Vintage Movies: “Blade Runner”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 100 titles—from the ’20s through the ’80s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Blade Runner (1982, 117 minutes)

It’s the 21st century, and Los Angeles has devolved from the land of sunshine and palm trees to a place where thick black clouds and ground fog permanently choke a congested city where the only way to expand is upward. Immense blasts of industrial fire randomly scorch the skies as toxic rain pelts down on the huddled masses milling in the streets. A benevolent voice from above advertises, “A new life awaits you in the Off-world, a glorious chance to begin life anew in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.”

The Nexus 6, a robot almost indistinguishable from a human, has been engineered by the Tyrell Corp. that’s as stronger than and at least as intelligent as the scientists who created it. It has now been outlawed after a bloody Off-world mutiny. Blade Runner police units have been assigned to track down every one of these robots, called replicants, and “retire” them on the spot.

An ex-cop, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is threatened with arrest and forced to cut short his meal of Japanese noodles at the counter of a street vendor by a brusque police officer who doesn’t speak English. Deckard is flown up to his old office in a black-and-white cruiser that easily navigates around a maze of skyscrapers.

“You wouldn’t have come if I’d asked you to,” says Captain Bryant (M. Emett Walsh), Deckard’s former boss, trying hard to be pleasant. “Replicants jumped a shuttle Off-world and killed the crew and passengers.” “Embarrassing,” says Deckard unsympathetically. “No, not embarrassing,” retorts Bryant, showing him a mug shot of Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), leader of the four wanted replicants. “No one’s gonna find them down here. You’re gonna spot ’em and air ’em out.”

Shaking his head, Deckard says, “I don’t work here any more. Give it to Holden. He’s good.” “I did,” says Bryant. “He can breathe OK as long as nobody unplugs him. I need you, Deck. I need the old blade runner. I need your magic.” Deckard begins to walk out the office door. “Stop right where you are!” demands Bryant. “You know the score. If you’re not cop, you’re little people.” Deckard sinks back into the chair. “No choice, huh?” “No choice, pal.”

In the offices of the Tyrell Corp., Deckard meets Rachael (Sean Young), an attractive assistant to Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). “Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” she asks. “No,” answers Deckard. At Tyrell’s request, Deckard gives Rachael the test police use to spot replicants. After a thorough screening, Deckard verifies the girl’s artificial origins in spite of her “human” responses. “We give them a past that creates a cushion for their emotions to control them better,” says Tyrell. Alas, it’s an upgrade developed too late to help round up the dangerous fugitive replicants.