Los Angeles, 2019: A Personal Narrative

I want to write about my favorite film. In doing so, however, I’m not trying to convince anyone to watch it. I’m not going to give any kind of review. It is not my place to review films. I don’t know enough about them to be objective. I also don’t watch very many films. I don’t have much time form them. In many ways, I’m convinced that I’ve seen all the films that will impress me. The reason I want to talk about my favorite film is because my discovery of the film makes for an interesting narrative. My favorite film is ”Blade Runner”.

My story starts in 1996. I had just gotten my first job as a paperboy. Delivering newspapers wasn’t exactly my biggest aspiration as a young boy, but it was the only job that someone under the age sixteen was legally allowed to do. My mom made me take the job. She thought I needed to learn some responsibility. Three newspapers were delivered in my neighborhood. All were delivered by the same agency. Two of them were daily papers. The third one was weekly, and it was delivered free of charge to those that didn’t subscribe to one of the other two. That was the paper I delivered. The pay was by piecework. I was paid $0.15 per paper delivered. I delivered approximately 150 papers once a week. That added up to about $40.00 every two weeks when I was paid.

The job was simple. The papers were dropped off on my doorstep on Saturday afternoon. Originally I could deliver them either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Later they told me to deliver them on Sunday morning only. I didn’t mind that. The first couple weeks I did it on Saturday night, but I didn’t like that because people were out on Saturday night, and sometimes they’d harass me. No one was out and about on Sunday morning, so going out and delivering the papers then was a peaceful experience. I found it best to make two trips and deliver 75 papers each trip. I tried taking all of them a few times, but this made the bag far too heavy for comfort. I used my bike as well. This made it a little faster. It took about two hours. Really that isn’t bad for $20.00. I hated the job, though. Mostly because I had to get up early on Sunday morning.

My mom made me save half my money. Like I said, to teach me responsibility. So I’d get roughly $20.00 every two weeks. The rest went into the bank. I’d spend the money right away. Mostly on candy or cheap toys. Never on anything truly interesting. Finally my mom felt sorry for me, because I was working so hard, and she said I could quit. I put in my two weeks notice right away. The last two times my mom drove me through the route. I did a really crappy job. Leaving the papers in the driveway instead of on the porch. The agency called to tell about how bad I’d done. Believe me, though, I didn’t care. I’d put my two weeks in, as far as I was concerned I was done. I don’t have that attitude now, and I actually did better my last week.

Truth be told, I convinced my mom that the job was a lot harder than it really was. That’s why she let me quit. There really wasn’t anything hard about it. Still, she felt sorry for me. Not only that, but she felt so bad for me, that she let me take all my money out of the bank. I had a grand total of $83.00. I couldn’t have been happier. Before that, the most money I’d ever had at once was the $20.00 I’d get every two weeks. I was absolutely ecstatic. Naturally, I wanted to spend the money right away. I asked my mom to take me to the department store. We went to Fred Meyer.

The box that caught my eye.

I had one thing, and one thing only, on my mind. I wanted a video game. We had a PC, and I wanted a new game for it. I didn’t know what game I was going to get, though. I was going to choose one at the store. I browsed for what seemed like hours. (Though, it couldn’t possibly have been that long, because Fred Myer’s selection of PC games was about twenty.) I had no idea what I wanted. At the end of the isle of PC games there was a display stand. It featured a full size cardboard cutout of an intense looking man holding a huge pistol. There were maybe a dozen copies of the advertised game in the display stand. I picked a copy up. On the front cover was the same man from the display case. On the back was a description of the game and some screen shots. The screen shots were absolutely amazing. Some of the screen shots were labeled as “in game” others as “cinematic”. Both looked just as cool. I read the description. The game described itself as the first “real-time 3D adventure”. My gut told me that I should get it. My brother, who had come to the store with us, also encouraged me to get it. I’d seen 3D games before. I’d played Duke Nukem 3D, but this looked much more amazing. The game was Westwood Studio’s Blade Runner.

The description was irresistible.

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of the game. I had borrowed a copy of Command & Conquer: Red Alert from a friend of mine, and included on the disc was a trailer for the game Blade Runner. I’d already watched that, and it was really cool. Buying it was almost a no-brainer. I was a bit leery, though. The description said, “No hardware acceleration required!”, but it also said that a 90Mhz processor was required. My family’s computer was only 75Mhz. This didn’t concern me enough to not get the game. We had a game called Star Trek: Starfleet Academy and it also “required” a 90Mhz processor, but that ran fine on our computer. I figured Blade Runner would run fine as well. I paid the $40.00 for the game. I opened the box during the ride home. It was four discs. That convinced me, even more, that it must be amazing. I read through the manual as we drove home. It described the characters in the game, and how the game worked. Everything I saw made me want to play it more.

I was wrong about our 75Mhz computer being able to handle the game. Very wrong. The game installed just fine, but it ran like an engine block on it’s last leg. The introductory video was completely unwatchable. It stuttered and skipped so much that I didn’t even know what was going on. The same was true for all the cinematics in the game. None were watchable. The actual game play was tolerable.

The game is a typical point and click adventure.

In the game you take control of a character named Ray McCoy. The game is a third person point and click adventure game. If you click on the ground McCoy will walk to wherever you clicked. If you double click, he runs. Right click and he pulls out his gun. If you click on an object, McCoy will walk up to the object and interact with it. If you click on a person he’ll walk up to the person and talk to them. On our computer, the game was playable, but McCoy walked much slower than he should have. He ran slow. When you talked to another character the dialog skipped like crazy. I could actually understand it, it just didn’t play anywhere as smoothly as it should have.

Still, the game was outstanding, and I absolutely loved it. Like I said, I couldn’t watch any of the cinematics, so I never really understood the whole story, but I got the gist of it. Despite our slow computer, I enjoyed every second of the game. In retrospect, the problem our computer had with the game wasn’t the 75Mhz processor. It was that the game required a whopping 2MB of video memory. Our computer only had 1MB, but at the time I didn’t know what video memory was, so I wouldn’t have even know what to do about that. Like I said, I loved the game anyway. I played through the entire thing, twice.

Since I found so much joy in the game, I wanted to know more about this whole Blade Runner thing. The game’s box and manuals mentioned that it had been inspired by a film of the same name. And that some of the characters were voiced by cast members that had been in the original film. Namely Sean Young, Joe Turkel, James Hong, Brion James, and William Sanderson. None of these were people I’d ever heard of, and all these actors only made cameo appearances in the game. That was the first I ever heard of the film Blade Runner, though, and the game made me want to know more about it. My brother was interested in seeing it as well. Eventually we rented it.

I didn’t know what to make of the film when I first saw it. It made less sense than the video game. The film felt dark and gritty, whereas the game felt colorful and lively. The main character of the film, Deckard, seemed like a depressed loner, whereas Ray McCoy was cheerful and friendly. I was shocked. How could a film so weird have been the inspiration for the game that I had become so fond of. It really wasn’t the best viewing I suppose. I had lost my glasses, and the film looked blurry. I figured that was the reason why I wasn’t amazed by the film. As the closing credits scrolled, I noted that the film had been inspired by a novel with a funny name.

I looked up Blade Runner on the internet and found that the name of the novel was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. Even though I didn’t know what to make of the film, I was obsessed with Blade Runner. The game had gotten me so interested, that I wanted to know everything about it. I found the book at the local library and checked it out.

There are only two books that have been so good that I read them in one sitting. Both are science fiction books. The first is Sphere by Michael Crichton. The second is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. Indeed, I took that book home from the library, and I could not stop reading. I read late into the night, and when I was finished I was blown away. The story is convoluted, twisted, and completely unbelievable, but it made perfect sense. It was an addictive read that brought me into a world that I wanted to be a part of. I recognized many elements of the game that had been inspired by the book. I began to understand where the film was coming from.

I want to explain something to anyone that doesn’t know much about Blade Runner. The film takes inspiration from the novel. It is not really based on the novel in the traditional sense. It is not the same story. Some plot elements are similar, but the actual plots hardly resemble each other. Each character in the film is inspired by some character in the novel, but the difference between them is night and day. Many of the characters and themes in the novel don’t appear in the film at all. The same is true for the game and the film. The game is set in the same world as the film, but it features a brand new story, with all new characters, that takes place during the same time period as the film.

With what I’d just read, as far as I was concerned, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was the best novel ever written. I tried to convince others to read it. I failed. I never got anyone to read it. I told my friends to read it. None did. I did a book report on it. The important thing was that I had a new understanding of the Blade Runner universe. I knew that I needed to see the film again. I checked out the film from the library, and watched it. I did this several times of the next few years. I watched it repeatedly. Each time I was drawn deeper into the world of Los Angeles in November, 2019.

I don’t know why, but I had an incredible drive to discover everything that I could about Blade Runner. By searching the internet, I discovered that there were multiple versions of the film. The only version I had seen was the “Director’s Cut” of the film, which had be released in 1992. Somehow I thought that if I could see the theatrical version, I might understand it better. I wasn’t able to do so, not right away. I also learned that the “Director’s Cut” was not the director’s true vision of the film. In fact, it had been a rushed project. The director, Ridley Scott, wasn’t truly happy with any version of the film. The “Director’s Cut” was a temporary fix, to larger problems that he saw in the film. I learned that a new version of the film, Blade Runner: Special Edition, had been cut, but that due to legal issues over ownership of the film, it hadn’t been released. I patiently awaited the release of that version, and desired deeply to see the theatrical version. I needed to understand the film.

In 1998 my dad bought me a new computer. The first thing I did with it was install Blade Runner. I’d waited years to play the game as it was meant to be played, and for the first time, I saw the opening cinematic. It was as amazing. Finally, some things about the game, that I never really understood, made sense. I played through the game. It wasn’t choppy at all. It ran smoothly. It ran excellent. I must have played through the game twenty times. With this renewed excitement about Blade Runner, my mind went back to the film. I started checking it out from the library again, now in DVD format, and though HD didn’t exist at the time, it was much better than VHS and I began to appreciate the visuals of the film. Still, I didn’t get it, and I still felt that drive to understand it.

The 10th Anniversary Edition was actually the theatrical version with different box.

In 2000 I got an eBay account and found a copy of the theatrical version of the film. It came in a box that said 10th Anniversary Edition. There is nothing special about the 10th anniversary edition. It is the theatrical version with different box art. I bought it. I watched it one time. Ridley Scott was right. The theatrical version wasn’t great. It had a terrible voice over, and an alternate ending. The alternate ending was atrocious, and left a bad taste in my mind. And I already knew what to expect from the voice over because I’d read the dialog of it on the internet. The theatrical version didn’t help me understand the film better than I already did. The film was as confusing as ever. By that time, though, I had watched the “Director’s Cut” of the film so many times, that I loved it. I didn’t need an alternate version of the film to understand it. I was never going to fully understand it, and I didn’t need to. The film had become an integral part of my personality. I thought about the film all the time. I thought about real life in terms of the film. It inspired me to think about philosophical questions. I was in love with the film. I bought the “Director’s Cut” on DVD shortly after that. I knew, then, that it was my favorite film, and it always would be.

After discovering my love of the film, I tried to find everything I could related to it. Marvel had produced a comic book adaptation of the film. I got that, and read it hoping to get more insight into the film. I got a book called Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. I read it, and learned about the history and making of the film. I got a souvenir magazine that had been printed in 1982 when the film first came out. Nothing made the film make any more sense. Yet everything made me love the film more and more.

Through the years, I followed the news on the supposed Special Edition of the film. I knew it wouldn’t bring anymore light to the meaning of the film than I had already grasped, but I wanted to see Ridley Scott’s definitive vision of the film. I fantasized about becoming a billionaire, and buying the studio that owned it, so that I could personally insure that it was released.

The collector’s edition comes in a Blade Runner’s briefcase.

Nearly a decade after I had discovered the film. Blade Runner: The Final Cut was announced. This is what had become of the “Special Edition”. It was to be the definitive version of the film. Ridley Scott’s vision finally realized. The release date was December 18, 2007 on DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD. Needless to say, I could hardly wait for that day to come. The film was to be released as a five disc set, which included the “Final Cut”, the “Director’s Cut”, two different theatrical versions, several documentaries, and what is known as the workprint version of the film. Not only that, but a collector’s edition was announced as well, which would come in a briefcase, with several other trinkets. I pre-ordered the collector’s edition as soon as it was listed on Amazon.

As I said, the film was going to be in stores in December, 2007, but before that there was going to be a limited theatrical release. Very limited. New York and Los Angeles only. I was disheartened, I wasn’t going to be anywhere near those cities. It turned out that the film was popular enough, that it expanded to other cities. One of them close enough that I could travel to see it. I was overjoyed. I was finally going to see film I had fallen in love with on the big screen.

I saw the film in theaters on November 10, 2007 at 5:30PM. I remember going to the theater. Maybe eight people were in the stadium. This wasn’t surprising to me. Most people I know have never heard of Blade Runner, everyone that I’d shown it to didn’t get it. I’ve never met anyone with the same obsession that I had. I remember, though, a couple was sitting behind me, and the guy’s girlfriend asked him if he was going to cry. I knew that that guy was like me. He loved Blade Runner, and this was one of the most important moments of his life. He had convinced his girlfriend of that. What I also inferred, was that she had never seen the film before, and I knew that she wasn’t going to “get it” any more than anyone else did. She’d walk away confused, wondering if she even knew the guy she loved. I didn’t care though, that was her problem. That guy and I would get it, and we’d love it.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my eyes began to tear up as the film was about to begin. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I wanted to see the film the same way I had always seen it. I prayed that the film wouldn’t be butchered. Ridley Scott is also the director of Legend, and a director’s cut of that movie has been released which drastically changes the entire film. Legend hasn’t been butchered, but the two versions of the film barely resemble each other. I still watch both versions of Legends, and, in my mind, neither one of them is definitive. I didn’t want that to be true of Blade Runner. I wanted one definitive version of the film.

I sat quiet in the theater, and waited. The credits began. With a drum roll like a heart beat the text “Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin Present” appeared in white text on a black screen. The drum continued to echo and the words “Harrison Ford” written in white replaced the first credit. Then with another drum beat the text “Blade Runner”, colored red, appeared on the screen. My heart jumped with joy as I saw this. I’d heard that drum beat a thousand times before, and I’d seen that same ordinary font, but seeing it exactly the same on the big screen told me that my film hadn’t been butchered. This was the same Blade Runner I’d always known.

There is really nothing particularly exciting about the opening credits to the film. Except for the title of the film, all the credits are white letters on a black background. The text doesn’t do anything fancy. There is no scenery or special effects. It just appears, disappears, and is replaced with another credit. A foreboding theme by Vangelis, heavy with echoing drum beats, and mild electronica woodwinds is immanent in the background. No film of today would dare have such simplistic opening.

From there, everything was amazing. The high definition quality of the film was spectacular. I’d never seen the film so rich and colorful. All the intricate details of the film were more apparent than ever. I didn’t want to blink. My eyes never looked away from the screen. It was one of the most important moments of my life. Two hours later the film ended with Deckard and Rachael disappearing into the elevator. Then Vangelis’ familiar theme played as the credit’s rolled. I sat in awe.

The final cut of the film isn’t drastically different from the director’s cut. Some obvious errors are corrected. The visuals are cleaned up, and they look spectacular. A few scenes are extended. Some other scenes have been added, nothing that really changes the film. Some dialog problems are fixed. It’s not the perfect film, though. The audio has problems. Some of the dialog sounds bad, it sounds dubbed at times. The final cut didn’t fix that. Overall, I was not disappointed. There are a few things I would not have changed from the “Director’s Cut”.

Blade Runner is a film about steam, smoke, and rain.

If I had just seen the film in passing, without ever having played the game, I would have thought nothing of it. It’s not beneath me to admit that the film is boring at times. The plot doesn’t make much sense. In fact, it doesn’t have much of a plot. The film in general is very open to interpretation, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. I wish I could recommend the film. I can’t. Every time I’ve tried, the person that I referred doesn’t get it. The thing I know for certain, is that Blade Runner will always be my favorite film. Nothing will top it. Nothing can top it. As for the game, I played through it again five years ago. It was fine. I still have fond memories of it. I played a little bit of it a few months ago. It was still fine. I would play through it again. I don’t like it as much as I once did, but I’m glad it exists, because it is how I discovered my favorite film.