The Terminator appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Although The Terminator showed its age and budget limitations, as a whole I thought it provided a generally good visual experience.
Sharpness was usually satisfying. Due to photographic conditions, detail could lapse a bit during darker interiors, but I thought most of the movie offered acceptable to very good delineation. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no concerns, and I detected no examples of edge enhancement.
Terminator showed its low-budget origins through its colors and black levels. While these seemed fairly good much of the time, they betrayed the cheap film stock on occasion. Most colors looked nicely rich and lively, and they remained clear and accurate through much of the movie. Daytime exteriors really looked terrific, in fact.
Black levels also came across as deep and dark for much of the movie. Shadow detail usually looked clean and neatly visible. Some interiors appeared to be somewhat murky, however, and they didn’t always present the clearest image. Still, they mainly appeared to be appropriately opaque but not excessively thick.
Print flaws were a concern. Speckles often cropped up, and I also saw additional debris at times. Some of these issues resulted from the source material – mainly during effects shots – but many of the defects couldn’t be explained by compositing or other techniques. Enough of Terminator looked good to make this a “B-“, but the flick could use a good cleaning.
On the other hand, the Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack offered the best sound ever heard for The Terminator. The mix came from the original monaural track, which unfortunately didn’t also appear on the Blu-ray. The soundfield really opened up the track as it offered a broad and engaging spectrum.
At times I felt the audio seemed to be somewhat “speaker-specific”, as stems popped up rather strictly in one channel or another. Sounds also didn’t blend together in an especially seamless manner; elements tended to mildly jump from one area to another when they panned.
Nonetheless, these criticisms seem a little nitpicky given the origins of the material. For a track compiled from a mono mix, Terminator offered a terrific soundfield. All five channels provided a rather active experience, and they added a solid sense of environment. The score showed good stereo separation in the front, and the effects often came from all around me. The Future War sequences seemed to be especially effective, as they showed good split-surround usage and some fine breadth.
Audio quality betrayed the film’s age at times, but I didn’t think it put a tremendously negative spin on the action. Dialogue usually sounded reasonably clear and natural, though speech appeared somewhat thin and reedy at times and some louder lines displayed moderate edginess. Intelligibility was never a concern, however.
A little distortion accompanied a few effects, but they usually seemed to be clear and accurate, and they offered some positive depth. (Some effects were redone for the remix, so don’t expect all those elements to come from the 1984 source.) The score appeared nicely vibrant and bright, and it demonstrated good dynamics. Ultimately, The Terminator was a fine soundtrack that made the aging material come to life.
Expect a few of the extras from the 2001 SE DVD. The Terminator: A Retrospective offers interviews with writer/director James Cameron and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of these clips come from older sessions. There are clips of both men together and separately that were shot in 1992, and we also find clips of Cameron with Don Shay from sessions contemporary with Aliens sessions in 1986; these will look familiar to owners of that DVD.
The absence of more contemporary comments in the “Retrospective” seems unfortunate, but the 20-minute and 31-second program offers a fair amount of good information nonetheless. The Shay sessions have the benefit of their era; since they took place only two years after the release of Terminator, there wasn’t much time for attitudes to change or memories to falter. That said, the bits with Schwarzenegger and Cameron together were the most interesting, since we got to see them play off of each other. Overall, the “Retrospective” adds a nice look at the film, though not an extensive one.
In the 12-minute and 58-second Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects and Music, we hear from Cameron, Fantasy II VFX supervisor Gene Warren, visual effects pyrotechnician Joe Viskocil, producer Gale Ann Hurd and composer Brad Fiedel. The show looks at some visual effects elements as well as the movie’s score.
The 2001 Terminator DVD included an hour-long documentary. I don’t have access to that disc any more, but I’d not be surprised to learn that “Creating” simply offers an excerpt from that piece. Why does the Blu-ray not provide the entire “Other Voices” documentary? I don’t know, but its absent disappoints. On its own, however, “Creating” is enjoyable, as it gives us good info about effects and music.
Next we get a collection of seven Deleted Scenes. All of these add up to nine minutes and 56 seconds of material. Many of these are very brief cuts, such as a shot of the Terminator as he leaves the scene of his first Sarah Connor murder. However, a few are more substantial, such as a piece that shows additional character interaction between Sarah and Reese. These are interesting segments, though I agree that most of them deserved to be cut; I would have kept a short snippet in which Paul Winfield’s character departs the movie, but otherwise these bits were unnecessary.
Three ads appear under Previews. We get clips for SWAT, Underworld: Evolution and xXx. No trailer for Terminator shows up here.
Which is a shame, since a few ads popped up on the 2001 DVD – as well as some other supplements missing here. The Blu-ray loses the “Other Voices” documentary, Cameron commentary for the deleted scenes, Cameron’s text original treatment for the film, still galleries, trailers, TV spots, DVD-ROM materials, and Easter eggs. That’s a lot of omitted content. It’s unfortunate that the Blu-ray fails to come close to the content on the DVD.
While The Terminator doesn’t match up tremendously well with director James Cameron’s later films, it remains an influential, seminal and enjoyable movie. What it lacks in polish it makes up for in heart and energy to a degree. I admit I prefer its sequel, but The Terminator still has a lot going for it.
As for the Blu-ray, picture quality has some issues but usually looks good. The disc also provides an effective 5.1 remix; unfortunately, it drops the original monaural track that appeared on the 2001 DVD, and it also loses many of that release’s extras.
These alterations keep the Terminator Blu-ray from being as satisfying as it should be. Even with the visual flaws, the movie looks better than ever, and I do like the 5.1 track. However, the absence of the original mono audio and many of the 2001 supplements makes this release a disappointment.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE TERMINATOR