Give Ridley Scott this: The man can take an often maligned genre, sci-fi, and make it shine like a sun in nova. He first did so with 1979’s Alien, giving a horror show in space a classiness bordering on elegance (despite the gore). He then returned to resplendent sci-fi with 1982’s Blade Runner, a film both classy and classic — and so much a classic that’s it’s now new in several DVD configurations, including a five-disc box set.
You can take your pick which cut you prefer from several that Scott offers, but in each you’ll find an absorbing noir thriller in which Harrison Ford’s hunter of replicants (androids) ranges through wet, steamy L.A. of the not-distant future.
It’s also L.A. of the not-distant past, when it comes to landmarks and sci-fi reference points.
Part of Blade Runner was shot in the architectural majesty of the Bradbury Building, a structure on a seedy side of downtown L.A. (trust me — I’ve paid it a visit) that’s been used in many film and TV productions. In fact, its wrought-iron interior was the chief setting for a classic Outer Limits episode from 1964, Demon With a Glass Hand, penned by Harlan Ellison. That story and Ellison’s Outer Limits script for Soldier shared so many elements with 1984’s The Terminator that Ellison took legal action and later received screen credit for that film.
Actually, his story shot in the Bradbury Building also shares elements with Blade Runner, and more than the setting. Yes, androids were big in ’64, too. In fact, another Outer Limits episode not written by Ellison, The Duplicate Man (based on a 1951 story by Clifford D. Simak), is even closer to Blade Runner in terms of its illegal or “bootleg” androids or replicants.
Of course, Blade Runner was drawn from a source novel by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But that was written in 1968, several years after the Outer Limits episodes. I’m telling you: That ’60s sci-fi anthology series was fertile ground for creativity, and it contines to yield rich harvests, directly or indirectly, today.