Richard Lutz with a classic film from the TV listings.
The film (on Sunday, BBC2, 22.45…that’s right, tonight) has this ultimo-type title because the Ridley Scott movie had at least seven versions and had been through the editing mill so many times that movie obsessives seem to refer to different versions when they endlessly jabber on about it.
But this cut…yes, the final one by grumpy Geordie director Scott…does the business, making the Harrison Ford vehicle a neo-noir science fiction gem.
For those of you living down the bottom of a pickle barrel for the past three decades, a quick recap: sullen Ford plays a futuristic cop (a Blade Runner) who has to run down and execute a group of androids, called replicants, who have escaped their slave labour camp on a foreign planet to wreak havoc down here on good old Earth.
The robots, humanlike and canny as a den of foxes, know that a limited life is inbuilt into their circuitry and want to track down their maker to elongate their existence; in other words, they are turning into humans and want to live longer. And that would be really dangerous.
Based on the Philip K. Dick novel with probably the best title in science fiction (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) Scott and his design team summoned up a hell on earth with overcrowded cities drenched by acid rain, streets filled with radioactive garbage and overwhelmed humans packed onto a foul claustrophic planet. Traffic is backed up for miles, not just on rainslicked roads but vertically too. And the skyline is filled with gas flares from urban oil fields and overwhelming digi-adverts that crowd out the night sky.
Boy, why did the replicants want to come here, the moviegoer might ask. Better an off-world slave camp.
The moodily ominous techno-electronic music is by Vangelis; the visionary art design by Oscar winner Douglas Trumball and Ford shines as hard-faced cop Richard Decker whose job is to exterminate rampaging robots who are stronger and smarter than their human fabricators.
The Final Cut ties up some loose ends such as who is really a replicant and who isn’t (I won’t give too much away). But when you watch this re-edit of this fascinating and bleak film, you will see just how many movies have stolen the look and feel of the production in succeeding decades.
There is good supporting work by replicant babe Sean Young, replicant boss Rutger Hauer and the inimitable Emmet Walsh as the sweaty hardboiled police chief who is clearly based on surly cynical cops from a million black and white cop movies down the ages.
By the way, just a footnote.
Director Ridley Scott, who gave us Alien, never read the Dick novel and bought the rights to a William Burroughs script just to grab the term Bladerunner which the junkie novelist used to describe, not android-chasing cops, but criminals who hawked stolen medical equipment. So there. That’s Hollywood.