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James Cameron
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Bess Motta, Earl Boen
Writing Credits:
Harlan Ellison (The Outer Limits teleplays "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand" ... originally uncredited), James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, William Wisher Jr. (additional dialogue)

In the Year of Darkness, 2029, the rulers of this planet devised the ultimate plan. They would reshape the Future by changing the Past. The plan required something that felt no pity. No pain. No fear. Something unstoppable. They created 'THE TERMINATOR'.

In the year 2029, the ruling super-computer, Skynet, sends an indestructible cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can fulfill her destiny and save mankind.

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$45.033 million on 3471 screens.
Domestic Gross
$102.543 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Uncompressed PCM 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 6/20/2006

• 7 Deleted Scenes
• “Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects and Music” Featurette
• “Terminator: A Retrospective” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Terminator [Blu-Ray] (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 13, 2010)

Today’s depressing realization: The Terminator came out more than 25 years ago. When it hit in 1984, I was a vital 17 years old, but now I’m a decrepit 43. And it ain’t getting any better from here; it’s not like that “life percentage” will reverse itself.

But enough whining about my advancing age. Although I really liked Terminator when I saw it in my youth, I must say that I haven’t watched it many times since then. Blame that on the release of 1991’s sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The top-grossing film for that year, T2 set a new standard for action flicks. When a new laserdisc release of Terminator appeared not long after the theatrical run of T2, I eagerly grabbed it. I remembered that I liked the first film, and my enjoyment of T2 seemed to indicate that I’d still care for it.

Unfortunately, T2 spoiled me for the older, cruder film. After the more high-tech and visceral thrills of the sequel, the original seemed a bit staid and cheesy. To be sure, I still liked the movie, but I found it to be less exciting and compelling than I remembered and expected.

Some might argue that I favor T2 mainly because of its bigger budget, and they’d largely be correct. However, I’m not taking a simple “bigger is better” stance. In many cases, lower-budget movies are superior to more extravagant affairs because they force the filmmakers to become more creative and resourceful. Crews for big money flicks don’t have to rely on such tactics, so the results can be bloated and flat.

However, I don’t feel that’s the case with the films of James Cameron. He’s worked with some huge budgets, but he hasn’t succumbed to any of the usual temptations. More so than probably any other filmmaker today, Cameron puts the money on the screen; I think his movies are clearly better for their extra expenditures.

To a certain degree, the biggest difference between Terminator and T2 comes down to production values. T2 offers a much better realized world that communicates its elements with greater clarity and realism. For Terminator, Cameron and crew did wonderfully considering their budgetary restrictions, but the cheapness of the film remains evident. That isn’t the case with T2, which had a ton of money behind it.

I also think that Cameron clearly was a stronger, more confident filmmaker by the time of T2. Between those Terminator films, he made two excellent flicks: 1986’s Aliens and 1989’s The Abyss. Aliens represented a quantum leap over Terminator, as it offered a smoother and more compelling vision. The Abyss wasn’t better than Aliens - heck, I don’t think any movie’s better than Aliens - but it created a solid flick nonetheless.

While I doubt Cameron could have gone on to such heights without his experiences on Terminator, I think that virtually all of his subsequent films top it and it looks a bit dated today. Terminator remains an entertaining and seminal work, but it doesn’t match up with Cameron’s later works.

Terminator deals with time travel at its start. Two future warriors return to 1984. One - a cyborg called a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) - has been sent to kill the mother of a man who will become a rebel leader. That woman - Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) - hasn’t had her son or even met his father yet, so the machine leaders hope to nip that prospect in the bud; no Sarah, no John, no rebellion, or at least that’s what the future computers hope.

To protect Sarah, the human resistance sends Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). Throughout the early parts of the film, both Kyle and the Terminator track Sarah, and once the cyborg makes her, the chase is on. Essentially the rest of the film follows Sarah and Kyle as they run from the Terminator and try to find a way to get rid of him, something that’s no easy task with the then-current state of weaponry.

When I first saw previews for The Terminator, I thought it’d be a cheesy genre flick that’d come and go quickly. I was quite surprised to see the high regard with which both critics and audiences regarded it. While Terminator shared the low budgets and mercenary tone of that kind of movie, it offered a much more engaging and innovative experience than anyone could have expected.

It still does so, though I really feel that it seems somewhat bland compared to later Cameron offerings. Without a doubt, Terminator was a much more original and seminal program than was T2; in many ways, one could argue the latter simply remade the older movie. While I don’t think that Terminator is a museum piece, I will argue that it comes across somewhat poorly in comparison with its successors.

At 108 minutes, Terminator is the second shortest movie made by Cameron; only 1981’s awful 94-minute Piranha II: The Spawning fills less screentime. The length differences aren’t minor. The theatrical cuts of both Aliens and T2 ran 30 minutes longer than Terminator, while both the original release of The Abyss and 1994’s True Lies ran stayed in the same neighborhood. They entered the 140-minute-plus realm, but they weren’t much longer than the other two. Then there’s Cameron’s biggest success, 1997’s Titanic, with its 193-minute running time.

Some feel that the shorter length means that Terminator offers a tighter experience than the later, longer flicks, with a particular emphasis on the differences between it and its sequel. I disagree, mainly because I think T2 is a richer, better-realized work. Despite the increase in length, I don’t find any padding in T2, while Terminator includes a few segments that feel unnecessary.

Except for Piranha, Terminator easily comes across as the most dated of Cameron’s films. No other work of his seems quite as heavily anchored in its era; those mid-Eighties fashions haven’t aged well. Sure, some aspects of T2 are a bit dated – especially a few effects – but it remains a heck of a lot more timeless than its predecessor.

Objectively, The Terminator really is a pretty good movie. It certainly was an influential work that helped create a whole new genre. However, despite its originality, the film has been surpassed by later examples from the field. 25 years after its original release, The Terminator remains a fairly solid action flick, but it’s not one that I think stands among the best in its realm.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

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

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