"Too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?" Replicants may have a measly four-year lifespan to contend with, but Ridley Scott's masterpiece Blade Runner is still going strong 30 years after its release on June 25, 1982. Celebrating this anniversary doesn't just involve making origami unicorns, dreaming of electric sheep and switching off anything with a voiceover.
Blade Runner's enduring legacy means that none of its many wonderful moments will be lost in time like, ahem, tears in the rain. So to honour the movie, which was based on a Philip K Dick short novel, we've compiled a list of 30 defining moments from its Final Cut incarnation in a vaguely chronological order. Here are the first 15 gems...
"This was not called execution.
It was called retirement."
Those final two lines of the scrolling text at the beginning of the movie, which explains that replicants on Earth should be shot on sight, take on extra resonance with repeat viewings. For as long as the story progresses, it becomes clear that these "more human than human" beings are sympathetic as well as synthetic.
The Nexus 6 replicants behave akin to trapped animals desperately fighting for survival and trying to emotionally configure the situation (thus superseding their programming), while the romance between Deckard and Rachael further proves that they are not simply machines that need switching off. The branding of this act as "retirement" makes one question the level of humanity left in the organic mankind.
The Opening Scene
Ridley Scott's mesmerising visuals and Vangelis's spinetingling score merge beautifully in this stunning entry into the hellish cityscape of Los Angeles in November, 2019. Cutting back to the extreme close-up of an eye surveying the scene evokes a similar motif in Alien when Scott cuts back to Jones the cat witnessing the death of Harry Dean Stanton's Brett. Eyes are an integral thematic component of Blade Runner, being used to identify replicant beings and provide a supposed 'window to the soul'...
"My mother? Let me tell you about my mother..."
A baffled-looking man named Leon Kowalski is interviewed by a detective who asks him a range of emotive questions, while a 'Voight-Kampff' machine monitors his eyes. The imagery of a helpless tortoise, with "its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over", moves non-psychopathic viewers to feel empathetic - a feeling not matched by a confused Leon. The strange, dreamlike quality of the scene suddenly explodes when Leon - later to be revealed as a fugitive Nexus 6 replicant - shoots Detective Holden out of the room after being asked about his (non-existent) mother.
The Spinner Ascent and Alien homage
After shady cop Gaff collects him from a noodle bar, Deckard enters a 'spinner' and the audience is astounded as the vehicle makes a stunning vertical take-off amidst the pelting rain and claustrophobic cityscape. Using a full-sized prop for the initial ascent worked wonders, with Ridley Scott wisely removing the wires for the 2007 'Final Cut'. Keep your eyes peeled for the 'Purge' graphic that flashes up on the spinner's screen - the same one was used in Alien when Ripley deployed Nostromo's shuttle to escape. Could the Tyrell and Weyland Corporations be operating in the same universe?!
The Doomed Product Placement
The 2019 cityscape featured prominent neon displays and adverts for the companies Pan Am (top left on the clip below) and Atari, which were both huge entities in the early 1980s. Yet the former, an airline, collapsed in 1991 and the latter electronics company has barely been on the radar in the last two decades. In fairness, the designers made a wiser call on the soft drinks front courtesy of the Coca-Cola display...
"Do You Like Our Owl?"
The first meeting between Rachael and Deckard, two replicants oblivious to their true identity, was understated but still electrifying. It takes place in the plush office of their 'maker' Dr. Eldon Tyrell, which bears a luscious and minimalist design that greatly contrasts with the overcrowded and decaying streets of the city. Reportedly, Sean Young struggled with the pronunciation of the word "owl" while filming this scene and numerous takes were required!
"How can it not know what it is?"
Rachael's discovery in Deckard's flat that she is a replicant is heartbreaking to watch, as she describes childhood memories before being told that they are from Tyrell's niece. Her response further dilutes the audience's loyalties - after all, aren't we accustomed to rooting for the humans against the killer androids? A script laden with ambiguities and complexities ensures that such generic conventions are bypassed. After all, replicant creator Tyrell tells Deckard that "commerce is our goal" after Rachael's earlier Voight-Kampf test results.
Pris's painful introduction
Daryl Hannah really threw herself into the role of Pris - quite literally. The leisure model replicant's first scene involved running away from JF Sebastian when he disturbs her outside his apartment, with Pris's perturbed state given more impact by her arm smashing through a parked van's window. Yet this was a complete accident caused by Hannah slipping on the wet surface, causing her elbow to be chipped in eight places after the encounter with real (not fake) glass. Displaying a sense of resolve that was appropriately more human than human, the actress continued with the very touching and childlike (yet concurrently sinister) scene.
"They're my friends. I made them..."
You have to really feel sorry for JF Sebastian as we're introduced to his domestic life in the iconic Bradbury Building. As if it's not bad enough being cursed with premature ageing that vastly reduces his lifespan, the genetic designer's existence is so lonely that he has to literally make his 'friends' in the form of sinister looking robotic toys. A great blend of creepy and sympathy...
Deckard's Unicorn Dream
The subject of endless debate, this sequence of Deckard daydreaming was cut from the original cinema release but restored for later versions. Its presence adds huge clout to the highly valid argument that Deckard is a replicant, as Gaff's origami unicorns suggest that he knows exactly what memories have been implanted. This echoes Deckard knowing about Rachael's fake childhood memories of the spider with green legs and an orange body that lived outside her window.
In many ways, this little sequence epitomises the fusion of futurism with a film noir hard-boiled detective narrative. Using one of Leon's treasured photographs, Deckard uses some nifty technology to find vital clues about the fugitive replicants. It's worth noting that the female figure in the photo is supposed to be Zhora, although someone other than actress Joanna Cassidy was used.
"It's not me and I couldn't believe it when I saw the film... I could have killed Ridley," the actress stated in Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. Fortunately the pair had made up by 2007 to shoot some new Blade Runner footage for the fake snake-loving replicant's revised death scene...
Evocatively filmed and scored, the chase sequence that culminates in Deckard shooting Zhora as she flies through shards of glass is sheer genius. Interestingly enough, work on this scene took place as recently as 2007 for 'The Final Cut' as the glaringly obvious stuntwoman in previous incarnations of the film had Joanna Cassidy's features digitally superimposed courtesy of some greenscreen filming.
"Wake up! Time To Die..."
Shortly after being told that he must 'retire' Rachael, Deckard is accosted by Leon (who witnessed Zhora's demise) in the street and subjected to a battering. Leon's superhuman strength is emphasised by using off-camera trampolines for Harrison Ford to ping off as he's being flung about like a ragdoll. Deckard's emotions are also assaulted by Leon's craving for recognition of his feelings, stating that it's "painful to live in fear" and "there's nothing worse than an itch you can't scratch". Leon's figurative itch is promptly remedied by Rachael blowing a huge chunk out of his head after he tells Deckard it's "time to die".
Deckard's Glowing Eyes
Take a look at our hero's eyes as he stands behind Rachael after washing the blood out of his mouth in his flat following his encounter with Leon. They have a distinct reddish glow that matches the eyes of replicant beings such as Rachael and the owl. This adds very strong weight to the argument that Deckard is a replicant in the 'Director's and 'Final' cuts, with the glow not noticeable in the original theatrical release.
The Love Theme
A staple on Chilled Ibiza soundtracks to help party people 'come down' after an excessive night, Vangelis's 'Love Theme' from Blade Runner has undoubted sax appeal. The scene where Deckard and Rachael lock their synthetic lips together is given a massive boost by the sultry soundtrack, which cleverly has a more organic feel (to complement the raw emotions of the characters) than the synthesised music elsewhere.
Intriguingly, shooting of the scene was dominated by the hostile relations between Harrison Ford and Sean Young. Production executive Katy Haber was quoted in Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner as saying that "Harrison hated Sean. That was not a love scene. That was a hate scene". That may explain why Deckard came across as rather rough-handed...
> Blade Runner's Greatest Moments Part Two: 15-1
What's your favourite Blade Runner moment? Leave your comments in the space below.