There is no one Blade Runner. Ridley Scott’s influential “neo-noir” has appeared in several different versions over the past 38 years, both official — the “director’s cut,” the “final cut,” and lest we forget, the now-derided first theatrical cut — and unofficial. So has Blade Runner’s soundtrack, the first official release of which lagged the film by about a dozen years, and even then didn’t include all the music so integral to the unprecedented aesthetic richness of the futuristic setting. Then, about a dozen more years later, followed an expanded soundtrack album, which for many fans still proved unsatisfying. In the name of completeness and sonic fidelity, at least five widely distributed bootlegs have attempted to fill the gap.
Now, in our 21st-century age of streaming, we have fan-made “remasters” of the Blade Runner soundtrack like the above, the 5.7‑million-times-viewed work of a user called Greendragon861. Running just over one hour and 52 minutes — nearly the length of the various cuts of Blade Runner itself — this sonic experience includes, of course, the well-known electronic pieces by composer Vangelis, those that come right to mind when you envision the flame-belching industrial landscape of 21st-century Los Angeles or a police “spinner” taking to the skies. But it also incorporates background music, sound effects, and even snatches of dialogue from the movie. The result feels a great deal like watching Blade Runner without actually watching Blade Runner.
Despite initially flopping, at least in the West, Blade Runner has exerted an enormous influence on other art and media — indeed, on the way humanity envisions the future — and one still spreading nearly four decades later. The film seems unsurpassable in that regard, an achievement creditable to a range of creators: director Ridley Scott, of course; but also Philip K. Dick, author of its source material; the late Syd Mead, who as a “visual futurist” gave focus to the world’s look and feel; model master Douglas Trumbull, thanks in part to whom its built and mechanical environment has aged so well. The list goes on, and it shouldn’t fail to include Vangelis as well as everyone else responsible for this intricate soundscape, without which Blade Runner wouldn’t be Blade Runner, no matter the cut.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.