Blush Response: ‘Blade Runner’ Souvenir Magazine, 1982

 Exhibit / November 8, 2018

Object Name: Blade Runner Souvenir Magazine
Maker and Year: Ira Friedman, 1982
Object Type: Magazine
Image Source: Internet Archive
Description: (Claire Sewell)

Blade Runner was not an immediate success upon its June 25, 1982 release, a fact that has become part of the film’s lore over the years. It had quite a bit of competition that same summer: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Tron, Poltergeist, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. The world of Blade Runner, which established the cyberpunk genre, presented an altogether different, darker sci-fi, with a visual sensibility far ahead of its time. As it turns out, this “Souvenir Magazine” found on the Internet Archive, which makes it seem as though the film was a hit, has its own interesting backstory. Cinephilia & Beyond reveals that its publisher, Ira Friedman, designed and produced the magazine after leaving the publishing department at Lucasfilm. His excitement about Blade Runner is evident on every page, the magazine obviously a true labor of love. He recalled in 2002 how “freshly minted copies of the Blade Runner magazine remained behind in the seats” following one of the first screenings, but digitization allows it to live on: an almost too perfect simulacrum of the film’s eventual impact and legacy.

The Table of Contents features a dedication “to Philip K. Dick, a literary legend, without whose extraordinary imagination and cautionary vision, there would be no Blade Runner.” A full-page interview with Dick (with one by Ridley Scott on the next page) is especially noteworthy. Dick was nothing but supportive of the film adaptation of his 1969 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? As a fan of both, it’s easy for me to see why he was excited, going so far as to say that the film was an “almost supernatural experience” for him (Dick died just a few months before Blade Runner’s release). Interestingly, the attitude expressed here doesn’t quite jive with his more well-known curmudgeonly personality.

One of the most curious aspects of the magazine is the Harrison Ford interview. Ford goes on at length about acting decisions, technical details, and even Deckard’s haircut. It’s hard to imagine Ford discussing any project as effusively as he does here, but perhaps he was just grateful to talk about something other than Star Wars for once. I also wish the magazine had paid a little more attention to Rachael (Sean Young), who ends up seeming like a minor character, despite a full-page photo. Her relationship with Deckard is explored a bit further on in the magazine, but it’s clear that Friedman was banking on Ford’s star power.

The set photos, screencaps, and production drawings that make up the bulk of the magazine recall how the film captured all of the brooding, futuristic atmosphere present in Dick’s novel, leaving behind its more esoteric plot points, to create a piece of cinematic art that stands on its own. A photo of the iconic model of the Tyrell Corporation pyramid and its creator, Special Effects Photographic Supervisor Douglas Trumbull, is also included, as is an interview with Trumbull later on. The model is now part of the collection of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York and is just as impressive in person.

Friedman’s publication is about as complete a fan magazine as you could want, right down to the advertisements for related Blade Runner merchandise and even a Marvel comic book. (I would give my eyeteeth for a chance to join the Blade Runner fan club, though such a notion seems almost comical.) Blade Runner is no kids’ film, obviously, despite the tie-in marketing attempts and merchandise that included die-cast toy cars. Yet it’s those touches that make the magazine such a nostalgic gem in spite of itself.

Much of the information presented here has been made available elsewhere over the years, but it’s still undeniably fun to revisit the film in this way. The magazine is rounded out with a full-color centerfold poster illustrated by Robert Altemus, who also provided the art direction and design for the magazine. He and Friedman would continue to collaborate on other souvenir magazines over the next several years. Dick’s novels and stories also continue to be popular source material for films and television shows, especially as many of his themes prove ever more prescient. Still, Blade Runner remains a defining moment in science fiction film and perhaps the best-known adaptation of his work.

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