The following review was printed in the April 1992 edition of Super 8 Film Review.
Los Angeles, the year 2029: In the wake of a nuclear war in a world that is dominated by intelligent machines, the last remnants of human resistance are being systematically hunted down. The only hope for the rebels is John Connor, a young guerrilla fighter who is beginning to have some success in combating the machines. The Terminator, part man, part computer, part machine, is transported back through time to 1984 to kill Connor’s mother, Sarah and so prevent John being born. Kyle Reese, another young guerrilla also transports back to 1984 in an attempt to prevent the assassination and protect the future of the rebels.
What appears on the face of it to be just another man vs. indestructible machine movie turns out to be, in James Cameron’s hands and a moderate budget, a veritable, somewhat noisy, nail-biting 107 minutes of violent excitement as Reese and Sarah Connor stay one step ahead of the seemingly invincible killing machine so ably played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, systematically killing every female listed in the phone book until he gets the right one - a quite frightening prospect which fortunately no latter-day copycat killer seems to have latched on to.
Cameron’s sole directorial effort prior to ‘The Terminator’ had been the forgettable 1981 ‘Piranha 2: The Spawning’, a silly horror film in which mutated flying fish are oversize deadly killers! Cameron’s pedigree includes special effects supervisor on ‘Escape From New York’ and art director and director of photography on ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’. On ‘The Terminator’ he co-wrote and developed the idea with Gale Anne Hurd, a one time production manager who had been executive assistant to Roger Corman and was no doubt familiar with tight production values and modest budgets, training that was evidently put to good use on this production.
The plot, that of traveling through time to kill someone in the past and thus alter the future and by consequence, the past will be familiar to sci-fi readers but probably not so recognizable to the younger cinema-goer who constitute the majority of cinema audiences today. The consequences and ramifications of this plot could probably send you balmy if you dwelled on it long enough, fortunately this movie allows little time for such deep thinking. ‘The Terminator’ is gripping stuff, only let down briefly, in my opinion, just twice when I felt the director was losing his grip slightly, once by the obligatory sex scene (the sex is necessary to the plot but we don’t in this instance need to see it happen, and certainly not so lyrically) and I would have been far happier if the final, rather heavy handed line of the film had never been uttered by Sarah, but left unsaid.
I have not yet seen the successor -Terminator II, which I am certainly looking forward to and which by all accounts has stunning special effects, though ‘The Terminator’ is no mean slouch in this respect - the relentless robotic killer is superb (it reminds me of a few collectors I know!) and the action scenes are top rate. Schwarzenegger is excellent and I’m not going to resort to jibes about type-casting either! His performance is what makes the film believable. If you can’t suspend belief then this film does just not work on the same level.
So a gripping fast-moving film but what about print and sound quality? Well I’m pleased to report they are very good indeed - crisp picture and well-rounded clear sound with good bass; no mumbling or indistinct dialogue on this review copy! True, there are a couple of messy negative joins and a little negative dust here and there, plus a few bumps and bangs on the soundtrack too, which may or may not irritate depending on how far down the bass response your system goes. So another movie that can be readily recommended. Dear oh dear, that poor old bank balance!
Print A Sound A (Keith Wilton)