Friday, February 20, 2015

The Bradbury Building

Following on from my last blog about The Outer Limits, one of my favourite episodes from that show, and possibly my favourite slice of sixties television, is 'Demon with a Glass Hand'. Scripted by Harlan Ellison from his own story, it tells the tale of Trent, a man who holds the future of Humanity but he can't remember how or why. He has been sent back in time to avoid the alien Kyben, but they follow him through a time mirror. One of his hands has been replaced by a computer, and this advises him to locate the remaining fingers of his hand so that it can help him better. He is trapped in an old office building, and therein meets a girl. And together they have to avoid the Kyben, repair his hand, and save Humanity.

It's a brilliant idea, and it is executed perfectly. The cinematography is brilliant: the black and white photography perfectly capturing the story, and the use of light and dark and shadow is also masterful. Everything about the teleplay is, to my mind, perfect, and one of the main elements which works so well is the office building, an art deco monstrosity of walkways, railings and stairs, with metal lifts and bags of personality.

The building has been used several times in film and television. The most well known usage was in the film Blade Runner where it is used for where J F Sebastian has his robot/doll making shop. It was also used in The Artist and many, many more.

Amazingly, it still exists in Downtown LA (304 Broadway at West 3rd Street) and is called The Bradbury Building - not after the famous science fiction writer, but after it's funder Lewis L Bradbury.  When we visited LA this year, we met with our friend Dean Haglund, who lives on Broadway, and he kindly took us down to the Bradbury for a look.

It was built in 1893 and more information about the building and it's history and use in film and television can be found on the Wiki entry here:

Unfortunately, while you can freely visit the lobby and lower stairs, all the upper floors and walkways are out of bounds as the building is currently being used by the LAPD's Internal Affairs division ... but you can still see them. The lifts are still there, the railings, the walkways, and it all looks the same as on that Outer Limits episode.  Here's a pile of black and white photographs from the episode and my own colour shots taken this year ... it's a magnificent piece of architecture, beautiful and imposing, and I am so glad that it hasn't been torn down or changed to make way for some modernist mall or office block.

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