That’s right, it’s a double dose of Geek Movie Milestone Goodness! On this date in 1982, two iconic entries in science fiction film debuted on the silver screen, and both of them went a long way toward redefining the genre in their own ways….
Blade Runner — adapted in rather liberal form from Philip K. Dick’s seminal novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — influenced…what…the look of every other near and/or dystopian SF film since then? Yeah, pretty much. Ridley Scott, having already dabbled a bit in the genre with that little flick you might know, Alien, brought Harrison Ford out from under the shadow of the Millenium Falcon and Indiana Jones’ fedora long enough to have him play what would become yet another iconic role: Rick Deckard, the “blade runner” charged with finding and neutralizing renegade androids (“replicants”) in 2019 Los Angeles. The film’s production design established a benchmark which has yet to be surpassed, for whatever the hell my opinion’s worth. The movie was not an easy sell to American audiences, but has gone on to take its rightful place as a true classic.
Meanwhile, John Carpenter’s The Thing — less a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World than a new adaptation of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes There? — helped remind audiences that the SF film realm could definitely be one which might scare the shit out of us if it was done correctly. It was a welcome respite from the scads of Alien knock-offs to which we’d been subjected by that point.
I didn’t get to see either of these movies in the theater, for different reasons. Blade Runner, at that time, didn’t appeal to me, whereas theater ushers were being very conscientious about keeping underage delinquents like me and my friends from sneaking into screenings of The Thing (Damn, those “R” ratings.). I watched both on home video (VHS!) later, and I fell in love with Blade Runner on the spot. It’s a smart, layered film, in which you can always find something new to appreciate. Of course, the 49 different versions of the movie which have been released over the years help with that. As for The Thing, it was and remains a tight little monster movie. The 2011 prequel did little for me, besides demonstrating that Carpenter’s movie can hold its own without such skirt-hanging claptrap.
Yes, there are rumors of a Blade Runner sequel, and I suppose we’ll hear something else about another Thing-related project at some point down the road. For now, though? Spin up this double feature. Happy Birthday, yo!