Rick Deckard

Created by Philip K. Dick
Developed for the screen by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples

When the topic of sci-fi/P.S.s comes up for air, so does the Ridley Scott's grim and gritty film Blade Runner, and, occasionally, the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? it was loosely (very loosely) based on.

The film, a stylish chunk of cyber-noir, starring Harrison Ford, is a stone-cold classic, a much loved and hugely influential film that pretty much cemented Ford's status as a star.

But it's flawed, at least as originally released, according to its director.

But what does he know?

RICK DECKARD is a former cop who's recruited to track down and "retire" runaway replicants for the bounty on their heads, in 2019 Los Angeles. The film is visually stunning, full of gloomy, smoke-filled shots of an over-crowded and decaying hellhole rife with corruption; a city where it's always night and raining. Deckard is a loner, a bitter and cynical killer who's started to identify more with the androids he's hunting down than the humans he's supposedly protecting. A provocative, intelligent, challenging, beautifully-photographed film, ruined (some say) by the phony, tacked-on happy shiny ending (where did all that sunlight come from?) that the studio supposedly insisted on. A director's cut version is also available, which removes Harrison's voiceover narration and the last scene, which Scott felt was too "up," and added a sequence or two that jacked up ambiguities barely hinted at in the original version. Get that one.

Or get the original. They're both great.

The book, on the other hand, my sci-fi friends assure me, is a stone dead classic by one of the renowned masters of sci-fi. Sure. As long as you don't actually read it.

I did, and I'm sorry to say my initial reaction was "Meh."

As Jonathan Lethem once put it, Dick "couldn't write his way out of a wet papersack."

The original book doesn't even qualify as a private eye novel, and it's a coin toss as to whether the film does. Rick Deckard, in print, also tracks down fugitive androids, but he's a cop for the LAPD, a salaried employee of the city. He's hopelessly middle-class, with a bad case of coveting his neighbour's horse, and a loveless marriage to a wife addicted to her empathy box. In this future, L.A. is under-populated, due to massive mounts of radiation, and the majority of the planet's people have emigrated to other worlds. A consequence of the fallout is the extinction of almost all animal life on earth, and therefore, owning an actual animal becomes the ultimate status symbol. For those unable to afford one, such as lowly-paid civil servants such as Rick, lifelike replicas are available. Rick, to his chagrin, can only afford an electric sheep. But when a gang of renegade androids make their way to earth, Rick sees his chance for a ticket to Easy Street. Under a relatively straightforward, rather plodding tale lies a complex novel which questions our notions of identity, empathy, religion and morality.

Recommended reading, maybe, but don't expect it to have much to do with the subsequent film. And don't expect it to keep you up at night flipping pages. The word "blade runner" never appears in the book.

Then again, sci-fi author K.W. Jeter, who has successfully continued the adventures of the film Deckard in several sequels to the film (and to the original novel), and added a few pretty nifty touches of his own. At thr same time, he started another series, set in the same nasty Los Angeles, featuring McNihil, a former "information cop" with a fetish for the classc film noirs of the 1940's.

But even more surprising was the appearance in 2017 of a cinematic sequel, Blade Runner 2049, produced by Ridley Scott and directed by hot shot director Denis Villeneuve, with Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard, who has been missing for over thirty years, and Ryan Gosling as LAPD blade runner K, who's been dispatched to find him.


  • "The movie is...superb, both as science fiction and as a private eye tale of pursuit and capture."

-- Baker and Nietzel, One Hundred and One Knights

  • "(Philip K.) Dick was Chandler's dark twin, a man who couldn't write his way out of a wet papersack."

-- Jonathan Lethem, Newsweek, April 18, 1984




  • BLADE RUNNER...Buy on DVD...Buy on Blu-Ray
    (1982, Warner Brothers)
    118 minutes as originally released
    Written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples
    Based on Do Androids Dream of Eletric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
    Directed by Ridley Scott
    Starring Harrison Ford as RICK DECKARD
    Also starring Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, William Sanderson, Daryl Hannah, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, Brion James

Is this even a P.I. flick? There are so many shout-outs in it to private eye films and literature, I just always assumed Deckard was a private operative. In the long-awaited sequel, however, it's stressed that Deckard was LAPD.

    (2017, Columbia)
    163 minutes
    Premiere: October 5, 2017
    Written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples
    Based on Do Androids Dream of Eletric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
    Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
    Story by Hampton Fancher
    Directed by Denis Villeneuve
    Starring Ryan Gosling as K
    and Harrison Ford as RICK DECKARD
    Also starring Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Mark Arnold, Jared Leto, Vilma Szeecsi, Wood Harris, David DastmalchianTómas Lemarquis, Sylvia Hoeks


The Film Geeks' Top Ten P.I. Films. James and Gustavo have spoken.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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