“Blade Runner: The Final Cut”
& The Oakland-Berkeley Hills Fire

Blade Runner still image: Blade Runner Partnership

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner: The Final Cut” opens Friday in NYC, and I really want to go see it. After 25 years, director Ridley Scott has re-released the film with lost scenes and plot lines added back in, and original effects scenes digitally scanned at 8,000 lines per frame, and then carefully retouched. This is the version that he was trying to make in 1982. After going over-budget at the time, the financiers of the film took over and Scott had to bend steeply to their wishes. A narration track was written and added, and the film was given a happy ending. Ironically, footage used as backdrops for the new happy ending — scenes of rolling countryside — were borrowed from Stanley Kubrick; out-takes from The Shining!

I saw Blade Runner in 1982 when it first came out. I can’t say I remember much beyond generally liking it. Nine years later, I happened to be in San Francisco, when the “Director’s Cut” of the film was released, and went with friends to see it at The Castro Theatre. This time I remember being totally entranced, and a bit spooked. It was late October 1991, and the news in San Francisco was already surreal enough; the Oakland-Berkeley Hills Fire had whipped out of control days before, and destroyed or damaged 3,469 homes and apartments in the hills just across the bay from San Francisco. It was the worst fire in terms of loss of life and property since the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

If the movie wasn’t dark enough, the local mood was darker. I drove past the fire area a few days later; it was like a nuclear bomb had hit Berkeley. There was nothing left standing for miles in each direction except for brick chimneys. It was so unbelievable. I was staying at my Aunt’s house up in the hills of Berkeley, but had flown up to Eugene, Oregon to visit some other friends a few days before the fire. I flew back to SF the morning after the fire, and saw the whole smoldering hillside from the airplane as we circled to land.

My Aunt’s house was spared by the direction of the wind that day.

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