Posted: 26 March 2014.
“The Terminator is a blazing, cinematic comic book, full of virtuoso moviemaking…” – Variety (Dec 31, 1983).
It’s hard to believe, but that sci-fi classic: The Terminator is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year! In October 1984, this low-budget action thriller became an instant cult fave, secured the star-status of Arnold Schwarzenegger and launched the career of James Cameron.
Its plot is well-known universally, so there really is no need for Bradscribe to mull over it for the umpteenth time, but as a keen scriptwriter, it would be interesting to find out how this inherently absurd premise got pitched in the first place!
Let’s be honest, the plot is so blatantly absurd, but the energy and enthusiasm with which this package is delivered is instantly compelling, no matter how many times you watch.
The script offers such a ripe collection of great, memorable dialogue; it really has been a struggle to refrain from citing the numerous lines that could have been quoted here!
“As for Schwarzenegger… with his choppy hair, cryptic shades and state-of-the-’80s leather ensemble, he looks like the Incredible Hulk gone punk” – Richard Corliss.
What more can be said about this classic movie, 30 years later? For one thing, it’s still relevant. It’s influence can be seen in dozens of copycat, albeit inferior, vehicles. Looking at it retrospectively, the plot is rather ingenious in its sheer simplicity.
The three principal characters were memorably portrayed by the respective actors, so it is alarming to learn that none of them were first choice. Is it possible to imagine Lance Henriksen (who would play ill-fated Detective Vukovich), Mel Gibson or (heaven forbid!) OJ Simpson as the killer cyborg? Regarding the latter, as Cameron observed at the time, it would be just wrong to have: “such a nice guy playing the part of a ruthless killer.” Arnie made it his own, so anyone else as this distinctive figure would be unthinkable.
Linda Hamilton made Sarah Connor a career-defining role, but the list of would-be contenders for the part during its preliminary stages reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood in the early ’80s!
Considering what a a cold and merciless machine this cyborg really is, it was a nice ironic touch that on the stolen police car driven so recklessly, the door is adorned with the motto:“to care and to protect” By the time the car had crashed, this writer was surprised to notice that all of a sudden the door read: “Dedicated to serve.”
“I’m not stupid, you know. They cannot make things like that yet” – Sarah Connor.
The Terminator has had three sequels, but none could come close to recreating its raw and original power. Now, it is difficult to imagine the James Cameron being responsible for a low-budget movie, but everyone has to start somewhere. It is astounding to think that when Sarah Connor gets jilted via answering machine, it is Mr Cameron himself providing the voice we hear.
TechNoir – the nightclub in which Kyle Reese finds Sarah Connor and confronts the T-800 – has its own story to tell. This site on Pico Boulevard had recently become vacant, so the set designers moved in. Apparently, during filming, people were convinced that it was a real club and had to be turned away. Amazing how a venue playing such dull pop music could be so heaving.
It should be said that the animated scenes of the T-800 exoskeleton were well done for its time, despite the limitations of budget and technology available then. Perhaps it is this aspect which has causedsome people out there to believe that the time is right for it to be remade… sheesh! As those of you few intrepid souls who have been following this Blog will know, Bradscribe despises remakes with every fibre of his being.
To conclude, this film’s reputation will not waver. It remains a bravura piece of movie-making, deservedly polling high in Best Film polls. For once, the trailer got it right: “An adventure unlike anything you’ve seen before!”
So unique, so distinctive, it is hard to envisage seeing its like again…