Shortly after his first feature movie The Duellists bombed at the box office, director Ridley Scott took notice that Star Wars had just broken the all time box office record, and that Steven Spielberg had his own major success with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Deciding that he did not want another failure under his belt and that special effects extravaganzas was foolproof box office gold. Simultaneously 20th Century Fox had been caught off guard by Star Wars success and quickly went through all of the scripts they owned to find another science fiction movie they could rush into production. This in turn caught off guard the producer of the script for Alien, Dan O’Bannon, who found himself with a green-lit movie and no director hired. Having been impressed with The Duellists O’Bannon offered the job to Scott who in turn immediately accepted it. Alien became a huge hit and Scott was suddenly in demand to direct more special effects driven movies. He was hired to direct Dune, but dropped out when the producer took too long to come up with the final script. The timing was perfect. After a film adaptation of Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep had been in pre-production hell since 1968 and was finally green-lit after the success of Star Wars and other science fiction movies. Scott was hired and given full creative control of the project, now under the new title Blade Runner. Harrison Ford of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark fame was cast as the lead, and Warner Brothers looked forward to Blade Runner becoming a huge box office hit.
Instead Blade Runner bombed at the box office. Critics blamed Scott’s slow pacing of the film, something that was not yet acceptable in science fiction movies which were at the time marketed to kids and teenagers and not to the intellectuals. Scott would follow Blade Runner up with another fantasy film, Legend, which also bombed at the box office. This ended Scott’s interest in the sci-fi fantasy genre, and he would not redeem himself until 1991’s Thelma & Louise. Meanwhile Blade Runner slowly but surely picked up a following on home video and cable television, finally finding it’s intended audience.
First of all, Blade Runner is stunning. Even by today’s special effects standards Blade Runner sets the bar high. The plot deals with artificially engineered humans called replicants who were designed to be better and stronger than humans for slave work on other planets. Out of fear of replicants overthrowing humanity the government took two precautions. One was adding to the replicant design a gene that causes them to die after four years of life. The other is a law that forbids them from going to Earth. Those replecants that do face immediate death. But since they are indistinguishable from regular humans a special unit of the police force trained detectives to spot out an execute any rouge replicants. These detectives were known as Blade Runners. The film begins with Ford playing a Blade Runner who is so disillusioned with his job that he is on the verge of retirement. For his final mission he is asked to find a group of replecants who revolted against their masters in space and are believed to have returned to Earth to find a scientist who can expand their lifespan. To give away any more would only spoil the movie for those of you serious about watching the whole thing. I myself enjoyed it, and not just for the special effects. Had this movie come out a decade earlier, the special effects reduced to cheap models and the sets reduced to dressing up a shopping mall to resemble a futuristic city, the movie’s plot would still be fantastic. Although I must point out that Blade Runner tends to be one of those polarizing movies where half of the audience finds it dull and boring. They would rather have the explosions and action found in countless summer bubblegum fantasy films rather than what Scott had delivered on screen. If you are one of those people then the fast forward button is for you. But be warned, the fetish scene in this movie is nowhere as good as it’s reputation.
Actually, it’s not really worth the rental or purchase of a DVD just to see Joanna Cassidy in her transparent plastic raincoat. Since there are several different existing edits of the movie I can not say for sure where you would find it, but the DVD I watched had the scene at 52 minutes into the movie. She is nude in her dressing room when she is approached by Harrison Ford who suspects her of being a replicant. She asks him to help her put her bra on and while doing so sucker punches him with her elbow knocking him on his back and giving her enough time to grab the raincoat and throw it on before running off. She wears it more like a cape than an actual coat, and with all the excitement of a chase scene followed by her character being shot by Ford while running through plate glass storefront windows does not exactly put you in the mood to enjoy the outfit. And such a brief moment of her wearing it in a nearly two hour movie. It is not a complete loss. Sean Young wears a stunning 1940s-style black satin dress that almost looks like leather about 10 minutes into the movie (once again, depending on which edit you watch).