Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary
The saga surrounding Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner is one of the most troubled and tweaked film mythologies in Hollywood history. The various cuts, bootlegged unauthorized VHS and DVD versions, different European and American cuts, etc., are too labyrinthine to go into here, but there's plenty available to read if you aren't already familiar with this murky story. Amazingly enough, the film's soundtrack has a similar narrative, one that is dark, full of conflict; it's so complex that even this mammoth, three-disc 25th Anniversary commemorative edition doesn't manage to straighten out. That said, it is a vast improvement on what has previously been released officially. Greek composer and pioneering prog rock and synth king -- and subsequently a best-selling composer of film scores -- Vangelis Papathanassiou was tapped to write the score for Scott's film and record the soundtrack. That said, what appeared in the marketplace when the flick was released had little to do with his original score. When the first version of the soundtrack appeared, his score wasn't actually used, only "adaptations" of its themes by the New American Orchestra. It was disowned not only by the composer, but savaged by Scott. Vangelis released his own version on CD in 1994. It was a horrible sounding single-disc package that included his amazing "Love Theme," and "Memories of Green" as they were meant to be, as well as much of the other incidental music (this fact is so true that various bootlegs of the set sounded far better than the official release and contained more music). Besides the sonic problems, the full score remained unreleased.
This new version contains three discs. The first is a beautifully remastered version of that 1994 issue, where all of the dubious hiss and "noise reduction techniques" previously employed were tossed and the process begun from scratch. It sounds like it was made for compact disc. And that's great as far as it goes, but it still didn't address the missing final score. Still, it's such a vast improvement it's worth hearing, and hearing over again. Disc two is the real treasure, though, because it contains a lot more of the score's original music. There's the awesome music that plays in the film while Deckard and Roy have their final near mythic battle to the death in the rain. Likewise, the music for the investigation of "Leo's Room" is included here, as is the subtle, deeply moving composition for the death scene of Dr. Tyrell. There are also a couple of "bonus tracks" that fill out some missing music in the film. The final disc is made up of ephemera, detritus. That's rather harsh considering this is all new music, but Vangelis simply tacked on brand new cuts that reflect his lack of involvement with the actual process of composition itself these days. There are synth sketches, ideas, and asides, and little more. There is a gimmicky bit where Vangelis takes on Scott's dialogue about the Final Cut version of the film and layers his keyboards over it -- new age music with narrative. The third disc of this collection is entirely unnecessary. Ugh.
To sum it all, the full score of Blade Runner has yet to be released officially. There have been triple-disc bootlegs that did a better job of presenting as much of the music as is actually hearable, though their sound is far from pristine: they are pirated versions which were assembled to present some other person's dubious perspective -- not too mention the real issue of compensation for those involved in the actual process of creating the work to begin with. So why didn't Vangelis just pop the entire score on the final two discs? It was one definitive way to get the music to the hardcore faithful; in so doing, it would bascially cancel out the terrain the crooks have inhabited and profited from. One look at this edition with its rather handsome presentation is enough to want it, even if you already owned the last CD version. Who knows what the reasons were and are? We may never find out. the bottom line is that it is a bit of a con and a slap in the facer tyo consumers to create a package so fine looking and sounding without offering the complete historical document. So, even in the digital age, the mystery continues, and this score is as strangely absent as it is present. Perhaps it wouldn't fit; perhaps he's planning a 30th Anniversary edition; perhaps, perhaps, perhaps....