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January 12, 2010 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Blade Runner will prove invincible My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you..and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible. (via Letters of Note)

Blade Runner, a movie still regarded by many as the greatest science fiction film ever made, was based on the novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. Its author, Philip K. Dick, had been extremely apprehensive of a future adaptation but wrote the following letter to the film's production company after catching his first glimpse of the movie during a television programme. He passed away just 5 months later, 4 months before the movie was released.
posted by KokuRyu (52 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's one of the few movies that I own, and I watch it regularly. Its vision is complete and overwhelming, and it's a landmark not just of SF cinema, but of all cinema. I always mourn that it fell over sideways when it was first released, and it's a real shame that PKD didn't get to ever see the final product. I think he would have been most pleased.
posted by hippybear at 1:15 PM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I'm a lifelong Philip K. Dick fan and I've always longed for some joyous words from the man to counteract to deadly pall cast by the afterword to A Scanner Darkly.
posted by 256 at 1:20 PM on January 12, 2010


Yeah, the movie is pretty great, but you know what was awesome, and is now almost completely forgotten? The Blade Runner adventure game from 1997. Man, that was a fun game. It really captured the spirit of the book as well, and had a ridiculous number of possible endings.
posted by dortmunder at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start.

... and then became inbred, derivative and stale again - this time based off of Blade Runner. And then renewed itself with some other work and then became inbred, derivative and stale again. Science fiction goes through these cycles of rebirth. It only seems natural, though, since we are always changing our projections of the future based on the ever changing now.

Of course, you know good science fiction when it still has something to say twenty years later.
posted by cimbrog at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sad for PKD that he didn't get invited to any shooting of the film (or no one sent him a sample on tape), and that he saw some movie hype on TV like the rest of the public at large.

It's been a while since I've seen the movie, but the score is mood music that still haunts me (though I keep making up scenes from the movie when listening to Burial).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:30 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of inbred, derivative, and stale, check out the comments on that link.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:32 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


How great to read this letter . . . and picture Dick banging it out on his old typewriter, the keys clacking against his ribbon unevenly. The antique feeling of the letter underlines just how amazing Dick's vision was.

and I loved the game too by the way . . . somehow it was in sync with the book and the movie, and added to both.
posted by bearwife at 1:35 PM on January 12, 2010


Crazy Friend, [pdf] by Jonathan Lethem
posted by xod at 1:45 PM on January 12, 2010


Whenever I drive by some of the enormous, brightly animated billboard displays that line the Gardiner expressway, I'm always half expecting to see a giant geisha eating candy.
posted by CaseyB at 2:01 PM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


If Avatar is any indication of the future of sci-fi after BR, PKD was dead right! replicant hamburger
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:01 PM on January 12, 2010


20 years? Pah, one of the better (in my opinion) SF books harks back to 1953, and except for a few social updates it could have been published last year. The Demolished Man.

this is in no way being disparaging to PKD, or to Bladerunner. I like both in very different, but real, ways, and agree with the opinion that BR is one of the best SF movies ever, hard to touch, harder to top.
posted by edgeways at 2:05 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


The game appears to be easily available on Amazon.
posted by mwhybark at 2:06 PM on January 12, 2010


(and I saw it in theaters when I was 11)
posted by edgeways at 2:06 PM on January 12, 2010


Is Letters Of Note a daily feature on MeFi, now?
posted by coolguymichael at 2:10 PM on January 12, 2010


Unfortunately, SF movies have mostly just copied the aesthetic of the film without capturing anything of its spirit.

Likewise, there are a slew of PKD adaptations and derivatives, but mostly they just use the "what is reality" theme as a plot device to enable heroic explosionism.
posted by Mister_A at 2:10 PM on January 12, 2010


This was really awesome to read, especially the meticulously type-written version, which feels even more voyeuristic than the hand-written Oscar Wilde note, for some reason. I guess because of his paranoiac tendencies, but also because of his own special spelling of "goddam". It's perfect.

Best of all that he condones the visual result as Futurism, that it reflects his interior world as justly as his prose does, and is still the first and probably only (maybe 2001?) full-length, mainstream film to really fit into even the old school manifesto.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:11 PM on January 12, 2010


Philip K. Dick, I'm guessing, might be the most widely-read author by denizens of the blue.

My holy trinity of authors is Kafka, Dick, and Haruki Murakami.

And the only movie I've watched more than twice is Bladerunner.
posted by kozad at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


If Avatar is any indication of the future of sci-fi after BR, PKD was dead right!

oh boo hoo.

Sf certainly is prone to cylcles of staleness that it needs to burst out of, an in cinema it's been all but dead of late, but in 2009 we got 3 amazing films that were actual proper worsk of SF. And yeah, I'd count Avatar as one of them, even if it is made of pure snarktanium.
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2010


From an interview with Ridley Scott:
Danny Peary: Dick died before the release of the film. Did you have the chance to meet him?
Ridley Scott: Only once. I showed him the special effects I'd completed with Doug Trumbull's EEG (Entertainment Effects Group). He was more than delighted. I think he was stunned by the look of our environment. He said it was exactly how he had envisioned the world with which we were dealing.
Directing Alien and Blade Runner, interview with Ridley Scott by Danny Peary, in Omni's Screen Flights / Screen Fantasies, 1984.
posted by elgilito at 2:17 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm repeatedly horrified when I find out from informally polling random university classes how few students have actually seen this film, let alone know of the existence of the Director's Cut, the version which for me merits a periodic re-watch.
posted by kch at 2:18 PM on January 12, 2010


The blade runner game was a amazing!
posted by djduckie at 2:19 PM on January 12, 2010


Oh god, this is going to be where you make me feel horribly old, isn't it?
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2010


I always mourn that it fell over sideways when it was first released, and it's a real shame that PKD didn't get to ever see the final product. I think he would have been most pleased.

I'm not sure how he would have reacted, considering how far the events of the film strayed from his novel and a lot of his favorite themes. The overall theme of what it means to be human was intact, and Deckard is a PKD-ish character, but a lot the key parts of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep were completely abandoned (such as Mercerism). I personally think it's a great film, but for completely different reasons than why I like PKD's novel.

I'm sad for PKD that he didn't get invited to any shooting of the film (or no one sent him a sample on tape), and that he saw some movie hype on TV like the rest of the public at large.

There's an extremely good 3-hour documentary about the making of Blade Runner called Dangerous Days, and one of the most painful things about watching it was how many of the people who were involved in creating the film said that they didn't like the original novel. The person who wrote the original screenplay, Hampton Fancher, is probably more responsible for most of the key elements of the film than PKD was, and he was dropped from the project early on in pre-production because he wouldn't make all the changes to the script that Ridley Scott wanted him to make.

One part they did mention in documentary about PKD is that when all of the special effects sequences were completed, the FX team brought PKD in to show him the reel of all of their work and they said he was completely amazed.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:22 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the movie is pretty great, but you know what was awesome, and is now almost completely forgotten? The Blade Runner adventure game from 1997.

Man, I got stuck so hard on that game. Never did finish it. Someday.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:41 PM on January 12, 2010


Ridley Scott to Philip K. Dick: "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes."
posted by stammer at 3:13 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


If Avatar has caused outbreaks of depression among its audience, why didn't Blade Runner trigger an epidemic of nerd suicides (that would've decimated the future of tech)? Or should that be Star Wars? Maybe the Nerd Audience is made of stronger stuff than the Mass Audience. Oh, wait, Star Wars Episode I did...
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2010


Whenever I drive by some of the enormous, brightly animated billboard displays that line the Gardiner expressway, I'm always half expecting to see a giant geisha eating candy.

Lessee here. Laptop? Check. Rope? Check. Black close fitting clothing? Check. Ski mask....
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:20 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whenever I drive by some of the enormous, brightly animated billboard displays that line the Gardiner expressway, I'm always half expecting to see a giant geisha eating candy.

And if I owned the sign company that leases those LED billboards, you can rest assured, I would randomly slip that exact animation into the rotation. It's only 10 seconds, max. I can afford that, if just to create a "Did I really see what I think I saw?" moment for a tired, clued-in motorist.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:24 PM on January 12, 2010


This particular missive is mentioned in a fascinating book: Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul Sammon.

Other trivia:
Rutger Hauer suggested some bits of classic dialogue.
The electron microscope image of the reptile scale is a micro-photograph of a detail of a cannabis bud.
A hilarious anecdote about how Ridley Scott borrowed a "few reels" of generic helicopter footage from Stanley Kubrick.
posted by ovvl at 3:32 PM on January 12, 2010


In the game, Cystal Steele (possibly the dumbest character name ever) is played by Lisa Edelstein - better known as Cuddy from House.

Watching that show drove me nutty for about a year before I finally remembered where I'd heard her voice before.
posted by Sparx at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2010



The game appears to be easily available on Amazon.

Way overpriced. I got my copy off ebay for $8.50.
posted by dortmunder at 4:55 PM on January 12, 2010


Blade Runner is a fantastic movie. And Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a fantastic novel, and as burnmp3s says it has a lot of ideas in it that didn't make it into the movie. All well and good, it's a dense book, and I think Scott deserves a lot of credit for bashing Dick's schizoid nightmare into a fun noir scifi adventure without gutting it (a la Running Man). Still, I'd love to see another movie, maybe a 6 hour miniseries, much closer to the original novel. I'd particularly like to see Mercerism brought on screen, and the alternate police station, and the detachment of Deckard's wife. Mood Organs? God, what a dystopia.

As for Avatar, I think it was brilliant filmmaking. Schlocky plot, for sure, but there's a lot of artistry in the construction of that movie. Effects, sets, actors, and backstory are all brilliant. I'm optimistic it'll point the way to some really innovative new movies. (And thank god they cut the Avatar sex scene. Ewww.)
posted by Nelson at 5:08 PM on January 12, 2010


It wasn't candy, it was a birth control pill.

/nerd
posted by Ritchie at 5:11 PM on January 12, 2010


One of the reasons I'm in love with the girl I am in love with is because she also prefers Do Androids Dream... to Blade Runner. I'm the biggest Alien fan there is, but BR just never did it for me.

I just saw this graphic novel adapation of Androids at Barnes & Noble and it looks quite good.
posted by Brainy at 5:26 PM on January 12, 2010


Blade Runner is a great flick but I really miss the opening scene in Do Andriods where they're arguing over what mood altering meds they should be taking.

PKD was, among others, a comic genius. A dark comedy to be sure, but that scene is one of the funniest I've ever read.

The film succeeds despite the fact that it fails to include so much great stuff from the novel.
posted by bardic at 6:02 PM on January 12, 2010


KokuRyu

I have most of Dicks works on my shelf.
As a Spec Fiction scholar i agree with you on the importance of his work
in the genre.
Other less well known work like 'Martian time slip' an 'Maze of death'
and the awesome 'Man in the high castle'. May one day grace the screen
if we are lucky.
posted by Joachim at 6:52 PM on January 12, 2010


Artw

Agree you and i are are going to feel horribly old..:)
So Avatar is one. Please say the other 2 as you see it.
I watch ALL sf movies . As a trnt man i have all as .avi.
[still looking for a good copy of illustrated man tho]

Let me guess. Surrogate. and?
posted by Joachim at 7:32 PM on January 12, 2010


Since people have mentioned it a couple of times, it may interest you to know that I just got a grant from the Swiss government for a project called 'The Mood Organ; putting theory into practise'.

In this case, the plan is to automatically generate music that matches the emotion of the wearer, detected by various physiological signals and bodily movements (the technology is basically there, we just need to set up the translation between body and music in the right way). It is anticipated that this will enable feedback and self-regulatory effects. I don't think this is a dystopian technology (and people fail to note the connection between such externalisation of inner feeling and the concern for empathy and mental sharing described in Androids...) but I am deliberately referencing my project as a possible precursor to PKD's Mood Organ and its attendant dangers for artificiality.

I doubt the Swiss were aware of this however.
posted by leibniz at 1:09 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The letter leads me to believe that Dick would have appreciated BR for what it accomplished and not how it different from Androids. I've come to think of the movie as a different story that takes place in the same world as Androids. Although I would like to see a more faithful version (mainly including Mercerism and mood organs) I will always love that movie. And since I have the box set I can watch any of the five versions it contains. Ridiculous yes, but awesome.
posted by Lokisbane at 3:27 AM on January 13, 2010


When we gonna see a film of the three stigmata of palmer eldritch? Or maybe even Valis?

Actually, I hope we never do.
posted by Hickeystudio at 3:34 AM on January 13, 2010


One of the reasons I'm in love with the girl I am in love with is because she took me to see the director's cut at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill last Christmas and I had never noticed just how *bad* Deckard's ties were until I saw them on the big screen.

Personally I prefer the cut with voice-over and ambiguous ending because I consider it better as a detective movie that happens to be set in the future than a future movie with a detective as a main character. I am often in the minority when this argument comes up at family gatherings.
posted by Molesome at 8:20 AM on January 13, 2010


Additional: Game Players of Titan would make an awesome movie... or at least it would make an awesome movie trailer.
posted by Molesome at 8:22 AM on January 13, 2010


I've seen this letter before but I'm always pleased to see more Dick on the Blue.
posted by immlass at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2010


Game Players of Titan would make an awesome movie

Really? That seems like the least filmable of the PKD books I've read. Most of the plot, especially in the beginning, revolves around relationships and politics rather than the usual gadgetry and action that most sci fi films depend on. And without giving to much away, the final confrontation at the end of the film would make absolutely no sense if you just saw what was happening on the screen rather than being told the significance of what was going on via the narration.

Personally Ubik is the one that I think would make the best film if done right. They could cut out a lot of the setup from the beginning part without really losing much, and once the plot gets going there is always something happening that would be interesting on screen the rest of the way through. With good special effects it would at least be entertaining, even if the screenplay wasn't that great.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Morelikely you'll get some more random short stories of his, retooled as exciting futuristic chase movies.
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2010


As much as I love Bladerunner, I never thought of it as the movie version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and I hope someday someone makes a movie of that novel. Bladerunner has characters with the same name as characters in Do Androids Dream and a few similar plot elements but other than that, the two have nothing in common. The setting, the story, the characters are not all alike.

Taking the Penfield Mood Organ; the reverence for animals and the consumer fetish for owning them, real or fake; the Buster Friendly Show, which all we who read it in 1964 knew as a satire on the Tonight Show of the 60s, right down to a parody character of it's then perpetual guest Zsa Zsa Gabor--not to mention Luba Luft, the android opera singer who was the only android who approached humanity, the only character to suggest she was the human and Deckard the android. Not to mention John Isidore of the novel, the chicken head driver for the Van Nuys Animal Hospital, an electric animal repair shop, looking for an access panel on a dying cat and the way he suffered when he found out it was real and had to call its owner. He didn't have any nice toys, not at all. And taking Wilbur Mercer, Mercer boxes, the fusion experience of all who grasped their handles, his exposure as fraud and resurrection as divinity was my biggest disappointment.

The sequence where Mercer meets John Isidore when Isidore grasps the handles of his Mercer Box in alarm after Mercer has been exposed as a total fake and fraud on the Buster Friendly Show, where Mercer then admits to all and then, after that, restores to life the spider the androids have just tortured to death, followed by Deckard meeting Mercer in hallway outside the apartment where the androids are--that raised the hair on the back of my neck when I read it. That was what Dick was about for me back in the day.

Dick in the 60s wrote novels where reality folded in on itself, where false gods became real and walked out of walls and spoke to the protagonists and people dropped out of time and thin air. Those books are drenched in the varieties of religious experience. Jesus, even Roy Batty was described as having trying to create a religion for androids aping Mercerism in the novel.

Dick was a man, who, by the time that letter was written, was as different from the man who wrote the novel as the Dylan who wrote the song The Times They Are A-Changing is different from the Dylan who sold it to a bank and an accounting firm for use in a TV commercial. They were a different persons in both cases. You can't step in the same river twice and all that. The Dick in the letter is swooning over special effects. The letter means nothing to me.

I love the movie, no doubt of that. But it is not anything like the novel and not anything like what made the series of novels Dick wrote in the 60s so awesome. A movie made of a Dick story or novel that was true to the Philip K. Dick experience in those years has never been made, in my experience. I don't know if any Philip K. Dick novel can be caught in a film. I only know that it has yet to happen.
posted by y2karl at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now, having thought about it, I realize I first read the novel 44 years ago. Which was no doubt well before the birth about 90% of the membership here. And I can remember so much of it still and yet couldn't tell you what a book I read last year was about. Part of that is age and part is that is the story. It resonates with me still. I think about one scene or another just about every other day.
posted by y2karl at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2010


Molesome: Personally I prefer the cut with voice-over and ambiguous ending because I consider it better as a detective movie that happens to be set in the future than a future movie with a detective as a main character. I am often in the minority when this argument comes up at family gatherings.

Brother by another mother! I also prefer the original cut. I really can't stand the bonk!hammer! ending of the director's cut.
posted by Kattullus at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2010


"Bzzt! I am a robot!" is so much less of an interesting or cool ending than Ridley Scott seems to believe it is.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on January 13, 2010


Brother by another mother! I also prefer the original cut...

So, we have a novel that is nothing like the movie that is nothing like the movie. Trifecta !

And what was with that unicorn, anyway ? Like that added anything to movie.
posted by y2karl at 4:06 PM on January 13, 2010


And what was with that unicorn, anyway ? Like that added anything to movie.

SPOILER ALERT

The point of the unicorn dream (which was cut from the original version) was that at the end of the film, Gaff leaves an origami unicorn outside of Deckard's room. According to Ridley Scott, this is supposed to mean that Gaff knows about Deckard's dream just like Deckard knows about Rachel's spider memory, meaning that Deckard is also a replicant. More details here.

Brother by another mother! I also prefer the original cut. I really can't stand the bonk!hammer! ending of the director's cut.

The part that annoyed me about the original version was that the narration explicitly said that Rachel didn't have the built in four year life-span, which hand-waves away the core problem that all of the replicants in the film were fighting against. It also makes my favorite line in the film, "It's too bad she won't live, but then again who does?" have less of an impact in retrospect.

If both Rachel and Deckard are replicants with four year life-spans, we know that their days are numbered whether or not other blade runners like Gaff come after them, and that serves as a metaphor for the fact that no one lives forever. The fact that replicants are smarter and faster than humans, but are also inherently doomed to die after a few years, is one of the key tragic aspects of replicants in the film, and explaining away that for Rachel as an afterthought as part of a tacked-on happy ending just seems wrong.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:42 AM on January 14, 2010


If both Rachel and Deckard are replicants with four year life-spans, we know that their days are numbered whether or not other blade runners like Gaff come after them, and that serves as a metaphor for the fact that no one lives forever.

I kind of got the sense that Deckard and Rachel were not Nexus 6, but were instead some different or even new version of replicant with a longer lifespan.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2010


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