Well this is certainly unexpected. Spurred on by an online discussion of Ridley Scott‘s sci-fi classic “Blade Runner” and the critical response it was met with some thirty-years-ago this summer, someone unearthed YouTube footage of a promotional film that was produced by M.K. Productions prior to the movie’s release (Digital Trends via Open Culture). The promotional film was exhibited at horror, fantasy, and science fiction conventions back when those groups were highly marginalized by the studio and mainstream press (unlike today…), so you can tell that they were either a) really thinking outside the box or b) trying to cover their asses and gain some ground in what would become a truly log-jammed summer season. The film is a fascinating time capsule.
It begins with a brief, stilted introduction by Scott, before showing some truly startling behind-the-scenes footage of the massive, very wet set. It’s kind of amazing, given that there’s been thirty years of discussion about the film’s existential themes and visual nuances, to hear Scott call it “simply a thriller.” There are also priceless interviews with designer Syd Mead, talking about the “visual accumulation” of the sets (“the overall idea was a society where life had become very difficult and the urban plant had become a trap”) and visual effects maven Douglas Trumbull (who shows off storyboards and miniatures). Unsurprisingly, Harrison Ford stays the fuck out of it, although the footage does capture Ford being snappy, which is always fun (“I think we’ve established the noodles,” he barks at Scott).
What’s so essential about this footage is that it’s people talking about the movie while they were making it. The movie came out and kind of bombed (it was the same summer as “E.T.” and nothing else stood a chance), and over the years, as the discussion has continued, various participants have been able to shape and refine their answers and stories, into what a narrative of the making of “Blade Runner” should be. But these are raw, emotionally driven, in-the-moment nuggets. Also – look at the size of those sets!
Finally, a quick question: how cool is it that we’re still goggling over “Blade Runner” stuff all of these years later? As work continues, steadily, on Scott’s “Blade Runner” follow-up, we doubt that it will be able to equal or surpass the visual wonder and thematic sophistication of the original. We do hope that it prompts a similar Scott-hosted video, though. Hearing him say, “We hope you like ‘Blade Runner’ and hope you enjoy the convention” is just too good to only get once.