The Terminator

The Terminator
Release Date: October 2, 2001
Run Time: 107 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: An unstoppable killing machine comes from the future to destroy the mother of humanity's savior.
Version: Special Edition
Disc: Double-sided, Dual-layered

  • Deleted Scenes with commentary by James Cameron
  • The Terminator: A Retrospective 1991 documentary
  • The Terminator: Other Voices brand-new documentary
  • Original Treatment, Fourth Draft, Final Draft of Screenplay
  • Still Gallery featuring pre-production art by James Cameron
  • Theatrical Trailers & Teasers
  • Tech Specs: Anamorphic Widescreen (Aspect Ratio 1.85:1), English 5.1 EX Surround and original Mono, French 5.1 EX Surround, Spanish 5.1 EX Surround, English, French & Spanish Language subtitles.

    "I'll be back."

    With those three words, Arnold Schwarzenegger established both a catch-phrase and a huge film career. Not coincidentally, The Terminator also launched first-time writer/director James Cameron. With MGM's new release of the film on DVD, film fans can see why. This taut sci-fi thriller still stands out as one of the best action films of the eighties, if not ever, and despite bigger budgets and better publicity, neither man ever quite equaled it again.

    The reason why seems to be a combination of passion and hunger. Literally coming to Cameron in a fever dream, The Terminator was the aspiring writer/director's big shot. Though already a name (but just as much a joke), Schwarzenegger needed a role like this to break out of the B-movie ghetto he would otherwise have been destined for. Indeed, Orion Pictures brass thought that a B-movie was all they had on their hands. How wrong they were.

    All of that gets well-documented in the extras on this disc. Two different documentaries offer a variety of insights on the original production, including rare commentary from Arnold himself. The first documentary, A Retrospective, combines interviews with Cameron done in 1986 with a conversation he has with Schwarzenegger in 1991. Their enthusiasm for the project and each other seems genuine, and it's hard not to get swept up in it. In the brand-new documentary, Other Voices, Cameron has become the Oscar-winner, and is far more restrained, but others involved in the project get their say.

    As often happens with these kinds of extras, many anecdotes overlap and repeat, but they do take on an extra flavor as they get told from different points of view. In particular, the visions of The Terminator that might have been boggle the mind. Both Lance Henriksen (who plays a cop in the finished film) and O.J. Simpson were up for the role of the cyborg killer. The disc includes some artwork by Cameron clearly envisioning Henriksen. (O.J., of course, was ultimately rejected because no one could see him as a cold, hard killer.)

    The artwork included may not necessarily be a revelation, but it proves what an incredible visionary Cameron can be. Few storyboard artists provide as much detail as Cameron does, and little detail got lost from board to screen.

    For those who really want to understand story structure, the disc does have commentary from Cameron on the deleted scenes. In those, he offers sound reasons why these ultimately proved unnecessary, and offers great insight into streamlining a story. (This advice does not apply to almost any later film by Cameron.) Interestingly, a couple of the deleted scenes end up really being the seeds for T2: Judgment Day. Add in the original idea of Henriksen as The Terminator, an everyman who can come out of nowhere to kill, and you can see how the spawning of the sequel. With the various drafts of the script on the disc (and an over-written treatment), this should provide aspiring filmmakers with some great lessons.

    Unfortunately, the film itself has no commentary. Luckily, it is a rip-roaring movie anyway, with a really nice transfer and excellent sound.

    So the question is, should you buy it? The Terminator stands out as one of those rare movies that, as Cameron himself comments, people can really watch over and over again. Time has not dulled the fun of it. Even if you have an old VHS copy, you owe it to yourself to get this on DVD.

    It lists for $26.98, but you can buy it here for $20.24.

    Derek McCaw


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