Ridley Scott sketched many of the film’s design concepts himself with help from ‘visual futurist’ Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Snyder and special effects wizards Douglas Trumbull and Richard Yuricich.
Reaching back four decades into the past to help imagine a future four decades hence, the film’s visual reference points include Edward Hopper’s iconic 1942 painting Nighthawks, Miss Havisham’s clutter-strewn bedroom in David Lean’s classic Dickens adaptation Great Expectations, and Joan Crawford’s vampish outfits in Mildred Pierce.
The film’s rousing score by Vangelis throbs with strident analogue electronica, but also lonely jazz saxophones and bluesy echoes from the past.
, written at the height of the Vietnam war and haunted by the horrors of Nazi Germany, was a philosophical reflection on what it means to be human in an age of mass atrocity.
The film’s basic plot structure is surprisingly faithful to the book, though the differences are revealing of how Dick and Scott differed on the story’s essential themes.
“I thought the audience deserved one human being on screen that they could establish an emotional relationship with.” Scott’s original edit of Blade Runner went way over budget and running time, allowing producers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio to technically fire him from the project and impose their own cut.
In panicky response to negative test screenings, they removed the unicorn sequence, added a romantic escapist ending and imposed a clunky explanatory voice-over, which Ford recorded through gritted teeth.
But these changes were not enough to save the film at the box office.
It opened to mixed reviews and lukewarm crowds, failing to recoup its swollen million budget.
Blade Runner is saturated in melancholy, overshadowed by death and peopled by ghosts.
Visually and sonically, it is awash with hauntological whispers.