‘Blade Runner’: A Game-Changing Science-Fiction Classic

These were taken on the last night of shooting (which was a 36 hour shift for the entire crew according to production executive Katy Haber) on July 9, 1981. Harrison looks exhausted, but maybe a little relieved that the long and dreary shoot is nearing its end. After shooting the parts of the scene covered in these photos, they moved on to the tears in rain speech
These were taken on the last night of shooting (which was a 36 hour shift for the entire crew according to production executive Katy Haber) on July 9, 1981. Harrison looks exhausted, but maybe a little relieved that the long and dreary shoot is nearing its end. After shooting the parts of the scene covered in these photos, they moved on to the tears in rain speech

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner‘s path to stardom and cultism has hardly been a bump-free ride. Heavily disputed upon its release, often criticized as an occasionally senseless portrayal of a future with a shallow storyline and abundance of plot holes semi-efficiently covered up by admittedly wonderful visuals, this science-fiction masterpiece is still regarded as a strong polarizing factor in discussions among filmlovers, but its status has quite immeasurably improved since its debut in North American theaters back in 1982. Many people had a change of heart regarding its value. Roger Ebert himself first failed to register many of the things that made people love it so damn much, only to change his mind and reevaluate the movie decades later when a special edition was released on its 25th anniversary. But the bottom line is this: whatever a person’s opinion on the qualities or inadequacies of Blade Runner might be—and there are solid arguments convincingly stated from both camps—it’s impossible for a reasonable, art-loving individual not to appreciate Ridley Scott’s movie’s originality, vision and gigantic influence it wielded on films made in the years after the iconic Rick Deckard returned to his retirement.

Written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner tells a story set in then distant future: it’s 2019, Los Angeles, and an ex-detective Deckard is called back from retirement to hunt down six replicants who escaped from one of Earth’s colonies and sought refuge somewhere among us. It’s this dystopian look at the future, rich in detail, strong in emotion, that served as inspiration to many other filmmakers in their subsequent attempts to portray the dark years ahead of us. Huge global corporations are running the show. The cities are overcrowded, filled with homeless or extremely poor people unable to procure bread for the table. Nature is withering, technological advancement is top priority, people are dehumanized, everything’s cold, dark and hopeless. And, yes, it’s raining all the time. Scott created a world like no other, and within it set an exciting and intriguing story full of ambiguity, uncertainty and despair. The protagonist, a man we can relate to and empathize with, is a mystery himself. Blade Runner is a dystopian neo-noir with breathtaking imagery, but supported by a narrative wonderfully, almost poetically written and inspiringly brought to life by acting performances from Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young.

Ridley Scott’s vision, craft and use of special effects have passed the test of time. Still equally captivating, still as magical as it was when we first saw it as kids, Blade Runner is a game-changing science-fiction classic that deservedly entered film history books and is there to stay. And all the criticism will be lost in time. Like tears in rain. Time to watch it again.

A monumentally important screenplay. Dear every screenwriter/filmmaker, read Hampton Fancher & David Webb Peoples’ screenplay for Blade Runner [PDF]. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers. Absolutely our highest recommendation.

 
Everybody in Blade Runner is haunted by mortality, not just the replicants. Initially reluctant, Scott himself only agreed to direct the film after his older brother Frank died of cancer, reasoning it would be a “quick fix emotionally.” In March 1982, Philip K. Dick was felled by a fatal stroke at the age of 53. He never got to see the finished movie. Drenched in death, Blade Runner is a dark vision of the future, but Scott’s definitive Final Cut ends on a cautiously hopeful note. Mortality is inevitable, but before it comes, empathy and trust and love are possible, even between human and android. At the end of his killing spree, Deckard is no longer raging against the machine. Because, deep down, maybe he is the machine. —Anatomy of a classic

Future Noir—Blade Runner archives—is a dedication to one of the most incredible cinema pieces in history and to all people who made it. Materials are collected all over internet and many of it from incredibly rich and thorough on-line communities dedicated to Blade Runner, although some items come from a personal archive.

Dangerous Days: On the Edge of Blade Runner (2000)—documentary about the troubled creation and enduring legacy of the science fiction classic Blade Runner, culled from 80 interviews and hours of never-before-seen outtakes and lost footage.

 
These were taken on the last night of shooting (which was a 36 hour shift for the entire crew according to production executive Katy Haber) on July 9, 1981. Harrison looks exhausted, but maybe a little relieved that the long and dreary shoot is nearing its end. After shooting the parts of the scene covered in these photos, they moved on to the tears in rain speech. —Rarely seen photos from Blade Runner

 

ORIGINAL STORYBOARDS

Set of 7 storyboard books featuring copies of Sherman Labby’s storyboards from Blade Runner. Issued to Doug Trumbull at the beginning of production, these books feature sequences that were never filmed or early versions of sequences that were changed before filming began.

 
The website Ridleyville is run by an England-based gentleman who is a massive Blade Runner collector. He owns everything that’s featured on his site, including these wonderful storyboards from the film. See more Blade Runner storyboards here.

THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF JORDAN CRONENWETH

“We used contrast, backlight, smoke, rain and lightning to give the film its personality and moods. The streets were depicted as terribly overcrowded, giving the audience a future time-frame to relate to. We had street scenes just packed with people… like ants. So we made them appear like ants—all the same. They were all the same in the sense that they were all part of the flow. It was like going in circles—like going nowhere. Photographically, we kept them rather colorless.” —Jordan Cronenweth, ASC

Legendary film editor Terry Rawlings talk about his long career and answer questions from the audience. His credits as a sound editor date from 1962–1977, after which he is credited primarily as a film editor. After working with Ridley Scott on Alien, Terry went on to edit film such as Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire, Watership Down and Goldeneye.

Among the great out-of-print art books of the world is Blade Runner Sketchbook, collecting original production artwork from what is perhaps best designed science fiction film ever. Originally published by Blue Dolphin Enterprises in 1982, the book includes material by Blade Runner conceptual designer Syd Mead as well as Mentor Huebner, Charles Knode, Michael Kaplan and director Ridley Scott himself, whose contributions are drawn in the style of one of the film’s primary visual influences, Moebius. Because physical copies go for hundreds of dollars, Blade Runner Sketchbook has been available online in various bootleg forms for years, but we’ve just become aware of an embeddable version uploaded in October that makes reading this lost gem easier than ever. —Andy Khouri

Hilarious negative executives notes to Ridley Scott after seeing Blade Runner for the 1st time.

Discussing Blade RunnerPhilip K. Dick interview. The interview was made by Paul M. Sammon in 1981 and it was one of many that Paul had with Philip. More about interviews can be found in the Future Noir book, section The Book (pages 8-16).

On the set of Blade Runner—Entertainment Effects Group team filming the close-up of Sean Young’s eye for the Voight Kampff sequence, courtesy of our friends at Future Noir & douglastrumbull.com.

 
One of the Blade Runner Convention Reels featuring interviews with Ridley Scott, Syd Mead and Douglas Trumbull about making Blade Runner universe. This 16 mm featurette, made by M. K. Productions in 1982, is specifically designed to circulate through the country’s various horror, fantasy and science fiction conventions.

 
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Still photographer: Stephen Vaughan © Warner Bros.

 
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  • I have been planning and scheming how I can spend one beautiful Sunday reading this article – seriously. I love the original Blade Runner – can not count how many times I have watched this film, in how many different versions… can not wait to pull back the curtain to see the inner-workings…