Uzi Nine Millimetre
The Terminator MGM Special Edition review
If the whole notion of time paradoxes gives you a headache, you should take some aspirin while watching The Terminator, since the whole plot resolves around one of those time loops where cause and effect get as muddled as John Prescott's grammar.
It's 1985, and feather-haired waitress Sarah Connor (Hamilton) is more than a little unnerved to discover that somebody is going around Los Angeles executing all the other Sarah Connors in the phone book one by one. When she realises that there's a scuffy-looking man with a bit of a mad stare (Biehn) following her around she starts to get really concerned, but soon finds that it's not him she should be worried about - the real killer is a huge slab of Teutonic muscle (Schwarzenegger) who shrugs off bullet wounds and considers highspeed car crashed nothing more than minor inconviniences. He is the Terminator, a killer cyborg from the future, who has been sent back in time to eliminate the future leader of humanity - Sarah's son - before he's even concieved. Biehn is actually Reese, a soldier sent back in time to protect her and her as net non-existing child.
Cameron's first 'proper' film set the pattern for all his others, heriones who turn out to be stronger than all the men around them, hardware fetishism, nerve-shredding camerawork and editing and blue lights everywhere. Despite the low budget, The Terminator is a much better film than its own sequel - if you watch it back-to-back with T2 you get the feeling that the latter is the film that Cameron would have made if he'd had $100 million to spare.
MGM has realy gone to town with the special edition of The Terminator, giving it a brand new remastered picture and remixing the mono soundtrack into full 5.1 surround. Image-wise, there are occasional spots of dirt to be seen, but when you consider that the original print was a low-budget thriller from 1984, the restoration job is outstanding. Certainly there's no cause of complaint about th actual encoding - although the majority of the film takes place at night, the blackness being regularly sliced by Cameron's trademark searchlights and explosions, the disc handels the contrast extremely well with not a sign of blocking or edge noise to be seen.
Right from the start, the soundtrack, given the Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment, seems determined to impress as a Hunter-Killer starts off on the rear right speaker then roars past overhead. The Terminator has probably the best 5.1 remix from a non-surround original to date.
The two documentaries on the second disc provide almost all the background information on the making of the film that a fan could wish for. Cameron and Schwarzenegger's direct involvement is mostly contained in the shorter of the two, featuring the pair chatting about the film and exchanging anecdotes. Entertaining stuff, though there must have been a lot more material that was filmed but then cut - it's broad daylight outside the house when they start talking, and completely dark when they finish!
The longer of the two documentaries relies more on archive footage to get Cameron and Schwarzenegger's viewpoints (the latter was interviewed in his T2 makeup, as was Hamilton) but there is plenty of newer material from the effects and production teams. The second disc also contains seven deleted scenes from the film and a large ammount of production artwork and stills. A lot of the design work and storyboards were actually drawn by Cameron himself. DVD-ROM owners can read two drafts of the script, while those without computers can still get to read Cameron's original story treatment.
Two-disc sets are growing in popularity, and when they're done as well as this it's easy to understand why. Best of all, The Terminator costs no more than a regular single-disc package, meaning it represents superb value for money. No doubt there will still be a few whingers who don't want the extras: to them, all we can say is sod off back to yer VHS then. What's the point of having a superior format like DVD if you don't take advantage of it? The Terminator is a killer DVD, and it fills another one of the gaps in everyone's shelf of must-have classic films.
Movie specs The Terminator Special Edition
Supplied by: MGM Home Entertainment
Type of disc: 1x dual layer, single-sided. 1x single-layer, single-sided.
No. of chapters: 32
Film format: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Length: 102 mins
Audio format: Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: James Cameron
Staring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
That extra features that only DVD can provide...
- Scene access
- 'The Making Of The Terminator: A Retrospective' featurette (18 mins)
- 'Other Voices' making-of documentary (60 mins)
- Seven deleted scenes
- Original 1982 story treatment
- James Cameron artwork gallery
- Production photos
- Stan Winston Terminator and make-up effects gallery
- Fantasy II visual effects gallery
- Publicity stills
- Three trailers
- Two TV spots
- Subtitles in 12 languages including English, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian
- Subtitles for the hearing impaired in English
- Story treatment
- Two drafts of the script
A bit fishy (original article inlay)
James Cameron may not have altered history in his script for The Terminator - but that didn't stop him trying to do it for real! In the retrospective making-of featurette, the 'king of the world' refers to The Terminator as his first film. We'd just like to jog the Jimster's memory about a little motion picture from 1981 called Piranha II: The Spawning (also known as Piranha II: Flying Killers), which quite clearly has the words 'directed by James Cameron' in its credits. Mind you, when your directorial debut has rubber fish flying around on strings eating holidaymakers, it's probably not surprising that you'd want to blot it from your CV!