Right about now, somebody out there is probably saying, “Hey! This is rigged! You’ve been doing too many good movies. This couldn’t have been suggested by a random movie website!”
USA, Hong Kong
USA: 25 June 1982
Spain: 21 August 1982
UK: 9 September 1982
Sweden: 10 September 1982
France: 15 September 1982
Denmark: 24 September 1982
Finland: 1 October 1982
Netherlands: 11 November 1982
Australia: 16 December 1982
Hong Kong: 22 December 1982
Norway: 28 January 1983
USA: 11 September 1992 (Director’s Cut)
Finland: 20 November 1992 (Director’s Cut)
UK: 27 November 1992 (Director’s Cut)
Sweden: 4 December 1992 (Director’s Cut)
Spain: 29 December 1992 (Director’s Cut))
Norway: 14 January 1993 (Director’s Cut)
Netherlands: 8 April 1993 (Director’s Cut)
Australia: 22 July 1993 (Director’s Cut)
USA: 5 October 2007 (Final Cut)
Canada: 9 November 2007 (Final Cut)
Australia: 11 November 2007 (Final Cut)
Spain: 16 November 2007 (Final Cut)
UK: 23 November 2007 (Final Cut)
France: 5 December 2007 (Final Cut)
Sweden: 5 December 2007 (Final Cut)
Norway: 1 August 2008 (Final Cut)
1983 Academy Awards (Oscars – USA) – Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Lawrence G. Paull, David L. Snyder, Linda DeScenna (Nominated); Best Effects, Visual Effects: Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, David Dryer (Nominated)
1983 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards – USA) – Best Director: Ridley Scott (Nominated); Best Science Fiction Film (Nominated); Best Special Effects: Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich (Nominated); Best Supporting Actor: Rutger Hauer (Nominated)
1983 BAFTA Awards – Best Cinematography: Jordan Cronenweth; Best Costume Design: Charles Knode, Michael Kaplan; Best Production Design/Art Direction: Lawrence G. Paull; Best Film Editing: Terry Rawlings (Nominated); Best Make Up Artist: Marvin G. Westmore (Nominated); Best Score: Vangelis (Nominated); Best Sound: Peter Pennell, Bud Alper, Graham V. Hartstone, Gerry Humphreys (Nominated); Best Special Visual Effects: Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, David Dryer (Nominated)
1983 Hugo Awards – Best Dramatic Presentation
1993 National Film Preservation Board (USA) – National Film Registry
1994 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards – USA) – Best Genre Video Release (Director’s Cut) (Nominated)
2008 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards – USA) – Best DVD Special Edition Release (5 Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
Canada: AA (Ontario)
Canada: PA (Manitoba)
New Zealand: M
Common Sense Rating: Age 15
Netflix: 4.1/5 (Theatrical & Director’s Cut); 4.0/5 (Final Cut)
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (Fresh)
Again, this is one of those movies that, if you have not seen it, you need to see it right away. Buy it, rent it, download it from the magical cloud, whatever you need to do. With Blade Runner, and his previous film Alien, director Ridley Scott pretty much redefined science fiction movies. But if you’re out there thinking that you’re off the hook because you’re not a sci-fi fan, nope, you need to see it too.
I’m not particularly a sci-fi fan, I appreciate some sci-fi just like I appreciate a good western or a good thriller. I like a good story, and characters, and ideas. Sci-fi is a genre that is a good conduit to explore ideas, and there are a boatload of ideas in Blade Runner. Let me put it this way, when I’m watching a movie that I’m going to write about, I take notes. Usually I’ll take a page of notes, but by the time I finished watching all the versions of BR I had taken four pages and was writing in the margins.
Set in a dystopian (and not too distant) future, BR explores what it means to be human, and to be alive. What is it like to love, to know who you are? Deep stuff, and putting these questions, like sci-fi does, in a future or alternate setting opens us up to see things differently. Hmm…maybe I am a sci-fi fan. I’m sure sounding like one.
Oh…and the way I’m spelling sci-fi? That’s how it’s really spelled. Please ignore a certain idiotic cable channel that cancelled MST3K and is therefore dead to me.
Of course, when you’re talking about Blade Runner the question you have to ask is “which version?” As of this date there are four. There is the original 1982 US Theatrical Version, there is a slightly longer version that was released in Europe and also on video, then there is the 1992 “Director’s Cut,” and finally the “Final Cut” that was released in 2007. I’ll talk in excruciating detail later on about the differences in these versions, but it seems like once every decade Warner Brothers releases a new cut of the movie. I fully expect that sometime here in the teens we will see “The Ultimate Cut,” then in the 2020’s we’ll get “The Definitive Cut,” then in the 30s “The Ultra Final – No, Really, We Mean It – Cut.” Those Warners have gotta eat.
BR is set in Los Angeles, the time is November 2019. When the movie was made that year was 37 years away, now we’re almost there. In 2019, LA has become a smog choked, acid rain soaked urban nightmare. Those who can afford it have moved “off world” or at least live in skyscrapers. The city below is now heavily influenced by Asian cultures, and it’s a crowded hodgepodge of fashion victims, punks, Hare Krishnas, and marauding bands of obnoxious midgets. But the good news is that you can smoke inside again.
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is an ex-cop and former “blade runner.” For the purposes of the film, a blade runner is a cop who tracks down and “retires” rogue replicants, bio-engineered “people” who were created as slave labor but have a bad habit of developing personalities and rebelling against their masters. Four replicants have escaped from an off-world colony and are now on Earth wreaking havoc, Deckard has been persuaded to track them down.
While at the Tyrell Corporation, the company that makes the replicants, Deckard meets the lovely Rachael (Sean Young). Rachael happens to be an experimental replicant, she’s so human that she doesn’t even know that she’s not human. Deckard falls in love with Rachael even though – because she’s a replicant on Earth – he’s supposed to kill her.
Meanwhile the other replicants, led by Roy (Rutger Hauer) are trying to figure out how to become more human themselves. Some viewers over the years have said that Deckard isn’t much of a detective. Most of Deck’s time in the movie is spent drinking and getting the sushi kicked out of him by all four of the replicants, including a spandex clad Daryl Hannah and a nearly naked Joanna Cassidy.
Old Deck might have a secret or two himself, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The screenplay isn’t perfect. It does have some holes and leaves some things unexplained, so much so that entire theories have been generated about Deckard’s motivations and why he does what he does. And then there’s Gaff (Edward James Olmos) and his origami, what’s going on there? Some of this ambiguity may be on purpose, and college theses have been written discussing them.
The movie is based on a book by a respected sci-fi writer, Phillip K. Dick. The screenplay was started by Hampton Fancher then gone over by David Webb Peoples after Fancher got burned out. In their contribution to one of the commentary tracks, Fancher and Peoples argue about who wrote what, but the funny thing is that they accuse each other of writing the best lines. They each think the other one wrote stuff like “Let me tell you about my mother.” and “Wake up. Time to die.”
The eventual love scene between Deckard and Rachael is uncomfortable to watch. It’s one of those “forceful kiss” scenes that you see in a lot of movies, but Deckard actually gets a little rougher than usual with Rachael and it comes awfully close to looking like rape. I’ve heard it explained that Deckard has to push past Rachael’s hesitancy because she’s a replicant and may not have had sex before, but it’s a bit hard to watch and the movie loses points because of it.
So I mentioned that there are several versions of BR. Without giving away too many secrets, here’s the rundown on the differences:
US and International Theatrical Cuts:
These cuts are virtually identical. The International version has literally 15 seconds of added violence (so much for us violent Americans), the scene where one of the replicants is squishing someone’s head is a little more graphic, and Deckard’s fight with Pris is a bit longer. If you weren’t looking for it, I doubt you could see the difference.
Both of these cuts have Harrison Ford’s gumshoe style narration, and more importantly they have the tacked on happy ending.
I did see the 1982 US version in the theater when it first came out and I thought it was great. The narration never bothered me, but the happy ending did seem odd. I don’t think I knew until the 1992 version came out that the ending had been imposed by the studio, all I knew is that it didn’t fit the rest of the movie.
No spoilers here, but it’s like this…let’s say Casablanca didn’t end with Bogie and Claude Rains watching the plane fly away, in black and white. Let’s say that there was another scene after that where Bogie chases the plane down, hijacks it, and gets on it himself. And that scene is in color. That’s how jarringly different the happy ending in the original BR is.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
On a scale of Dr. F to Joel, I’m giving the 1982 version(s) a…
1992 Director’s Cut
The title “Director’s Cut” turns out to be a bit of a misnomer. In 1990 Warner Bros released a workprint version of BR sans narration and happy ending to a very limited release. It ran for two weeks only in two theaters, the Castro in San Francisco and the Nuart in LA, it was soldout for all showings. Ridley Scott did not approve of this release, and basically had nothing to do with it.
I was at one of these Nuart shows, and therefore I claim my place in film history.
Because of the enthusiastic responses to the workprint, and the 10th anniversary coming up, WB decided to release an official “Director’s Cut.” Except that the director didn’t really have all that much to do with it.
This version runs about a minute shorter than the US Theatrical version. Most notably Deckard’s narration and the happy ending are removed. The extra 15 seconds of violence aren’t there, but there is a unicorn. After Rachael leaves his apartment the first time and before he looks at Leon’s photo in the Esper Machine, Deckard daydreams about a unicorn running through the forest. Hwat? Well, it’s a clue, but I don’t want to get into it right now. We’ll talk about it later in the Spoiler Section.
Like I said before, I never hated the narration, but I don’t really miss it either. That tacked on ending really had to go though. I’m giving the “Director’s Cut” a…
2007 Final Cut
After 25 years of being nearly ruined and held hostage by “Executive Producers” (in other words, Weasels With Money) Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin, in 2007 BR finally got the release it deserves. Ridley Scott and film restorer Charles de Lauzirika lovingly went through the film, not only producing a remastered version, but also making a few significant tweaks.
The narration and tacked on ending are gone, the 15 seconds of violence are back, and some changes were made that fix some technical and continuity errors, but nothing too crazy. Don’t worry, these aren’t George Lucas style tweaks. Unlike what Lucas did to Star Wars, Scott didn’t take a dump on the original film and then invite us to come and partake in the new version’s poopy goodness.
So far I haven’t really talked much about the performances. Well, they’re all great. Sean Young was perfect as Rachael. It was sad to see her go off the rails in the late 80s, I always liked her. Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Joanna Cassidy, all terrific.
Watching this movie again made me realize how good Harrison Ford is at playing those Harrison Ford parts. That sounds like I’m being snarky, but it’s true. With that little wry grin of his, you could always tell he was bringing some intelligence to an action movie. Especially good when it’s an action movie with a lot of questions and ideas. My favorite part is when he follows Zhora into her dressing room. He breaks out of the Harrison Ford character and affects a nerdy voice while pretending to be a member of the “Confidential Committee on Moral Abuses.” It was inspired by when Bogie did a similar thing in The Big Sleep, and it brings some brief levity to what is pretty much a wall to wall dark, heavy movie.
The real standout performance in BR is Rutger Hauer as Roy. Yes, he’s big and mean and deadly, but he has such a childlike sense of wonder. Look at when he first meets up with Pris at J.F. Sebastian’s place, looking around he says, “Gosh, you’ve really got some nice toys here.” His speech at the end, when he tells Deckard, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” It’s heartbreaking, and it turns out that Hauer came up with some of those lines himself.
OK, fine, I’m a fanboy. I’m giving “The Final Cut” a…
Random Quote Whore Quote:
Blade Runner is a runtiest, eductive, subsquadron of a movie! Harrison Ford is settled!!!
Of course, the question you’re asking right now is, “Joe, which version of this film should I see?” Good question, I will allow you to see any version, they all have their good points. Some people even like the tacked on ending. You would think that since the Director’s Cut and Final Cuts came out that it would be a moot point, but just the other night I was channel surfing and came across BR on AMC. I saw that it was toward the end of the movie so I stuck with it to see what version it was, when I heard Ford’s narration come up I knew it was the original.
Of course you know that you’re not allowed to watch any post 1960s movie on AMC or any other channel that cuts movies, unless you’ve seen the movie before. Turner Classics runs newer movies occasionally and doesn’t cut or bleep them I think, but other than that you have to stick with your HBOs, Showtimes, etc.
I recommend either the Final or Director’s Cuts, there’s not that much difference honestly. If you want the full BR experience, you can find all the versions (like I did) on DVD at Netflix (I don’t know about streaming because I can’t stream – Geez, Joe, TMI dude!). This disc has the US, International Theatrical, and the Director’s Cuts, this one has bonus features, this one has the Final Cut with three commentary tracks (including one from Ridley Scott), and this one has a very good documentary called Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. All are worth seeing.
So for those of you who have not seen Blade Runner, you need to go now and see it. Proceed no further until you’ve seen the movie because beyond here there be spoilers:
I thought that before we go we had better deal with some of the issues that Blade Runner brings up. I would love to hear other points of view from other fans too, please comment.
But seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie read no further because spoilage may occur.
Please understand, I have nothing against happy endings; but this one just never seemed quite right. Deckard goes back to his apartment (which I love by the way), finds out that Rachael is alive in spite of the fact that Gaff has obviously been there as evidenced by the origami unicorn, then they get in the elevator.
Then all of a sudden they are in a car driving through pristine woods. What the freaking freak? If places like this still exist why are people still going off world to live or staying in LA and living on top of each other?
Yes, earlier in the film Rachael asks Deckard if he would follow her if she goes up north. So we know there is a “north.” Maybe people can’t afford to leave LA because they have to work there. I dunno though, it never made sense to me.
All of the later versions end with Deckard seeing the unicorn and picking it up. We once again hear Gaff say, “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then who does?” Deckard nods, gets in the elevator with Rachael, and the film ends, Godfather style, with the elevator door closing. Yes, it leaves you with some hope that they will escape somewhere, but exactly what becomes of them is left to your imagination. In the 1982 cuts, Deckard’s narration says that Rachael does not have the typical four year lifespan of replicants. Conceivably she could live a normal human lifespan, maybe forever. Again, we lose that in the other versions.
In some of the earlier drafts of the script Deckard reluctantly kills Rachael, or she kills herself. I like that it’s now left to your imagination. If you want to believe that they lived happily ever after in Vancouver and had lots of half replicant babies, then you have that option.
Gaff and His Origami
Gaff is an interesting character, he is played by a post Zoot Suit and pre Miami Vice Edward James Olmos. He put a lot of work into Gaff’s idiosyncrasies like his wardrobe and the “cityspeak” he uses. We’re never really sure if Gaff is a good guy or not, he doesn’t really do a whole lot except fly Deckard around and do origami.
Turns out that, for Gaff, origami is more than a delightful hobby for young and old alike. Gaff’s origami is actually his little commentary about Deckard:
In the scene in Bryant’s office, while Deckard is reluctant to go after the replicants, Gaff makes a chicken. Then when they go to Leon’s room, Gaff makes a little matchstick man. Interpretations differ, but you can see from the above picture that the little guy has an erection, Gaff may be telling Deckard that he’s starting to man up. It also may be a foreshadowing of his physical relationship with Rachael. Then of course, Deckard finds the unicorn at his apartment…stay tuned.
What’s up with the friggin unicorn?
Well, we’re still not sure whether androids dream of electric sheep, but we do know that Deckard dreams of unicorns…or maybe he daydreams, depending on the cut you’re watching.
Why does Deckard have a dream about a unicorn? For that matter, what is a unicorn? According to the source of all knowledge, the unicorn is “a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin.” So maybe Deckard sees himself as a unicorn, a wild, unreal creature who is being caught by the virgin Rachael.
More widely believed is the theory that the unicorn is a clue to reveal that Deckard is himself a replicant. The unicorn is the last origami that Gaff leaves at Deckard’s apartment. Is it Gaff’s way of saying, “I know what you are?” If Deckard is a replicant, then the unicorn dream, along with any other thoughts or dreams, would be a result of implants or programming. Gaff might be aware of that.
There’s also a unicorn among Sebastian’s toys. That could just be coincidence, but it might be that unicorn dreams are part of all replicant’s implants, and maybe that’s one of the ways you can tell if you’re a replicant.
Isn’t there a comedian who does a whole routine like that? “If you dream about unicorns, you might be a replicant.”
So is Deckard Really a Replicant?
As the Magic 8-Ball would say, signs point to yes. Of course there’s the whole unicorn thing, but also the eyes have it. With Rachael and some of the other replicants, their eyes glow. In one scene, Deckard’s eyes glow in the same way. Some more clues are found if you look at the deleted scenes: When Gaff says to Deckard, “You’ve done a man’s job sir.” he also adds the line, “But are you sure you are a man? It’s hard to be sure who’s who around here.” That extra line isn’t in any of the cuts. Also in a deleted part of the happy ending, Rachael tells Deckard that they were “made for each other.” Hmmm.
One theory goes that Deckard actually has Gaff’s memories, that’s how Gaff knows about the unicorn. Of course, Deckard being a replicant leads to other questions: What generation is he? The same as Rachael? How long will he live? Why isn’t he as strong as the other replicants?
If you go to the actual sources of the character though, things get a little hazy. Dick wrote Deckard as human, Fancher wrote him as human, but allowed for the possibility that he might be a replicant. Scott has said flat out that he’s a replicant, but Ford always resisted any efforts to make Deckard anything other than a human.
As for me, I kinda want Deckard to be a human. But, again, I like that they didn’t spell it out for us. It’s one of those movie mysteries, like what was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, what did Bill Murray whisper to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation, why do people keep hiring Colin Ferrell?
The Blade Runner Curse
One of the fascinating aspects of BR is what some have called the Blade Runner Curse. By 1982, the product placement had become a common practice in movies and TV. BR’s chaotic urban landscape is filled with advertising for futurustic companies like Shimago-Dominguez Corporation that promotes the Off World Colonies, but there are also a lot of signs and ads for real companies that were big in 1982 but didn’t survive through the 80s, let alone 2019.
Again, per the source of all knowledge, while the companies displayed in the movie “were market leaders at the time, more than half experienced disastrous setbacks during the next decade.” Notably Atari, Pan-Am, and Bell Telephone Co. are all either gone or are shadows of what they once were. While watching the movie’s different cuts I wrote down a list of logos that I recognized:
Bell: The Bell System monopoly was in the process of being broken up while the film was being made.
Budweiser: One of the companies that was not subject to the curse. They continue to sell mass quantities of beer that tastes like it was filtered through a Clydesdale’s anus.
Cuisinart: Went bankrupt in 1989, still in business though.
Koss: When I worked at radio stations in the 70s, Koss headphones were the “cans” of choice. They went through bankruptcy in 1984 and are still around, but a shadow of their former selves.
Jōvan Musk: Still around, still musky.
RCA: Taken over by GE and broken up into tiny little pieces in 1986.
Schlitz: Like Coke, they futzed with the formula and started to decline in the 70s. Bought by Stroh’s in 1982. Still around but nobody cares.
TDK: The inventor of the cassette tape, they’re still around.
Tsingtao: Deckard buys a bottle after he kills Zhora. Still around. I’ve never tried it, but I hear it’s a pretty good beer.
So, there it is. Probably not the result of a curse, just the passage of time and economic changes in the past 30 years.
So that’s my whole Blade Runner hunk. What do you think? Is Deckard a replicant? Should Scott do a sequel or leave it alone? Am I too hard on Colin Ferrell? I would love to see your comments address any of these or other issues.
And thank you for reading this whole post. You’ve done a man’s (or woman’s) job, fervent reader.