Blade Runner (1982) – Film Review
by Roger Crow
It’s September 1982 as myself and a couple of mates settle into our seats at our local fleapit. I’m desperate to see Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star-making role, but that doesn’t come out for a while, so Harrison Ford’s new movie will have to do. I know little about Blade Runner, apart from the trailer I watch before Star Trek 2 a few weeks earlier, and the odd article in Starburst magazine.
As the lights go down, and the movie begins in November 2019, I’m not prepared for the life-changing experience that follows. I had already seen a few films that changed my life: Star Wars, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark. And then Ridley Scott’s film unfolds and nothing is ever the same again.
The tale of an android hunter tracking down renegade replicants proves as compelling as the visually stunning effects and art direction. Harrison Ford’s performance as world weary Blade Runner, or replicant hunter, Rick Deckard is stunning, while relative newcomer Rutger Hauer is unforgettable as the leader of the doomed Nexus-6 androids, Roy Batty.
Daryl Hannah gives a disturbing performance as the Toyah-style replicant Pris, while Joanna Cassidy, a regular in TV shows such as 240-Robert, delivers a powerhouse turn as exotic dancer ‘Miss Salome’, aka Zhora. Then there’s that Vangelis score, which sticks with me long after the closing credits have rolled.
While my mates emerge from the cinema non-plussed, I’ve experienced a cinematic epiphany. The future of 2019 can be gloriously dark and inspiring, with flying cars, off-world colonies and robot slaves. It’s bleak, breathtaking, touching and unlike anything seen before.
To my amazement the movie flops. Critics moan about the muddled story and Ford’s mumbling voiceover. Of course that doesn’t stop me from watching it at every available opportunity, such as when it plays again as a double bill with Outland in the months that follow. I buy the only available version of the soundtrack, and play it to death a decade before Vangelis’s CD version is finally released.
The years whip by like the counter in Rod Taylor’s time machine, and life seems to be a series of incidents loosely connected to Blade Runner. The dawn of the internet leads to fans trading bootleg tapes of Ridley Scott interviews and exhaustive notes on the film’s production. Photocopied fanzines featuring anthropomorphic cartoon versions of the movie characters raise a giggle, while commercial products such as point-and-click video games and literary sequels mean Blade Runner is kept alive long after Hollywood experts thought it would have died a death.
I’m lucky enough to interview James Hong (Chew), Edward James Olmos (Gaff), and Barbara Hershey, who may not have been in the film, but her memory of a spider inspired Sean Young’s Rachel. (Hershey’s partner Hampton Fancher co-wrote the screenplay).
Many think the film which flopped would never inspire a follow up, but eventually it makes a profit on home video and via DVD and Blu-ray sales. When talk emerges of a Blade Runner sequel, I’m not holding my breath. ’Who makes sequels to ’flop’ movies after a 35-year gap?’ I think, but hope I’m wrong.
Of course that’s just what’s happens, and with director Denis Villeneuve on board after three magnificent movies (Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival), not to mention Skyfall’s Roger Deakins in charge of the photography, to say I’m excited about Blade Runner 2049 is an understatement.
The original is still a magnificent piece of work in whatever version you see. Some might prefer the one without the Deckard voiceover and support wires removed from the aerial police cars, or Spinners, but I still love that warts-and-all original made in an era before CGI could make the impossible possible.
Two years before Blade Runner’s future becomes history, it’s well worth a first or (in my case) 101st look, preferably on the biggest screen possible.