Non-Fiction Reviews

Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

(1996/2007) Paul M. Sammon, Gollancz, 16.99, hrdbk, pp588. ISBN 978-0-575-0-8160-4


This second (2007) revised and updated edition of Paul Sammon's 1996 text on one of the top SF films ever made (as determined by a number of polls (see Essential SF). Published just before the 2007 release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut (December 2007), it simply is the most definitive reference book on the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner for which die-hard fans of the film could wish. In part this is due to the book's size, which at 588 pages is reasonably substantial. In part it is due to Sammon's reasonably concise, fact-rich, writing style. Add to this copious and appendices and you have a rather solid reference work.

Not only does Future Noir contain sections on how the film was made which you would naturally expect but much more. Of course much more is needed. There is the book, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep on which the film is based and then, of course, there is the fact that Blade Runner is one of those films that has not only appeared in various formats but also various versions. Content also includes input from the director and principal star Harrison Ford. Along the way we discover just how big a flop the film initially was. It got bad reviews and many (apparently) did not understand what it was all about. This and the fact that there was a glut of genre offerings from Hollywood that year all meant that the film had a rough ride. It was only with its video release that rental income offset the loss and also, we are told, soon a half a million video cassettes were sold. We also learn that is was Scott's (and co-screenplay writer David Peoples') idea for Deckard to be a replicant in the Director's Cut: an idea shunned by Harrison Ford.

Quibbles? Actually very few. I am not comfortable will all of Paul Sammon's interpretation of Philip Dick and Do Android's and the author not being a real SF writer (rather using the genre as a delivery system (isn't that what all writers do with words and genres and so what is actually being said here?)) but the good news is that Sammon is reasonably good about signalling his opinion as opposed to when he is citing facts. I can live with this especially as if the man has done the slog to research and produce this book then the least he deserves is to express an opinion.

At the end of the day this is not just an excellent Blade Runner reference but it also provides an insight into how an SF author's work gets from the page to the big screen. (Writers will find it frightening in places.) A must for fans of the film and arguably seasoned Philip Dick readers.

Jonathan Cowie

See also the article Blade Runner vs. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

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