Discover more from Secret Oranges
The Blade Runner Effect
Blade Runner’s American release date was June 25, 1982.
It's now 41 years since I went to the advance screening of Blade Runner in Shaftsbury Avenue, London, organised by Alan McKenzie, editor of Marvel UK’s Starburst magazine, which coincidentally I ended up working on just one year later. There was a voucher printed inside the magazine that month and all that was required was to cut it out and take it along on the day; a Sunday if I remember correctly. Unfortunately and unexpectedly, hundreds of readers did exactly the same thing, and the queues went right around the block. Word had got around and people were travelling down from Scotland and from all over the country. There was concern that some of us weren't going to get in, but to save disappointment they opened up two of the screens and as they reached the end of the first reel in Screen 1, it was transferred to Screen 2 where the other half of the audience could watch it. The director, Ridley Scott was there to oversee this himself.
I asked Alan McKenzie to comment on what happened that day.
All absolutely true, Steve ... we weren't expecting Ridley to show up. Far from it. But when he heard about the screening, he came to the cinema because he wanted to, "make sure the sound was balanced correctly." It was very important to him that the first proper audience for the film should hear it exactly as he intended. And yes, way too many people turned up. We figured we'd be lucky if ANYONE showed up on a Sunday morning. But as you say, there were about two hundred people more than we could accommodate. Luckily, the publicity company we'd arranged this with were delighted that their movie had generated so much interest and agreed to pay for the second screen to be opened up. And yes, we did have to carry the reels of film from one projection booth to the other, as we only had one print of the film. That was a fun day ...
A nicely edited clip with music by famed film composer and synth pioneer, Vangelis.
I listened to my cassette of The New American Orchestra’s version of the Blade Runner soundtrack relentlessly for years until the official Vangelis album was released on CD. I also had the chance to meet the composer himself one night during my photographic moonlighting phase. He was out having dinner with the amazing Eartha Kitt, and the club owner (right) was keen to have his photo taken with them both. As you can probably tell, Vangelis was pretty indifferent to the whole thing.
Now that I’m finding Blade Runner related photos for this post, I’ll share a few I took of the amazing Manko, as Replicant, Pris.
Back in 2015, and a couple of nights before I left the East End of London for California, I got a message from my friends Manko and Jason Atomic who lived just up the road from me. Manko has a life modeling project called Art Model Collective, and she’d just finished modeling at a life drawing class that night, dressed as her own unique take on Pris. As it was getting closer to the year in which the film was set, she thought it would be cool to do some Blade Runner tribute pics in our local Chrisp St Market, a symbol of architectural modernism when it was originally built. I got a text at 11.00 pm that night to meet up in 15 mins, by which time the location would hopefully be deserted. It was a fun, stealth photoshoot and the three of us managed to shoot and wrap in exactly 40 minutes! I shot the photos using a compact Canon S100, and I think we got some interesting results, enhanced by Manko’s contortions, which were every bit as impressive as Daryl Hannah’s.
I love the way this worked out, it looks a bit like the ‘bullet time’ effect from The Matrix.
I did so many life drawing sessions as Pris that year! I can’t recall exactly post which event we did this impromptu photoset, but once I unleashed my Pris tribute at Art Model Collective session, that look ended up massively in demand with many life drawing groups around London. I just kept ripping up more tights and the fringe of my Pris wig kept getting stained with more black eyeshadow. The one constant were these epic Natacha Marro thigh high latex boots!
Here are the Instagram tags for @ natachamarro and @ manko.sebastian
If my memory serves me, Jason beamed a torchlight onto Manko’s face as I shot this.
It’s a wrap, and I did one last shot of Manko and Jason before we strolled back to our own apartments. I do miss our spontaneous photo shoots, and our evenings in a local Poplar pub called (believe it or not) Bum Daddy’s!
That late night shoot felt quite risky, I recall the exciting sense of danger when we were shooting, though my character must have looked so alien and incomprehensible to the local mumbling junkies and stumbling drunks they must have discounted the whole thing as a hallucination.
We were discussing just how dodgy that particular location was, which I can attest to. I’m living (still… thankfully!) proof of that, because a few years previously, I’d had a Chinese meal with Brendan McCarthy after a day working on his Swimini Purpose art book, and as I walked back home past the market, a gang of four decided to smash the right side of my face and nose in with a baseball bat. After a lengthy hospital stay and the expertise of a talented NHS plastic surgeon, I am now part titanium!
Some of Jason’s drawings of Manko from a life drawing session at Hackney Picture House. Atomic is the unofficial holder of the World land/speed record for portraiture! You’ll find his drawings and comix @ jasonatomic on Instagram.
Here’s a photo I took of the actual Blimp from the film. It’s seen better days, but it was nice to see that it’s been preserved and put on display for the Warner Bros. studio tour.
I managed to get this shot of the famous Bradbury Building, in Downtown, Los Angeles. This was used as the location for J. F. Sebastian's apartment, where Deckard tracks down the replicants.
Burbank, CA, October 2017. At last we got the long-awaited sequel!
All photographs © 2023 Steve Cook
Thanks for reading Secret Oranges! Subscribe for free. I’ll try and keep it interesting!