Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blade Runner, The Making of a Classic: The Starlog Project, Starlog #184, November 1992

The Rifftrax boys aren’t known for loading up their DVDs with lots of extras, but on their latest release, Maniac (a truly Z-grade flick, BTW), they include video of their recent appearance at San Diego Comic Con. After riffing on an instructional short video (all about how to purchase food), they took audience suggestions for a movie they should do this year. Audience members lined up behind a microphone, each one stating the nominated film and their reasons. Amid a flurry of such candidates as Zardoz (“Sean Connery in a diaper!”), one audience member suggested they riff on Blade Runner.

The audience was sort of stunned, its reaction a mix of gasps, groans, and silence (for you kids, that means they collectively thought, “WTF?”), and the Rifftraxers quickly dispatched the person who suggested the film. Blade Runner, you see (and you probably already know, since you’re the type of person who actually reads a blog post about an 18-year-old science-fiction film magazine), is a classic.

The Ridley Scott adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story wasn’t widely known before its release. There had been a bit of talk in the months before it came out; in one interview, star Harrison Ford was asked about the movie for which he was reported to be bald (fans were reassured that he wasn’t going to be bald; instead, the story required a very short haircut). But when the movie came out in 1982, it blew people away with its visual imagery of a multicultural, dark, and dirty megalopolis of the future. Moviegoers rewarded it by staying away in droves, and it flopped at the box office. Don’t blame me; I saw it with my brother and some friends at a drive-in theater (for you young ’uns, a drive-in theater was an outdoor parking lot where they showed films).

The film would live on, helped in no small part by the fact that every six months or so, Ridley Scott would release another version of it. (Okay, I’m exaggerating with that “every six months” bit, but we own the blu-ray Ultimate Collectors Edition, which features no less than five different versions of the film.) With this issue, Starlog puts Blade Runner on its cover again, 10 years after the film was originally released. It would once again feature Blade Runner on its cover for the movie’s 25th anniversary; but that’s issue #359, and we’re quite a ways away from it. For now, this issue, which includes interviews with many Blade Runner creators and participants, will do quite nicely. But I suspect that Starlog will have to come back from the dead so it can feature Blade Runner’s 50th anniversary in 2032, which would kind of make it the zombie magazine featuring the zombie movie – two creatures that wouldn’t die.

Starlog #184
88 pages (including covers and four un-numbered pages)
Cover price: $4.95

On page seven of this issue, the magazine announces a new kind of in-person relationship with readers: Starlog the Science Fiction Universe is the name of a new retail store opened up in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Featuring everything you’d expect from the publisher of Starlog, Fangoria, and Comics Scene, the store sells magazines, posters, videos, comics, toys, models, and more. Publisher Norman Jacobs soon expanded the stores in a nationwide franchise and even spun it off as a publicly listed company. I still remember visiting the Starlog store that was located in a suburban Aurora, Illinois, mall when I lived in Chicago in the 1990s. (I bought a couple old Starblazers videos.) But the venture would not last, as much as I thought it was a neat concept. After expanding nationwide and even in the United Kingdom, the whole thing went bust, but not before it endured some legal brouhahas (see here and here). By the late 1990s, the Starlog Franchise Corp. had new leadership and was no longer selling science-fiction stuff; it had transformed itself into a candy retailer. Can’t make this up.

In other new productions, this issue Starlog announces the upcoming publication of three new one-shot magazines: Dracula: The Complete Vampire (which was a great publication, in my opinion), the official posterbook for The Addams Family (the animated TV series, not the movies), and the official Star Trek: The Next Generation FX Makeup Journal. And in one last production note about this issue of Starlog, there are four additional color pages in this issue that are not numbered; all four are filled with ads, but many other pages also feature ads and they are included in the page-count, so I’m not sure why these aren’t. Big deal, I know.

The rundown: On the cover, it’s a collage of Blade Runner photos, but on the contents page, they’re using the same photo that appeared on the cover of Starlog #58. In David McDonnell’s Medialog column, there’s a short note that Ridley Scott says he’s working on a sequel to Blade Runner, plus there are a couple photos by Norman Jacobs of his brand-spanking-new retail store in New Jersey (the only photos credited to Jacobs during the entire run of the magazine, if I’m not mistaken; that trivia will get you far in life, I promise).

In Gamelog, Michael McAvennie reviews a number of role-playing games; Communications letters include lots of readers slagging on Alien3, plus one reader from Russia telling us how happy he is to be able to legally subscribe to Starlog there now that the Soviet Union is no more, and Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features ED-209; classic Twilight Zone releases are highlighted in David Hutchison’s Videolog column; the Fan Network pages include, as usual, Lia Pelosi’s ongoing directory of fan clubs and publications, and the listing of fan conventions; Booklog reviews Dark Sky Legion, Black Steel, Ray Bradbury Presents Dinosaur World, Raft, Chains of Light, and Captain Jack Zodiac; and in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn goes on a roller coaster journey.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space was a movie that became a comic book, and this issue writer Mark Ellis tells Tom Weaver all about the four-color version; and veteran correspondent Lee Goldberg interviews writer/producer Robin Bernheim about Quantum Leap, though she also talks about other programs she’s worked with, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, Remington Steele, and Houston Knights, which she calls a “crappy show.”

Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier contribute five articles that comprise the Blade Runner cover story: an interview with writer and executive producer Hampton Fancher, who says the story is about “that discover of [Deckard’s] own soul, falling in love with the thing he had to kill”; co-writer David Peoples, who says “it’s a detective story all right, even more than it is SF”; designer Syd Mead, who informs us that “originally, the film’s ambience was going to be cold, but they found out what the cost was going to be to ship all the sets to Michigan or Wisconsin to get them to freeze. So, instead, it became misty, hot, with sweltering rains.”; production designer Lawrence G. Paull, who said the look of the film “was a combination of what I had said, Ridley [Scott]’s input and Syd [Mead]’s own ideas” (Paull was nominated for an Academy Award for art direction for his work on the film); and Ridley Scott, who says that when it comes to designs in his films, “I get inspiration from Moebius all the time! I think Moebius is possibly one of the greatest comic strip artists ever!“.

In non-Blade Runner articles, Stan Nicholls talks to the lesser-known half of the supermarionation fun couple, Sylvia Anderson, who discusses the creation of fan classics such as Thunderbirds, Supercar, and Fireball XL5; Tom Weaver contributes a talk with actor William Schallert, who talks about his roles in The Man from Planet X, Twilight Zone: The Movie, “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode of Star Trek, and others; Stan Nicholls interviews novelist Stephen R. Donaldson (The Gap seris, A Man Rides Through, etc.); Marc Shapiro checks in with the stars and creators of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, a very short-lived TV spinoff of the famed/infamous Bill & Ted movie comedies; and editor David McDonnell talks journalistic pursuits of Blade Runner, going back to his days working with Jim Steranko at Prevue (his haunt before joining Starlog).
“One of the things that has happened in the years since Thunderbirds is that it has gotten rather tainted by whining on a personal level. With [former husband and former business partner] Gerry, I mean. I object to that. I think it should be kept professional. We’re no longer husband and wife, but we were professional partners, and I would like to keep that going.”
–Sylvia Anderson, interviewed byStan Nicholls: “Dance of the Supermarionettes”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

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