Blade Runner | 1982
Somehow, Ridley Scott’s film of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? has mutated in critical opinion from so-so spectacle to a classic of modern cinema.
More to do with 20/20 hindsight than the release of the, admittedly far superior, Director’s Cut which restores the equivocal unicorn to the film while removing Harrison Ford’s dirgy voiceover (he hoped it would prove unusable) and the tacked-on happy ending (which consists of second unit footage from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining).
Harrison Ford is Deckard, a Blade Runner (a title taken from William Burroughs, replacing Dick’s box-office killer), a tracker-down and eliminator of very human looking replicants. Rutger Hauer is Batty, the replicant in love with life.
The polluted, rainswept, Orientalised Los Angeles futurescape, which has provided the pattern for countless dystopian fantasies, is the old Warner Bros backlot gangster street in Burbank, transformed with miles of neon and acres of glass. You can see the backlot on the excellent Warner Bros VIP Studio Tour.
The cop station of the future, to which Deckard is hauled, is an office set built within the vast concourse of another favourite Los Angeles location, the 1939 Spanish Revival-style Union Station, 800 North Alameda Street, downtown, seen in many films, including The Way We Were, The Driver, The Replacement Killers (which shares many of Blade Runner’s locations), Pearl Harbor, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can.
The waterlogged home of toymaker Sebastian, where Deckard is menaced by androids and has the final showdown with Batty, is the Bradbury Building, 304 South Broadway at Third Street. Outside, it’s an unremarkable red-brick block, but the central courtyard, illuminated by skylights (through which the illuminated blimp is seen in the movie), is a joyous fantasy of wrought-iron grillwork, marble and brickwork surrounding open-cage elevators. It was a bit decrepit when Blade Runner was filmed, but it’s since been lovingly restored and now houses offices. The ground floor is open to the public.
The wonderfully photogenic Bradbury Building can also be seen in 1949 Douglas Sirk drama Shockproof; Frank Tashlin’s Richard Harris-Doris Day comedy thriller Caprice (as ‘Paris’); Murder in the First, with Christian Slater (as ‘San Francisco’); Mike Nichols’ Wolf , with Jack Nicholson turning into a werewolf, (as ‘New York’) and, finally, as Los Angeles in both (500) Days Of Summer (it’s the office building where Tom finally attends a job interview) and The Artist (the staircase where George and Peppy encounter each other).
The exterior of the Bradbury Building filmed at the junction of Broadway and Third Street, but there’s plenty of set dressing so don’t look for the massive pillars.
The interior of the scuzzy ‘Yukon Hotel’ is the Pan Am Building, South Broadway at Third Street, opposite the Bradbury Building, downtown Los Angeles. You may recognise it as the apartment of the comatose ‘Sloth’ victim in David Fincher’s Se7en.
The tunnel through which Deckard approaches his apartment is the Second Street Tunnel, running between Figueroa Street and Hill Street, downtown Los Angeles.
His home turns out to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s terrific Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, 2607 Glendower Avenue, a concrete Mayan temple-style home on the slopes below the Griffith Park Observatory. A few storeys were added optically, and casts were taken from the building’s trademark concrete blocks to recreate the interior in the studio.
The Ennis House has been a screen favourite since schlockmeister William Castle used it as The House On Haunted Hill back in 1958, appearing in another Ridley Scott film, 1989's Black Rain, as well as Rush Hour, Karate Kid III and Day Of The Locust.