ... id=13&cs=1
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Post Fri Jul 27, 2007 1:13 pm

Your enthusiasm is great, but there were better and more complete releases than the Gongo edition. Look here:

http://www.anunna.net/vangelis-rarities ... de1&id=164

Also, look here for lots of DVD details, as well as future details:

http://www.thedigitalbits.com/articles/ ... ounce.html
[In reference to A Good Year] "So anyway, fuck 'em. It was a good film."
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dmohrUSC

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Post Fri Jul 27, 2007 2:01 pm

Thanks for your note, "deleted" - you're absolutely right, there are indeed many more extensive, bootleg/unreleased versions of the BR soundtrack out there than the 'Gongo' release. But the 'Gongo' version is still the original, most famous and widely bootlegged unreleased version of the BR soundtrack, and it's still incalculably greater and more authentically representative of Vangelis' actual, original 1982 soundtrack than the 'officially' released, heavily re-tinkered version of Vangelis' sdtk. that was released by Atlantic Records into stores in 1994, and was (for fans like me, anyways) a really unfortunate missed opportunity to finally get something right.

Still, your point is definitely taken - BR fans should know that there are many different versions of the BR soundtrack out there. But take another look again at Disc 4 of the brand new BR DVD collections - no mention of any special feature/s re: Vangelis' music at all. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not insinuating that BR's music won't be discussed anywhere in the entire upcoming collection (that would be unthinkable), only pointing out that it's one more aspect of the history of BR that is so incredibly extensive, one single "ultimate / definitive" DVD collection can't convey all there is to know on the subject...and maybe that's not even the place of this new DVD set to do so. Maybe that's best left to the most devoted BR fans of all.

Yours truly, DM
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Post Fri Jul 27, 2007 5:34 pm

dmohrUSC wrote:. But the 'Gongo' version is still the original, most famous and widely bootlegged unreleased version of the BR soundtrack, and it's still incalculably greater and more authentically representative of Vangelis' actual, original 1982 soundtrack than the 'officially' released, heavily re-tinkered version of Vangelis' sdtk.


I dont know about that, the mk3 esper has reportedly much better clarity and is much more extensive..reflected in the fact that the esper usually sells on ebay for alot more than the gongo does..

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Blade-Runner-GONG ... dZViewItem



http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Blade-Runner-Espe ... dZViewItem
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Post Sat Jul 28, 2007 11:34 am

Thank you for sharing your story, I very much appreciated it and feel it adds to the epic story of BR. I also agree that even though there are several versions of the BR soundtrack that might be mixed a little better. IMHO only a musician or sound engineer might even be able to tell the difference. The Gongo is the best deal out there for what it is. The rest of it is out there and can be downloaded, and in essence is over priced. The Gongo is not the first, but one of the firsts (after the Offworld) BR soundtracks and still one of the best. The ones you find on Ebay are most likely bootlegs of the original bootleg though.
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