An about-face for Schwarzenegger
Date: February, 1985
Arnold Schwarzenegger does an about-turn in The Terminator -- not only moving from the mythological era of his two previous Conan films into the future, but also playing a villain for the first time.
The film begins in the year 2029, when machines have got the upper hand over humans. Schwarzenegger himself is part-human and part-machine -- a cyborg. He is subjected to a spot of time travel that lands him in modern-day Los Angeles. There he has to find and kill a young woman (Linda Hamilton) who otherwise will have a profound effect on the future of mankind, something of which she's blissfully unaware. She's working as a waitress in a diner and is happy enough in her unmarried state, but unless the Terminator can terminate her, she'll bear a son who'll eventually deliver humanity from extinction in the war of the machines.
But the Terminator and his ilk aren't necessarily going to have it all their way. To protect the Terminator's unsuspecting victim, a guerilla fighter called Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is also propelled from 2029 to 1984. He must rely on his training, strength and cunning to adapt to the strange new world he finds himself in and protect the girl from the inexorable onslaught of the killer machine called The Terminator.
Reese is so fearsome that the girl is understandably reluctant to accept his protection -- until, after a particalarly deadly duel, the Terminator survives several direct shotgun blasts. As the chase continues, leaving behind a wake of incredible destruction, the cyborg takes on an increasingly terrifying appearance as the mechanisms beneath his skin become visible as the result of crashes and gun battles.
"I wanted to play the Terminator as soon as I read the script," says Schwarzenegger. "It's a completely new kind of movie character. I must admit I really enjoyed playing such an evil creature. It's really helped me as an actor -- it's always good for an actor to try something different."
A change of character wasn't the only way Schwarzenegger was transformed in the film. To give him a sinister look he was subjected to special make-up which became more complicated as the cyborg gradually deteriorate -- and in one scene he removes an eye to reveal the mechanisms inside his head!
The Terminator gives young Michael Biehn his best role to date. He made his feature debut in The Fan as a homicidal maniac threatening the life of Lauren Bacall, and he later appeared in Hog Wild and The Lords of Discipline. The Terminator also marks a big step-up in the career of Linda Hamilton, previously seen in Children of the Corn.
The idea for The Terminator came about while director-screenwriter James Cameron and producer-screenwriter Gale Anne Hurd were working together on the above-average science fiction yarn, Battle Beyond the Stars.
"I was a production manager," says Hurd, "and Jim was the art director and a director of photography for special effects. Jim told me about the idea, and I immediately felt it would make an exciting film. He went off and started the script, and eventually I joined him on it. With Jim's background in special effects, it seemed like an natural for him to direct. Once the script was finished, we were both convinced we had all the ingredients for a successful film.
"Succesful it has certainly been, in America. And there's no reason it shouldn't do well over here. (Edit: the writer means the UK)
Variety, the leading show biz magaziune, says it "races like the wind ... is a blazing, cinematic comic book, full of virtuoso movie-making and terrific momentum."
Background music includes five songs, three of which are performed by Tryanglz. The Terminator is an Orion Picture released by Rank Film Distributors. (Edit: UK)