Philip K. Dick Previews Blade Runner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Overwhelming” (1981)

PKD Blade Runner

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Last week we fea­tured stu­dio-exec­u­tive notes on Blade Run­ner. “This movie gets worse every screen­ing,” they said. “Dead­ly dull,”  they said. “More tits,” they said. These remarks now offer some­thing in the way of irony and enter­tain­ment, but they only give even the most avid Blade Run­ner enthu­si­ast so much to think about. For a more inter­est­ing reac­tion, and cer­tain­ly a more artic­u­late one, we should turn to Philip K. Dick, the pro­lif­ic writer of psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly inven­tive sci­ence fic­tion whose Do Androids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep? pro­vid­ed Blade Run­ner’s source mate­r­i­al. Dick, alas, would not live to see the film open in the­aters, much less ascend to the top of the canon of sci-fi cin­e­ma decades lat­er, but he did get a good look, before mov­ing on to oth­er realms, at the script and some of the footage. With just those, he man­aged to out­guess every­one — audi­ences, crit­ics, and espe­cial­ly stu­dio exec­u­tives — about the film’s fate.

“This indeed is not sci­ence fic­tion,” Dick wrote in a let­ter avail­able on his offi­cial site. “It is not fan­ta­sy; it is exact­ly what [star] Har­ri­son [Ford] said: futur­ism. The impact of Blade Run­ner is sim­ply going to be over­whelm­ing, both on the pub­lic and on cre­ative peo­ple — and, I believe, on sci­ence fic­tion as a field. [ … ] Noth­ing we have done, indi­vid­u­al­ly or col­lec­tive­ly, match­es Blade Run­ner. This is not escapism; it is super real­ism, so grit­ty and detailed and authen­tic and god­dam con­vinc­ing that, well, after the seg­ment I found my nor­mal present-day ‘real­i­ty’ pal­lid by com­par­i­son.” 32 years on, many of us fre­quent Blade Run­ner-watch­ers feel just the same way, and Dick wrote that after catch­ing noth­ing more than a seg­ment about the pic­ture on the news. “It was my own inte­ri­or world,” he lat­er told inter­view John Boon­stra. “They caught it per­fect­ly.” And, at this point, all of our inte­ri­or worlds look a lit­tle more Blade Run­ner-esque.

H/T to Mar­i­anne for the lead on the PKD let­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Blade Run­ner: The Pil­lar of Sci-Fi Cin­e­ma that Siskel, Ebert, and Stu­dio Execs Orig­i­nal­ly Hat­ed

The Mak­ing of Blade Run­ner

The Blade Run­ner Sketch­book: The Orig­i­nal Art of Syd Mead and Rid­ley Scott Online

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • PKD was pleased as you say with his view­ing of the uncut footage of Scot­t’s work. How­ev­er, as not­ed by the edi­tors of DIck­’s “Exe­ge­sis of Philip K. Dick” …“Left on the cut­ting room floor was the nov­el­’s fic­tion­al reli­gion, “Mer­cerism” whose adher­ents tech­no­log­i­cal­ly and empath­i­cal­ly merge with Wilbur Mer­cer as he climbs a hill, is stoned to death, descends into a tomb world, and aris­es, in an end­less cycle.”

  • Con ate dog says:

    Of every­one I’ve ever asked, this is the most quot­ed as Best Movie Ever.

    It’s clear­ly the most heart­break­ing ever.

  • ubikchip says:

    great­est film ever made

  • ultramanjones says:

    By miles and miles. No mat­ter what movie is named the next best, they are all mere enter­tain­ment, moral­i­ty tales, or “inspi­ra­tional” sto­ries of hope, bla bla bla. Blade Run­ner is par­a­lyz­ing in its relent­less­ly hon­est pen­e­tra­tion into the true real­i­ty of our inner thoughts and fears, not some dile­ri­ous sur­ren­der into the denial of ton­ics and balms like ALL the rest, whose entire mes­sages dis­solve into plat­i­tudes or advice: “there’s always hope!”, “Rev­el in your vices”, “have faith!”, “Be strong like our hero!”, “Love will find a way”, “it’s a won­der­ful life!”, “Nev­er give up!”, “The truth will set you free”, etc… ad nau­se­um. Unlike all the oth­ers, when it comes to human­i­ty, Blade Run­ner just plain REAL. It is Roy Bat­ty alone and dying, crying,“Pris!?…” AND it is an absolute mas­ter­piece of cin­e­ma; a PERFECT blend of visu­als, style, tone, sound, music, pac­ing, hyp­no­tism, beau­ty, ugli­ness, thought invi­ta­tion, and mag­nif­i­cence. Add to that the bril­liant cast­ing and myr­i­ad of career pin­na­cle act­ing per­for­mances, the incred­i­ble art, the unpar­al­leled spe­cial effects pre­sen­ta­tion, and final­ly the VISION of what we all know, whether we like it or not, IS our future. There is no com­par­i­son. There is no “close” sec­ond run­ner up. Blade Run­ner is the GOAT, the life­time sup­ply of GOAT milk, AND a GOAT kick in the face to wake you from your fan­tasies and snap you back to real­i­ty. Enjoy.

  • Russel Future says:

    I read the sto­ry, then saw Blade Run­ner in 1981. P. K. Dick had the cre­ative vision, Scott and oth­ers cre­at­ed a near-per­fect film. Thx for these three short films. I’m here now in 2024. Ukraine-Rus­sia war remains hot. Robot drones offer good kill radius. RTX Corp and Swe­den’s Saab have made new rock­et bomb — steer­able — 1 meter accu­ra­cy at 100 miles. Watched Israeli death-squad video — sol­diers dis­guised as doc­tors and women raid hos­pi­tal, kill injured Hamas sol­diers in their beds. This is the future. Chat­G­PT shows Tur­ing test suc­cess­ful abil­i­ty. AI is being rapid­ly weaponized. Human biorepli­cants remain fic­tion­al, but AI is real, and is being active­ly deployed to kill women and kids in Gaza. Death toll exceeds 20,000 humans. Impres­sive, low-cost kill rate, regard­less of moral­i­ty issues. AI — arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence works well.
    I have a pro­to­type AI called “John” run­ning on an Intel/HP box. Needs at least a “Haswell” series chip with the AVX (matrix math exten­tions), and is only trained on net-data up to 2021.
    But one can chat with “John”, even if he is a bit slow. I need a big­ger box, with an Nvidia GPU, of course.
    I have down­loaded Ten­sor­flow, and got it work­ing. Have trained a tiny test mod­el. We use AI to attempt to hack stock mar­ket action. Dif­fi­cult — but maybe pos­si­ble.
    AI is real now. And it’s imme­di­ate weaponiza­tion makes me sad. The accu­rate, steer­able rock­et-bombs will ben­e­fit from local auton­mous AI ability.Its all here now, and Rus­si­a’s theft of Ukraine ter­ri­to­ry, gives us good “hot war” test­ing zone.
    Expect rapid improve­ment in the tech.
    “Tell me about your moth­er…”

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