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The Terminator on DVD

He's Back!

It took a long time for "T1" to make it onto DVD, but it was worth the wait.

James Cameron's first claim to fame, and the film that really put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map, "The Terminator" was a low budget surprise hit when it came out in 1984. Combining great action and nifty science fiction concepts, it told the tale of a cyborg from the future (Schwarzenegger) sent back to kill - before he's born - the man who leads the future resistance movement.

If you've seen T2, you've seen T1, except that the sequel painted with a broader and more expensive brush. But everything that audiences loved about T2, the intelligent action, the effects, the script, Arnold, Linda, James - it's all on display in the first movie.

The action really starts with the two warriors from the future entering 1984 Los Angeles. This time Arnold's the bad guy, though, and the savior is a soldier named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a freedom fighter for humanity who gave up his present to visit his past and try to save his future.

The race is to find Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who at this point in her life is a happy-go-lucky young woman whose life has yet to really find any real meaning.

Arnold and Reese give her that, in spades…

The Terminator, a super sophisticated and ultra strong killing machine, will stop at nothing to kill Sarah because one day she's going to give birth to John Connor, the leader of the resistance movement in the future.

Cameron, who co-wrote the script with Gale Anne Hurd, knows his genre. The action is relentless (even the expository stuff that explains to the audience what's going on unfolds at breakneck speed), the science fiction is flawless (including time travel paradoxes), and the movie making is first rate, even though T1 was made on a shoestring budget.

Arnold, who wasn't the first choice to play the Terminator, was an inspired choice and he's perfect in the role. This was what made his career as an action star (not an action hero, obviously, because in this flick he definitely is not the hero), unlike the Conan movies that were designed to make him an action star.

His trademarked "I'll be back," originated here as well, though in a completely different context from when he used it in the sequel.

Biehn and Hamilton are also terrific in their roles. Biehn makes you believe the outrageous story, while Hamilton starts off as basically a bimbo and spends the rest of the movie growing into the beginnings of her fierce character from the sequel.

Also along for the ride are Lance Henrickson and Paul Winfield as a couple of Los Angeles cops who run afould of the Terminator.

This movie has taken a long time to hit the DVD format, but it was definitely worth the wait. MGM has given it a loving restoration, with a razor sharp high definition anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks as if it were shot yesterday (except that the actors look so young!). Colors are bright, shadows are dark, and the images are crystal clear.

Then there's the audio. The disc has been remastered and remixed into Dolby Ditial 5.1 EX surround, and the quality is nothing short of outstanding. The soundstage is wide and expansive, much wider than most DVD's, and there's plenty of punch - and even good use of the surround channels. There's also the original mono soundtrack, but we preferred the new version.

Outstanding, and kudos to MGM for putting in the effort. We hope it translates into plenty of sales.

Of course you get a bunch of extras with the disc as well, including two excellent documentary features on the film featuring the movers and shakers behind it. We learn fascinating tidbits like the fact that the last shot in the movie was shot illegally, and that the body bag they carry Reese out in at the end of the film was actually James Cameron's suit bag. Neat!

There's also a selection of "terminated" scenes that were cut from the final film (interesting that they weren't edited back in, which Cameron has done many times with films like "Aliens," "The Abyss," and "T2"), accompanied by a commentary from director Cameron. You also get storyboards, DVD ROM features (including a "script to screen" feature), and much more.

If you're a sci fi fan, an action movie fan, an Arnold or Linda fan, a Cameron fan, or just a fan of good, well made, entertaining movies, this one belongs in your collection.

The Terminator, from MGM Home Video
107 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn and Paul Winfield
Produced by Gale Anne Hurd
Written by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd, Directed by James Cameron


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Updated May 13, 2006