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Terminator, The (1984)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Terminator, The (1984) For me, James Cameron's finest hour. The original TERMINATOR is more like a slasher movie with very mild sci-fi underpinnings than anything else. It's about this indestructible, Michael Myers-ish character, in the (back then) very scary guise of newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger going on a complete mindless rampage, mowing down anything in his way. And THAT, folks, is a SLASHER movie. Almost a first-person shooter videogame come to life. Arnold kind of came out of nowhere and this was his breakout role. He seemed so unique, intense, and just plain TOUGH back in '84: he's someone you wouldn't want to mess with or meet in a dark alley. His physique, his no nonsense mannerisms, and that deep authoritative voice all gave him a very ominous presence onscreen. Going through the phone book and systematically blowing away anyone named SARAH CONNOR that lives in L.A., Arnie is in full stalk and slash mode in THE TERMINATOR, even ripping out a guy's heart (!) with his bare hands to steal his clothes in an opening scene and later, nonchalantly shooting innocent women in the back! Later, he follows possible victim-to-be Linda Hamilton into a dance club and blows away dozens of innocent bystanders with his Uzi in an attempt to nail her...Flashing forward, he trails Hamilton into a police department and casually mows down dozens of officers in an attempt to off her again. And no matter who hits him, stabs him, or shoots him...he cannot be stopped. He just keeps on going like an indestructible doomsday machine. It's amazing stuff and for the first hour or so, it's pretty much a cat and mouse slasher situation and I remember being blown away by the tone, the action, the police trying to figure it all out, and just the whole vibe of THE TERMINATOR, all of which still holds up today. Then, slowly and expertly, throughout the action, it is revealed WHY Arnie is this indestructible Michael Myers-ish character- he's actually a robot from the future (with human flesh and blood coverings) sent back in time to kill the Mother of the future Rebels- the (REAL) Sarah Connor, as played by fresh-faced, luscious, sexy, and 80's feather haired Linda Hamilton. Even with the sci-fi action at the end, you could still never release a mainstream film like the original TERMINATOR today, not with the way movies have gotten so politically correct because of real psychos opening fire on crowds of people with guns. Pretty sad, and even the most excellent TERMINATOR 2 pales in intensity compared to the original in this regard...pandering to society's "rules" and making Arnie the "good guy." Back to the original: Michael Biehn is excellent as Sarah Connor's protector from the future sent to do battle with Arnie's mean machine and get through the required exposition. There's splendid action in this movie---wickedly staged car crashes, explosions, and gun battles on the streets of L.A., and of course I can't leave out the tantalizing love scene between Biehn and Hamilton where Linda shows us her beautiful breasts (which was such a glorious treat on the big screen back in the day!). The special effects, while definitely a bit dated by today's CGI standards and expectations from a new generation of viewers, still work well for me. Most of the movie is stalk and slash and chase anyway, until we get to the robotic standoff at the end, where stop motion blue screen effects are used to great effect. The Stan Winston makeup effects, including a fully animatronic version of a battered Terminator (where he scoops out his damaged eye) were brilliant and cutting edge for the time---and only a precursor to what he was able to do in future movies like JURASSIC PARK and WRONG TURN. Also of note is the excellent, ominous, and now very famous soundtrack score by Brad Fiedel, which enhances the drama and action to epic proportions. THE TERMINATOR...as a standalone sci-fi slasher movie, it's just a classic. One of my favorites of all time, often imitated (even in its own sequels) but never surpassed.

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