Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #91
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: October 26, 1984
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $38,400,000 (US)
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: James Cameron
Producers: John Daly, Derek Gibson, Gale Anne Hurd
Screenplay: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, William Wisher Jr.
Special Effects: Stan Winston, Roger George, Frank DeMarco, Gene Warren Jr.
Cinematography: Adam Greenberg
Score: Brad Fiedel
Editing: Mark Goldblatt
Studio: Hemdale Film, Pacific Western, Euro Film Funding, Cinema 84
Distributors: Orion Pictures Corporation, Thorn EMI, MGM Home Entertainment
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Rick Rossovich, Bess Motta, Earl Boen, Dick Miller, Shawn Schepps, Bruce M Kerner, Bill Paxton, Franco Columbu
Suggested Audio Candy:
Brad Fiedel The Terminator
Who was the most iconic character from the eighties? The Terminator right? And which actor was head, shoulders and pectorals above any other action hero from that era? That’s a no-brainer – Arnold Schwarzenegger hands down. You see, director James Cameron’s match up was a match made in heaven from the offset. My first exposure to man-mountain Schwarzenegger was George Butler and Robert Fiore’s absorbing 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. It showed The Austrian Oak at the very apex of his game which was, at the time, professional bodybuilding. The stats don’t lie, Mr Universe at twenty and Mr. Olympia seven times. He had an amiable arrogance about him but that haughtiness has sanctioned his triumph in everything he has gone on to accomplish since.
I recall him jovially proclaiming, possibly whilst trying to dislodge the hula hoop which wouldn’t rotate his 22-inch bicep, that he would pursue acting next. Not only this, but he was positive that he would be preeminent in his vocation there also. Smug git! He only went and did it didn’t he?! Nobody in the eighties action film industry had even a smidgeon of his presence. Let us study the options: Chuck Norris was beginning to resemble a caricature of Chuck Norris by the mid-eighties, Jean Claude Van Damme was still trying to convince us that it wasn’t him wearing that leotard in Breakin’, Michael Dudikoff may have had some slick ninja skills but he was far too much of a pretty-boy and too slight of frame to be considered, Carl Weathers may well have thought he was the man but Drago knocked him down like a satchel of sopping shit and Dolph Lundgren was too preoccupied grappling theatrically with Sylvester Stallone for either man to see The Austrian Oak sneaking up on their blindside. This begs the question, how could you possibly not notice Schwarzenegger sneaking up on you?
The word SCHWARZENEGGER emblazoned on a VHS sleeve was all the endorsement a film required, indeed, if it didn’t have those fourteen bright red letters at the summit then, chances were, it wasn’t worth the rental. Even Cameron’s ego had to play second fiddle on The Terminator as there was only one person the animated crowd wished to see. In truth the film didn’t harm either man’s careers but, in particular, it proved that Arnold was every bit the mack daddy he had claimed to be, so much so, that he practically needed a cane to move from A to B, not because of excess fluid on his knees or an over-abundance of verrucas on the balls of his feet through his punishing training regime, but because he was the absolute balls. A thousand Brian Bosworths couldn’t wrestle the crown from the champ.
We all know the story, unless we’ve spent the past thirty years in solitude in an dilapidated underground bunker. From the precise moment our cyberpunk unfurled from his fetal position sans clothes, we were well aware that he meant business. If we doubted his sincerity then the nearby gaggle of reprobates, led by their chief Bill Paxton, offered him the perfect stage to show off his cojones. After ventilating the grubby heathens in double quick time, he began to assemble a new wardrobe sensing quickly and precisely that, to get anywhere in this town, he would require some durable leathers, shades and a Harley.
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) had unwittingly become his sole reason for placement in such a foul place. At this point she was totally oblivious to the burden she was about to bear. There was soon to be no more flipping burgers for Connor and her eye-liner was soon to be replaced with coarse war paint. As The Governator closed in on her coordinates, whittling down her surplus namesakes efficiently in the process, another alpha-fetus appeared; the antidote to her hunter, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). Similarly dressed for the occasion if said occasion is back street copulation, Reese acquired his clothing somewhat less aggressively and ventured off in hot pursuit.
After saving her mortality, an act she thanked the hell out of him for later, he began to explain the direness of her dilemma. How do you enlighten another that the fate of the free world is rested on their dainty shoulders? Reese decided the blow would be lessened by a rigorous round of sweaty coitus and you couldn’t really argue with his logic. All the while they spent writhing around like two excitable eels in a water bed, their aggressor was sniffing out his target’s menstrual trail. Clearly able to smell her sex from a country mile off, he began his ultimate ascent.
The second act was the absolute epitome of breathless as Connor attempted to outrun the inevitable, with Reese providing a staunch ally. There could be no cunning Marx Brothers disguises or quicly checking into LAX airport for the next outbound flight as The Terminator was designed with one thing and one thing only in mind, that being to terminate as per stated in his instruction manual. They may have gotten as far as assuming their upright positions in their economy seats but her dogged pursuer would invariably have been the one pushing the duty free trolley. No safe haven, no respite, no more fluid exchanges between the sheets, just a whole lot of running and hiding. Being mankind’s fleeting last hope sure had its drawbacks.
The police station appeared to offer no safe haven, despite being manned by Lance Henriksen and the late Paul Winfield. The stealthy approach was not necessary here as the on duty desk sergeant discovered the answer to the ongoing riddle of 7-Across was splat. Once inside, the trail of carnage escalated into one of the most devastating displays of mass termination in eighties cinema. Meanwhile, our urban heroine was now beginning to get a little steel in her spine and Reese’s oats appeared to have fed her the minerals she needed to tackle this relentless cyborg.
However, The Terminator too was primed for the showdown. Any last-minute tweaks had been made and conjunctivitis prevented. Unfortunately for our harassed pair, the moody robot had decided he no longer needed his garments and those leather strides had chaffed for the last time. This time he revealed his true colors, primarily silver, as the inevitable climactic clash commenced. Seemingly unstoppable, it was ironically machinery that came to Sarah’s mortal aid. Reese had since expired, his work was done and his progeny had been planted along with some undiagnosable strain of futuristic gonorrhoea. The freshly impregnated Connor summoned all her inner strength to halt her metallic nemesis and, with that, the ordeal was seemingly over.
Now for the ultimate headfuck: Jürgen Prochnow, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Randy Quaid and O.J Simpson (???) were considered for the titular role, while both Mel Gibson and Tom Selleck foolishly turned down the part. Meanwhile, Bridget Fonda, Tatum O’Neal, Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diane Lane, Carrie Fisher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kathleen Turner , Rhea Perlman and, try not to cackle, Liza Minnelli were pondered upon for the part of Sarah with Glenn Close and Debra Winger turning their noses up. In addition, Schwarzenegger was considered to play Kyle Reese and Henriksen to play The Terminator. It could all have played out entirely differently but Cameron’s decisions were astute and wholly vindicated. Arnold was considered indispensable, so shooting was deferred while he completed Conan the Destroyer during the interim, while Cameron passed the time by commencing preparations for another of his timeless tour-de-forces, Aliens.
There really isn’t much I can say about The Terminator that hasn’t already been stated boundless times already. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner aside, it pretty much single-handedly redefined eighties science fiction cinema and propelled Cameron into the major leagues, as well as solidifying his leading man’s reputation. By incorporating themes such as capitalism, the caustic effects of war, man versus machinery, as well as reinforcing the conversion of gender roles and supplying memorandum regarding humanity’s ultimate self-detonation, its relevance was unparalleled. But the real doozy is just how motherfucking white-hot it was and forever will be.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 10/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The scene where The Terminator performs self-repairs on his damaged right arm and eye is enough to make you grimace and no less than you would expect from FX architect Stan Winston. There was also more brutal violence than you could shake a USB stick at, particularly during the police station rampage where the long arm of the law was cut swiftly and decisively down to size. As for pleasures of the flesh, Connor and Reese are provided the chance to consummate their relationship although, with the fate of the entire free world hanging precariously in the balance, he pulls out before any money shots can be provided.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)