DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
TERMINATOR, THE (director/writer: James Cameron; screenwriters: Gale Anne Hurd/William Wisher/from the following stories by Harlan Ellison The Outer Limits teleplays “Soldier” and “Demon with a Glass Hand” by Harlan Ellison; cinematographer: Adam Greenberg; editor: Mark Goldblatt; music: Brad Fiedel; cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Paul Winfield (Lieutenant Ed Traxler), Lance Henriksen (Detective Hal Vukovich), Bess Motta (Ginger), Rick Rossovich (Matt), Earl Boen (Dr. Peter Silberman), Dick Miller (Pawn Shop Clerk), Bill Paxton (Punk), Brian Thompson (Punk); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Gale Anne Hurd; Orion Pictures; 1984)

 
"It's a work of pulp art to see the future guv of California rip out someone's heart."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A thrill a minute action hero sci-fier, that probably has enough violence to sate even the most hardened videogame thrill seeker and also has the robotic-like Arnold Schwarzenegger as the musclebound villain being a blast from the future sporting the cold personality of a contract killer. It's a work of pulp art to see the future guv of California rip out someone's heart. Writer and director James Cameron ("Aliens"/"The Abyss"/"Titanic") hit the jackpot with this low-budget sleeper hit, and did a first-class job with the fast pacing, finely devised special effects and all the quirky heart-pounding action sequences.

A cyborg (part man/part machine), the unstoppable Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who can grow back body parts, travels back naked from 2029 to 1984 Los Angeles on a mission to kill Sarah J. Conner (Linda Hamilton), whose son John will one day lead a revolt against the master machines. The machines rose from the ashes of a nuclear war that happened in 1984. The Terminator upon landing quickly clothes himself in leather after taking care of a couple of punks with an urban style that even the Crips and Bloods can envy. He then arms himself to the hilt with the latest in high-tech weapons courtesy of ripping off a pawn shop, and relentlessly pursues his mission to kill Sarah Conner.

The befuddled Sarah works as a waitress in a diner. She becomes alarmed when the two Sarah Conner's in the L.A. phone book before her are brutally killed and calls for police protection. When the police can't protect her, human guerrilla fighter Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) comes to the rescue. Reese, like The Terminator is a time traveler from the 21st-century landing naked in L.A. and who immediately swipes a pair of dirty pants from a homeless man and soon comes into possession of a gun. The brave lad has volunteered to come here to help his resistance members protect Sarah so that she can give birth to the future savior of mankind. 

The seedy urban setting fit the dystopic story to a tee, while bodybuilder Arnold was helped considerably by only having to deal with minimal but street-smart clever dialogue. The few lines he spoke in a robotic tone and with his heavy Austrian accent, like his trademark saying of "I'll be back," smack of a pop culture smartness that blockbuster movie franchises are built on. 

Science fiction author Harlan Ellison successfully sued the production that they plagiarized his short stories,  "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand," and as a result was given some coin and story credit.

REVIEWED ON 3/27/2008        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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