Movie Matters – E04 – The Terminator (1984)

[00:00:00] JC: Welcome to Just Curious Media. This is Movie Matters and I’m Jason Connell. Today, I’m talking about The Terminator, the 1984 action/sci-fi/thriller written & directed by James Cameron. It’s 8.0 rating on IMDb and it’s 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film is based in 1984, where a human soldier is tasked to stop an indestructible cyborg killing machine, both sent from 2029, from executing a young woman, whose unborn son is the key to humanity’s future salvation.

Now despite the fact that Cameron would become a household name directing hit films such as Aliens, True Lies & Titanic, at this point in time he’d only directed some of Piranha II: The Spawning before being fired.  So for him to get this opportunity was rare, but the studios liked the script that he co-wrote with his second wife, Gale Anne Hurd, who would produce the film along with many of Cameron’s other films and most recently is the executive producer of AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead.

But to get the film greenlit, Mike Medavoy, Head of Orion Pictures, agreed to finance the film, but on one condition: It needed a major star. And his idea was to cast O.J. Simpson as the Terminator and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the good guy.  Now Cameron and the other producers pushed back on this stating O.J. was “too nice” and would not be taken seriously as a cold-blooded killer, little did they know.

As for Schwarzenegger, he had just completed Conan the Barbarian & Conan the Destroyer, which had very limited dialogue due to his heavy accent and Cameron was opposed to casting him as well.  That was until they shared an enjoyable lunch meeting and Cameron realized that he wasn’t right for the good guy but rather he would make a great Terminator.  And how right he was indeed.

So with 14 lines of dialogue & 21 minutes of screen time, Arnold Schwarzenegger encapsulated the role and terrified audiences for years to come. He would essentially become an overnight action hero and go on to star in numerous hits including Predator, The Running Man & Terminator 2: Judgement Day often referred to as T2 which reunited him and Cameron for the first time.

But it all began with The Terminator and Cameron states that the themes had been important to him since high school. The apocalyptic visions, ideas about our love/hate relationship with technology, our tendency as a species to move in a direction that might ultimately destroy us, and a central faith in the resourcefulness of humanity.

He also credits the post-apocalyptic hit, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior as a major influence.  So with that, as well as his time spent working on Roger Corman movies, Cameron knew all the tricks of the low-budget trade and was able to solve a lot of logistical and practical issues on his own.  Even Schwarzenegger was surprised when Cameron didn’t hesitate to demonstrate how to perform a potentially dangerous motor stunt himself.  Needless to say, it was a studio movie but it was also a low-budget guerrilla-style production.

As for the film’s protagonist, Linda Hamilton was captivating and showed great range playing the role of Sarah Connor.  She goes from a warm-spirited, carefree, scooter riding waitress to the ultimate survivor. She would go on to reprise this role in T2 and most recently in Terminator: Dark Fate.  And Hamilton would also become Cameron’s fourth wife.

The other main character was the “good guy” role, Kyle Reese, played by Michael Biehn who would also reteam with Cameron and have memorable roles in Aliens & The Abyss.  But in this performance, Biehn was great and gave Sarah Connor and audiences some hope that the Terminator could be defeated. In the beginning of the film, you’re still not sure of his intentions until the showdown scene at the Tech Noir nightclub in which he pulls his shotgun on Sarah Connor but only in an effort to save her from the Terminator or T-800 as he’s also referred to as. 

Now rounding out the cast I’ve always enjoyed the scenes at the police station with the Lieutenant, Detective & Psychologist played by the late Paul Winfield, well-known character actor, Lance Henriksen & Earl Boen who would reprise his role as Dr. Peter Silberman in T2 as well as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.  I feel the interactions between these 3 characters was so authentic, humorous and they give the film another voice and not one in the midst of this gritty chase saga.

A few fun facts:

The late & great Bill Paxton played a punk leader in the film and was beaten up by a naked Terminator at the Griffith Park Observatory in Schwarzenegger’s first scene.

The Tech Noir nightclub was named after a film genre which Cameron coined himself in describing the film.  He would also include Blade Runner and say that these films combined the old style grittiness of noir films with the futuristic elements of a sci-fi thriller.

Then there’s the most famous line in the film in which Schwarzenegger tells the police clerk “I’ll be back” and then rams the stolen vehicle through the front of the station. Now in the script, the line was written as “I’ll come back” which simply doesn’t have the same impact or staying power.  But they got it right, along with so many other things, thus making this a classic film that would hold up for generations to come and one that would spawn 5 sequels and a TV series.

So I highly recommend watching this movie for the first time or to revisit it.

And please feel free to tell me what you think.  You can contact me directly through our Instagram, which is @Movie__Matters.

So thank you so much for listening and I’d greatly appreciate it if you could subscribe, rate & review the show wherever you get your podcasts.

You can also stream every episode, as well as our other shows, from our website which is JustCuriousMedia.com.

So without further ado, please enjoy The Terminator.

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