Blade Runner VHS tape
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The estimated reading time for this post is 109 seconds
If you are generation-X Blade Runner and ET were two sides of the same coin. I got to watch ET in the cinema but only got to see the Blade Runner VHS tape at first.
Both films came out in the same year: 1982 and you got to see one, or the other. Being 12 at the time I got to see ET. It wasn’t only an age demarcation, but being a light and dark of the same scientific vision of the future. ET was light (with a couple of scary bits when the authorities capture him in the oxygen tent).
On the other hand, Blade Runner was a dark dystopian future. The darkness fitted into the grim visage of the UK at the time, particularly in the North of England. It was no accident that some of the macro cityscapes mirrored the petro-chemical industry of Teeside where Ridley Scott grew up (and was eerily similar to the Mersey basin where I lived in the UK).
There were also different in terms of their nature. While ET (like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Back To The Future) was a film filled it with consumerism. ET was also film of passive consumption or ‘sit back media’, in that respect a very traditional film. The experience of Blade Runner was much improved if you managed to watch it on video.
You could pause, rewind and move slowly through parts of the film to explore the multiple visual layers of the film. Given that games consoles and computers were less popular at the time videos like Blade Runner with deep rich content were the closest one had to an interactive experience.
In fact exploring Myst a decade later and watching, pausing and rewinding Blade Runner gave me a similar kind of experience.
Whilst I prefer the narrative of the later cuts, watching digital versions on DVD, Blu-Ray or iTunes seem too clean. Part of the experience missing is that bit of blur and white noise VHS offers, mainly because I first experienced Blade Runner on the small screen in what was then still largely an analogue world. The blur and white noise feels more ‘cyber punk’.