Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Blade Runner (1982)
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The Story (continued)

Back at Deckard's apartment, two shafts of light (scanning searchlights in the city monitor private life) shine in the window. As he hangs drunkenly over his piano, and doodles a few notes on the piano keys [the same tune that Rachael later plays], he experiences a dream sequence - a golden-hued image of a white unicorn galloping into view. A collection of sepia-toned pictures on the piano's music stand are scanned from left to right as he glances at them - none of the pictures seem to depict Deckard himself - a clue to his own nature.

[If Deckard is also an android/replicant, as many speculate, were those pictures deliberately given to him as part of his implanted history? And since both he and Rachel play the same piano tune, is that because they were both implanted with the same memory - a tune that Tyrell had remembered hearing when his niece played the piano? The fact that he has a long law enforcement career might also be just an implanted memory. Some even consider Deckard the 6th replicant!]

In a classic scene, Deckard chooses one of Leon's old family snapshot photos to analyze with machine-like precision, to try and piece together the puzzling mystery. He digitally scans the picture with a computerized ESPER machine - a photo enhancer with overlaid grids. He technologically analyzes and enlarges different areas in the photo to search the room in the photo for hidden clues, calling out commands and coordinates to the ESPER like a film director:

Enhance 224176
Enhance, Stop
Move in, Stop
Pull out, Track right, Stop
Center in, Pull back, Stop
Track 45 right, Stop
Center and Stop
Enhance 34 to 36
Pan right and pull back, Stop
Enhance 34 to 46
Pull back, Wait a minute, Go right, Stop
Enhance 5719
Track 45 left, Stop
Enhance 15 to 23
Give me a hard copy right there.

The machine enhances and reveals hidden details by blowing up the multi-dimensional layers within the photograph. Deckard, after perceptively exploring the unsettling details of the photo, discovers the mirror images of a showgirl's shimmering gown in a closet, and a sleeping woman with a snake tattoo on her left cheek - presumably replicant Zhora.

Deckard takes his hard-copy ESPER photo of the woman and the scale he found in Leon's bathtub to a section of the city called Animoid Row, a section of stalls that specializes in manufacturing artificial, synthetic animals [in the year 2019, most animals are extinct, so there is a thriving business in synthetic creatures]. He visits a Cambodian woman who makes fish replicas. She examines the scale under an electron microscope, identifying it as "manufactured...finest quality, superior workmanship" with the maker's serial number "9906947-XB71," [it is not identical to the one in the electron microscope image!]. The woman exclaims: "Not fish. Snake scale." It is not a fish scale but an artificial snake scale.

Deckard is directed from the stand through the crowd of customers and replicant animals (ostrichs) to fez-hatted Abdul Ben-Hassan, an artificial/replicant snake manufacturer, identified by "XB71." Using information given to him by the Egyptian regarding the expensive and rare use of the snake scales, he is directed to the "Fourth Sector, Chinatown." Deckard enters a crowded, smoky, nightclub named the Snake Pit, owned and run by sleazy Taffey Lewis (Hy Pyke). The decadent, downtown nightclub is populated by opium-smokers and bar-drinkers.

Exasperated and getting nowhere in his conversation with Lewis, he threatens: "Your licenses in order?" Deckard is offered a free drink: "Louie. The man is dry. Give him one on the house." A glance at Rachael's porch photograph prompts Deckard to call her on a public, graffiti-smeared VidPhon to apologize for his cruel behavior:

Deckard: I've had people walk out on me before, but not when I was being so charming. I'm in a bar here now, down in the Fourth Sector. Taffey Lewis is on the line. Why don't you come on down here and have a drink?
Rachael: (curtly) I don't think so, Mr. Deckard. That's not my kind of place.
Deckard: Go someplace else.

She hangs up on him - the toll call costs him $1.25. Back at the bar, Deckard picks worms from his mouth that were in his drink. An announcer in the club introduces the exotic snake dancer performance by Zhora:

Ladies and Gentlemen. Taffey Lewis presents Miss Salome and the snake. Watch her take the pleasure from the serpent that once corrupted man.

After her dance act, Deckard spots the lush-bodied redhead Miss Salome (Zhora) going to her backstage dressing room. Claiming to be "from the American Federation of Variety Artists," he follows her into her dressing room. The sexy replicant is essentially naked - except for sequins, dark body paint, and an advanced animoid (synthetic) python snake wrapped over her bare shoulders (the snake was actress Joanna Cassidy's own pet - a Burmese python named Darling). Then, using a high-pitched, effeminate voice, Deckard claims he is from the "Confidential Committee on Moral Abuses," there to interview her to make sure that she isn't "exploited" in any way by the club:

Deckard: Were you asked to do anything that's lewd or unsavory or otherwise repulsive to your person? Huh?
Zhora: (laughing at him in disbelief) Are you for real?

He checks her dressing room for holes in the walls (and for evidence tying her to the snake scale): "You'd be surprised what a guy'll go through to get a glimpse of a beautiful body...Little, uh, dirty holes, they, uh, drill in the walls so they can watch a lady undress." She showers and then dries her head in a transparent globe-shaped hairdryer. When almost dressed, she asks him to dry her back. Suddenly, sensing he is a dangerous threat, she unexpectedly attacks him with superhuman strength, elbowing him in the stomach, karate-chopping his neck, and strangling him with his tie. Then when interrupted, Zhora (wearing a clear rainslicker) bolts from the club through a stage door. [The topless shower scene and the transparent rainslicker both emphasize Zhora's femininity - she is very much a woman (which would be echoed in Deckard's later regret: "...didn't make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back.")]

Her flight leads to a prolonged, suspenseful, and spectacularly-staged chase through the maze of clogged city streets and shifting tides of people. They both rush through hordes of Asians, punkers, nuns, and partygoers, even chanting Hare Krishnas. Street signs ineffectively signal: "Cross now...Don't walk..." The scared replicant runs over the top of a parked vehicle in the streets. When he finds her in a clear opening in the crowd, in dramatic slow motion, he shoots the distraught replicant twice in the back, just as she is running through a series of glass display storefronts in a futuristic shopping arcade.

Zhora lies dying on the sidewalk, surrounded by clear reflective shards of glass and toppled piles of mannequins. The contrast between her replicant body and those of non-human mannequins is deliberately stark. Her heartbeat, amplified on the soundtrack, stops beating. Leon witnesses Zhora's shooting on the squalid streets of the city, realizing that he has been too late to warn her. Deckard, in voice-over, develops a kind of empathy for the replicant/'skin job' he has just retired:

The report would be routine retirement of a replicant which didn't make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back. There it was again. Feeling, in myself, for her, for Rachael.

Deckard buys a bottle of Tsing-Tao (Chinese alcoholic beverage) from a sidewalk bar after the killing. [The Vangelis song "One More Kiss Dear," a 20s torch song of doomed love, memories, and death plays during the scene.] Gaff appears behind Deckard, notifying him that Bryant wants to speak to him at his police car. Standing in the heavy rain, Bryant is particularly impressed by Deckard's abilities, noting that Rachael, now on the lam, has been added to the list of wanted replicants:

Bryant: Christ, Deckard. You look almost as bad as that skin-job you left on the sidewalk.
Deckard: I'm going home.
Bryant: You could learn from this guy, Gaff. He is a god damn one-man slaughter house. That's what he is. Four more to go. Come on Gaff, let's go.
Deckard: Three. There's three to go.
Bryant: There's four. That - that skin job that you V-K'ed at the Tyrell Corporation, Rachael. Disappeared. Vanished. Didn't even know she was a replicant. Something to do with a brain implant says Tyrell.

Deckard spots Rachael moving through the packed crowd and traffic. As he tries to catch up to her, Leon's huge hand grabs Deckard's arm - the blade runner recognizes him from the video briefings. As they struggle and punch each other, the super-strong Leon asks about his own mortality and exact death date:

Leon: How old am I?
Deckard: I don't know.
Leon: My birthday's April 10th, 2017. How long do I live?
Deckard: Four years.
Leon: More than you.

Leon throws Deckard against a steam generator and then knocks Deckard's gun out of his hands. He misses Deckard with a punch that punctures a hole behind him, letting off a jet of steam. During their life and death struggle, Leon tosses Deckard into a car windshield, picks him up by the collar, and slaps him across his bloody face, all the while taunting him:

Painful to live in fear, isn't it?...
Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch...
Wake up! Time to die!

Leon prepares to poke and gouge out Deckard's eyes. Ironically, it is replicant Rachael who comes to Deckard's defense, firing the fatal shot that kills Leon. She blows a large hole in his head with Deckard's blaster - she stands facing Deckard in the alleyway.

Back with Rachael in his apartment, the Blade Runner suffers the shakes, and drinks a shot glass of clear Tsing-Tao. Blood flows from his wounded lip, mixing swirling red blood into his shot glass of vodka. He tells Rachael of the hazards of his business:

Deckard: Shakes? Me too. I get 'em bad. It's part of the business.
Rachael (crying): I'm not in the business. (Pause) I am the business.

Deckard retreats to the bathroom, where he removes his shirt and washes his face from a sinkful of water. As she watches him clean and wash up, she sees him spit blood out of his mouth. With dark circles around her eyes (from crying), the mysterious Rachael moves forward toward him, unintentionally causing Deckard to defensively flinch. She only wants to ask him a series of questions about her survival, her flight north [a parallel to how enslaved blacks sought refuge by traveling north on the 'underground railroad' during the Civil War] and her own life-span. She also includes one question about whether he has been measured by the V-K test:

Rachael: What if I go north? Disappear. Would you come after me? Hunt me?
Deckard: No. No, I wouldn't. I owe you one. But somebody would.***
Rachael: Deckard? You know those files on me? The incept date, the longevity, those things. You saw them?
Deckard: They're classified.
Rachael: But you're a policeman.
Deckard: I didn't look at 'em.
Rachael: You know that Voight-Kampff test of yours? Did you ever take that test yourself? (Deckard falls asleep on the couch.) Deckard?

He doesn't hear her ask the last crucial question regarding whether he has been tested as a replicant or not - another hint that there is that distinct possibility. [***Audiences should also watch for another clue - Deckard's glowing eyes in the bathroom scene.]

Rachael glances at his sepia-toned photographs and plays at Deckard's piano while he sleeps. She lets her hair down (becoming more human), wondering if her ability to play is an implanted skill. He awakens and sits next to her on the piano bench, and compliments her on being her own individualistic person:

Deckard: I dreamt music. [His own memories of musical tunes may be implants.]
Rachael: (doubtfully) I didn't know if I could play. I remember lessons. I don't know if it's me or Tyrell's niece.
Deckard: (complimenting) You play beautifully.

She has rekindled in him an ability to love and recognize her (and his own) unique human-ness. In a tender, very erotic moment, he kisses her softly on the side of her face. But she panics and attempts to leave the apartment when he wants to kiss her on the lips. He shuts the door in her face to keep her inside. As a prelude to a love scene between them, Deckard grabs Rachael and roughly throws her against the room's venetian blinds, casting a film-noirish shadow over them. He corners her there and finally breaks her down with a kiss, and instructs the android on how to reciprocate his love. She learns quickly to be romantic/sensual and encourages him to put his hands on her:

Deckard: Now, you kiss me.
Rachael: I can't rely on my mem-...
Deckard: Say, 'kiss me.'
Rachael: 'Kiss me.' (They kiss passionately.)
Deckard: 'I want you.'
Rachael: 'I want you.'
Deckard: Again.
Rachael: 'I want you.' (Without prompting) Put your hands on me. (They kiss again.)

In the next scene in Sebastian's apartment, a perverted parallel to the previous scene in Deckard's apartment, Pris deliberately applies a black, raccoon-like mask over her eyes, sprayed on with an airbrush in front of a mirror. Looking like a New Wave punker, she cartwheels in the hallway and enters Sebastian's room where he sleeps upright in a chair. There in front of him, his work-table is covered with the many toys and automatons that he has created: cuckoo clocks [a symbol of 'cuckoo' craziness or insanity], the Kaiser doll, mannequins, and a miniature toy unicorn. Two white rats scurry around in front of him.

Sebastian tells Pris, whose eyes are noticeably glowing red, that he is 25 years old, but suffers from the "Methuselah syndrome," a premature aging disorder of the glands. In only his mid-twenties, his face is withering, and he has the body of a seventy year-old, although he has the intelligence of a genius and the emotions of a young boy. He has remained on Earth because of his medical disorder: "I couldn't pass the medical."

From out of the rain, Roy appears unexpectedly in Sebastian's apartment. Pris introduces him to "my savior, J. F. Sebastian." Roy greedily kisses Pris. Sebastian is embarrassed and leaves to make breakfast, as Roy confesses:

Roy: There's only two of us now.
Pris: Then we're stupid and we'll die.
Roy (consoling her): No, we won't.

After twirling a broken-half of a Barbie doll [a symbol of Pris' own broken 'pleasure model' condition], Roy moves a chess piece (a figure of a bird) in a second scene in Sebastian's apartment, during a tense breakfast. Sebastian cautions his play: "No, Knight takes Queen. See? Won't do." Immediately afterward, a very faint, ghostly whisper is heard (from one of the toy automatons), adding: "...will mate you." Staring at his guests because they are "so perfect," Sebastian learns that they are NEXUS-6s:

Sebastian: What generation are you?
Roy: NEXUS-6.
Sebastian: (enthusiastically and proudly) Ah, I knew it. 'Cause I do genetic design work for the Tyrell Corporation. There's some of me in you. Ha. (A cuckoo clock faintly and subtly 'cuckoo's' in the background) Show me something.
Roy: Like what?
Sebastian: Like anything.
Roy: We're not computers, Sebastian. We're physical.
Pris: I think, Sebastian, therefore I am.

To demonstrate her superhuman ability, Pris does a backward cartwheel and plunges her hand into a boiling water container to get a hard-boiled egg - she then tosses it at Sebastian. Roy claims that the replicants share a similar problem with Sebastian, who suffers from a genetic deficiency - Methuselah syndrome:

Roy: We've got a lot in common.
Sebastian: What do you mean?
Roy: Similar problems.
Pris (clarifying): Accelerated decrepitude.

Desperate and deadly, they are also awaiting their fast-approaching termination dates and hunger to outlast their four year life span: "If we don't find help soon, Pris hasn't got long to live. We can't allow that." Learning that Dr. Tyrell is Sebastian's frequent chess partner and the "genius" who designed them, Roy and Pris convince Sebastian as their "best and only friend" to help smuggle them into Tyrell's headquarters so he can help them live longer. Roy wants an in-person meeting: "It's better if I talk to him in person." Putting two large eyeballs up to his own eyes, Roy speaks with a goofy accent: "We're so happy you found us." Pris adds - with a kiss: "I don't think there's another human being in the whole world who would have helped us."

Later that night in the pyramidal Tyrell Corporation building, Sebastian spirits Roy Batty up the side of the building in an elevator. Tyrell is introduced in the scene by a view of his replicant owl. Alone and awake, sitting in his luxurious bed, Tyrell is surrounded by tall candles. His computer notifies him of Sebastian's entry: "16417." Using their customary chess game as a subterfuge, Sebastian convinces Tyrell to play chess with him, speaking in chess moves, starting with: "Queen to Bishop 6. Check." Tyrell leaves his bed and examines his actual chessboard with humanoid chess pieces - he makes his next move and takes the Queen: "Knight 6, Queen." Sebastian's next move, "Bishop to King 7, Checkmate, I think" cleverly check-mates him. Sebastian, with help from replicant Batty, defeats Tyrell. Tyrell jokes with him while in a perilous position: "Milk and cookies kept you awake, huh? Let's discuss this. You better come up, Sebastian."

[The conclusion of their game was inspired by an actual, brilliant chess match between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky, played in London at Simpson's on the Strand in 1851, and universally known as the "Immortal Game". Its placement here provides a subtle reference to Roy's ensuing confrontation with his 'creator' and his search to gain immortality - i.e., one of the goals in chess is to make a pawn gain new life as a powerful queen, and to defeat the king. Tyrell's defeat, after making a fatal mistake in the game, foreshadows his own ultimate demise.]

The eccentric engineer brings "a friend" with him for an unnerving encounter between a maker and his creation. The meeting and confrontation between the android NEXUS-6 and Dr. Tyrell is both pensive and violent. Demonstrating his intelligence to the insensitive corporation head, Roy confesses that he wants his life to be extended beyond the built-in four year span - he desires more joie de vivre. Tyrell tries to calm and soothe his manufactured human with a technical explanation of the limitations:

Roy: It's not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Tyrell: What can he do for you?
Roy: Can the maker repair what he makes?
Tyrell: Would you like to be modified?
Roy: (To Sebastian) Stay. (To Tyrell) I had in mind something a little more radical.
Tyrell: What - What seems to be the problem?
Roy: Death.
Tyrell: Death. Well, I'm afraid that's a little out of my jurisdiction, you...
Roy: (as he steps into focus and is face-to-face with Tyrell) I want more life, fucker. [His last word is deliberately muffled and slurred, and may be heard as 'father' - since Tyrell was Roy's 'creator'. In the Final Cut, the line was redubbed by Hauer to clarify it as "father".]
Tyrell: The facts of life. To make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life-system is fatal. The coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.
Roy: Why not?
Tyrell: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutations give rise to revertant colonies like rats leaving the sinking ship. Then the ship sinks.
Roy: What about E.M.S. recombination?
Tyrell: We've already tried it. Ethyl Methane Sulfonate is an alkylating agent and a potent mutagen. It created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before he left the table.
Roy: Then a repressive protein that blocks the operating cells.
Tyrell: Wouldn't obstruct replication, but it does give rise to an error in replication, so that the newly formed DNA strand carries a mutation and you've got a virus again. But, uh, this - all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.
Roy: But not to last.
Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You're the prodigal son. You're quite a prize!
Roy: I've done questionable things.
Tyrell: Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time!
Roy: Nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn't let you in heaven for.

[It was arrogant for the Creator to create creatures that were endowed with intelligence, super-human strength and athleticism and with the ability to develop human emotions, and yet to make them slaves, with life spans of such short duration. Smugly, Tyrell thinks Roy (compared to a light bulb) should be grateful for whatever life span he has been given.]

Roy, the prodigal son, reverently touches Tyrell's cheek with one hand. He also places his hands on both sides of Tyrell's face and kisses his replicant God - his 'father' Tyrell, passionately on the lips. [This is a reference to the Jesus/Judas betrayal in the New Testament, with a kiss.] Then with his powerful bare hands and a look of utter contempt and pathos, Roy suddenly crushes and caves in his maker's skull with superhuman strength and gouges his eyes (!) out as Tyrell screams with blood oozing out of his eye sockets. Tyrell's corpse falls to the floor. Because there is no way for termination dates to be altered, the creature destroys its creator for having provided him with such a hellish life and fate (paralleling the memory of the baby spiders killing their mother). [The Final Cut restored the full, grisly murder in its graphic entirety.]

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