A look at..
“On the edge of Blade Runner”
The Blade Runner documentary
First of all, I want to say thanks to Trevor King in the UK for taping and sending me a copy of the documentary. Without his generosity this information on the documentary wouldn’t be here.. Thanks Trevor !!
On the 15’th of July, 2000 the cult classic Blade Runner (Directors Cut) movie premiered on British TV. Channel 4 showed the directors cut and later the same night also a documentary called “On the edge of Blade Runner, the documentary has so far only been shown in the UK. The documentary starts off in a powerful way. An flight over today’s Los Angeles together with Vangelis opening titles for Blade Runner. All this gives you the same emotion as the first scenes of Blade Runner gives you. Shortly afterwards, you get to hear some lines from Ridley Scott (Director), Darryl Hannah (Pris) and Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty). Darryl Hannah opens up saying that “I’d go into the set and I’d be in another world” and Rutger Hauer does his by now classical “I’ve seen things..” speech.
Then the host, Mark Kermode talks briefly about what Blade Runner is all about, and how it went from a failure to a mother of a new kind of Sci-Fi movies. An old clip of Phillip K. Dick is being shown together with a bit of history of his lifestyle and what he got the inspiration to his book “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” which the Blade Runner movie is based upon from. Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir – The making of Blade Runner (Also known as “The Blade Runner Bible among Blade Runner fans) explains that Philip K. Dick read a diary that belonged to an SS Officer who worked at a death camp for Nazi Germany. The SS Officer had written in his diary that he couldn’t sleep at night, because the screams from little children kept him awake. This made Phillip K. Dick think that the Nazi Officer no longer had human emotions..
Michael Deeley, the producer of Blade Runner tells us that he liked the story because he felt that it was a story about a possible future, a future that sounded real to him, Deeley also says that the first script was a like a social study of some individuals and almost only took place in a hotel room and that Ridley Scott expanded the story into the visual masterpiece that Blade Runner became. At one point Deeley says “For a stunning visual movie, Ridley Scott is the best”
Kathy Haber shows us where most of the movie was filmed, the set was built on the old New York street at Warner Bros. Burbank studio, Haber guides us to where Chew’s eye shop and a lot of other classical Blade Runner “landmarks” was built. It’s very hard to find any of the locations when they walk down the street and when they compare the “futuristic” buildings with what they really look like then it’s hard to see any similarities. The host Mark Kermode takes us to all the other locations where Blade Runner was filmed. Bradbury apartments, which Hampton Fancher thought wouldn’t work, since it was a classic location used in many movies and tv series, Fancher admits that Scott managed to “pull it off” though. We also get to see the old train station which became the future headquarters for LAPD among other locations that where used.
Soon we get to know Screenplay writers David Peoples and Hampton Fancher’s side of the story, both friends today but Fancher tells us that he went crazy when David Peoples came in and took over his script, at one point Fancher resigned and refused to have anything to do with the Blade Runner movie. Ridley Scott tells us how he first meet Harrison Ford, Ford came dressed as Indiana Jones (He was wearing the hat when they meet) because he came directly from the shooting of an Indiana Jones movie. Ridley thought he was perfect as Deckard and the they also needed someone that had done some blockbusters. We also get to know that when Scott saw Sean Young that she was exactly what he had thought that Rachael should look like (This is also something that Phillip K. Dick said, according to Paul M. Sammon in the Future Noir book).
Now we get to hear some of the cast opinions, Rutger Hauer tells us that Ridley once told him during the production that the future is old, it isn’t anything new, he adds that the future shown in Blade Runner is a believable version. This is also what Joe Turkel (Tyrell) says, that the vision of the future could very well turn out to be true.
Some of the cast also remembers the tension and pressure that they had to endure and work under. James Hong (Chew) says that it was the worst pressures he’d been put under and that he felt a lot of pressure everywhere in the set. M. Emmet Walsh (Bryant) tells us that he couldn’t understand why Scott had to keep changing the light settings and that he got the impression that Scott was a real perfectionist, of course this added a lot of tensions, extra long hours and a lot of extra shoot’s of every scene. At one point Walsh keeps hitting himself (Very hard) on the head and telling us that he forgot that being an actor should be fun. (This is one of the funnier parts of the documentary, one can really see how painful he thought the making of Blade Runner really was).
Scott also gives us his “two cents” on the famous tensions the grew between him and everybody else on the set. Scott says that it was fair to say that Ford and him argued a lot and that it might have been his own fault since he admits being an perfectionist. But he felt he knew what Blade Runner was all about after living with it more then one year.
Joanna Cassidy (Zhora) says that she had to do a lot of physical acting, she had to run thru a crowded street, jump up on cars and so on when she was chased by Deckard, She says : “You had to super-exceed what you where capable of”. She thinks that she was lucky since she managed to do the chase scene without breaking arms or legs.
Rutger Hauer also gives us his thoughts on Ford’s character “Deckard” : “Fords character is dumb, He gets a gun put to his head, fucks a dishwasher and falls in love with it.. It makes no sense.”
One of the famous gadgets used in the movie was the Voight Kampf machine, which is used to tell whatever someone is a replicant or not. Syd Mead who worked as “Visual Futurist” and invented the Voight Kampf device tells us that the Voight Kampf machine was supposed to sample the air in a room where a test was taking place and it would detect if someone was scared.. It would be able to smell fear, just like an animal.
That there was some tension on the set was an understatement, Scott wanted to do this movie his own way which took too long time and it also went over the budget. It couldn’t continue this way and on July 11’th 1981 both Michael Deeley and Ridley Scott was “fired”, but he still had to finish what he had started. Meantime, Phillip K. Dick felt betrayed by Hollywood and threatened to not endorse Blade Runner, but after being shown some special effects footage he was shocked, he couldn’t believe his eyes.. What he had seen was just what had seen, it was like he had seen his own vision on a big screen.
One of the last subjects of the documentary is the test screenings and the bad reviews the movie got. The outcome of the test screenings wasn’t positive. While Ford thought that most people in the audience liked it, the report cards that came back after the test screenings proved him wrong, while some people gave the movie average or below average, some people couldn’t understand what the movie was all about. So, quickly a happy ending was added (The footage was provided by Stanley Kubrick, it was footage that was never used when they filmed “The Shining”) together with a voice over that Ford did, In the documentary we are told that Ford didn’t like the idea of the voice over and that he didn’t put any “soul” in it when he had to do it, but the Warner Bros. demanded it, since the audience had a hard time following the story in the movie.
Then there is this thing … Is Deckard a Replicant ?
While most of the cast and crew doesn’t believe that he is, Ridley Scott tells us (With a big smile on his face) that Deckard in fact are a Replicant, but he say’s that it really first became obvious in the Directors Cut (Released in 1992, while the original version was released 1982) when the unicorn footage was added..
We also get to see a scene that didn’t make it into any of the versions of Blade Runner, A much talked about scene usually called “The hospital scene”. In this scene Deckard visits Holden who gets shoot by the replicant called Leon early in the film. This is the highlight of the documentary..
My review of the documentary
While I think that I didn’t learn much new or got to know something new interesting things that I didn’t know before, but I can easily say that I enjoyed the documentary. One thing that was great is there the documentary looks on all subjects, everything from Phillip K Dick, the special effects, the reactions on the test screenings and most of the cast is interviewed as well (Harrison Ford and Sean Young is not interviewed though). To watch Rutger Hauer do his famous “I’ve seen things” speech again really sent shivers down my spine, to see M. Emmet Walsh describe in a very visual way what he thought about the making of Blade Runner made me smile. To finally see “The hospital scene” was really exciting, even though it had very tacky sound and no “atmospheric” Vangelis music added.
But then again I didn’t learn anything new, except that Deckard is supposed to be a replicant. But I don’t think that Scott’s word is final.. To me it all depends if I watch the original cut, or directors cut. They are two similar stories but with one crucial difference… One Scene with one dream with a unicorn. But none the less, it was a really well produced documentary and my congratulations goes to brittish TV and to Channel 4 for their acknowledge to Blade Runner and to what the movie has become.
I’d like to compare this documentary to “The Blade Runner Bible” (Future Noir – The Making Of Blade Runner) which I’ve read many times, and I understand that making a TV documentary is a little different then doing a book. Because everything that the documentary tells, you can find in “Future Noir” (And even more). But Television is another form of media, and if “Future Noir” was a TV documentary, it would have been a 12 hour long documentary..
I think that a fan that has read “Future Noir” already knows most of the subjects that “On the edge of Blade Runner” covers.. Either way, I highly recommend “On the edge of Blade Runner” to anyone the slightest interested in the cult movie Blade Runner.