Bladerunner courtesy Warner Bros.
I was dazzled by
from the first time I saw it, on the day it opened in 1982. The cute 'n' cuddly
killed it at the box office and reviews were mixed (everybody agreed that it was visually dazzling, but most critics were underwhelmed by the story), but over the years
's reputation has grown from cult classic to widely recognized masterpiece - it's often called the best science-fiction film ever made, and it's unquestionably one of the most influential. There's a new version of the film -
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
- coming to DVD on Dec. 18, following a limited theatrical re-release (it was shown at the New York Film Festival last weekend). But
is great in any version.
The first movie based on a novel by sci-fi visionary
Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
is set in a decaying future Los Angeles where humanoid "replicants" do humanity's dirtiest jobs, from fighting wars to staffing brothels, and everyone who can afford to get out has moved to one of the off-world colonies. Detective Rick Deckard (
) is assigned to track down a small gang of rogue replicants - "skin jobs," as his sleazy boss calls them - on the loose in L.A. after defying their programming by hijacking a space shuttle and killing everyone on board. Deckard's investigation takes him through L.A.'s underworld, to the glittering heights of wealth and privilege and, ultimately, deep into his own head. Though the movie differs greatly from Dick's novel, its core concern is the same: What does it mean to be human?
The cast is flawless: Dutch heavy
as head replicant Roy Batty and
as lethal sex toy Pris,
as their partners in crimes of the future, character actor
's enigmatic bartender; ironically, the landscape shots used for the tacked-on happy ending were borrowed from
) as the head of the company that makes replicants and William Sanderson as one of his employees,
Edward J. Olmos
as Deckard's enigmatic partner, and
M. Emmett Walsh
as their boss. Even Ford's stiffness works here: Deckard is uncomfortable in his own skin - even
doesn't know how uncomfortable. And forget all the tabloid craziness about
; she's fantastic as the state-of-the-art replicant who has no idea she's not human.
's production history was notoriously troubled: Perfectionist director
(then fresh off
) alienated much of the cast and crew, the film went over budget and the previews went badly, leading to the 11th-hour addition of Ford's widely - and rightly - despised hard-boiled voiceover and a new, less-downbeat ending.
Since its rediscovery on (in order) video, laser disc and DVD, there have been numerous versions of
, starting with the 1989 discovery of print minus the "happy" ending and most of the voiceover. Scott wasn't happy with that version either, but it helped further polish the film's reputation by eliminating elements that never felt as though they belonged in the first place. That version also restored a brief but crucial scene involving Deckard's dream of a unicorn, a crucial piece of evidence that the great irony of Deckard's mission is that he too is a replicant.
You can talk about versions for days, but the fact is,
's dystopian future is gripping no matter what, and not just because it looks so seductively gloomy or because Scott's design team found such amazingly offbeat L.A. architecture, including the baroque
(also featured in
and the original
) and Frank Lloyd Wright's
, to incorporate into his vision of a seductively decaying future.
Things to consider:
Where do you stand on
: Masterpiece, or style over substance?
What movie do you think is criminally underrated?
Send your movie questions to
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See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the
Previously in DVD Tuesday:
A Simple Plan
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Gone in 60 Seconds
Bob le Flambeur
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Devil Wears Prada
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
In Cold Blood
This week's new DVD releases