The Terminator

Review by Guido Henkel

The Terminator  (1984)
MGM Home Entertainment

Length:        107 mins.
Rated:          R
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen · 1.85:1
Languages:EnglishFrench, Spanish
Subtitles:    English, French, Spanish

After Artisan’s release of the Ultimate Edition of James Cameron’s "Terminator 2" everyone’s eyes were directed towards the original film, "The Terminator." Released in 1997 as a bare-bones DVD of mediocre quality, fans of the movie were hoping that someone would take heart and release the Ultimate Edition of "The Terminator." Owning the rights to the film, MGM Home Entertainment heard the call and with the help of producer Van Ling, they decided to create a Special Edition for this movie that became the defining milestone in James Cameron’s career as much as Linda Hamilton’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is a young woman trying to keep her head above water in the big city. One day however, she hears the news that Sarah Connors all across town are being killed and she fears for her own life. In fact, soon she finds herself aggressively stalked by a hulking man who kills everyone in his way. Another man comes to her rescue and takes her to safety, telling her an unbelievable story. He – and the man trying to kill her – have come from the future. Both traveled back in time, the Terminator to kill her, and he to protect her. He tells her the story of a big leader in the future, who gives hope to mankind and is intent to liberating the human race from the grip of the machines. That man is her unborn child!
All the while the Terminator is closing in relentlessly on them and before long, Sarah realizes that there is more truth to the story than she expected. The Terminator turns out to be indeed an indestructible robot whose only mission is to kill Sarah.

From beginning to end, James Cameron’s "The Terminator" is an action spectacle filled to the brim with a riveting story, phenomenal action moments and one of the most terrifying villains in action cinema history. The reason this film has been so successful and is still so incredibly effective lies in its credibility. The story makes sense and the way Cameron works with the element of time travel is masterfully put in place to create memorable moments to play up the time-space-paradox in a believable fashion. The fact that the Terminator is virtually indestructible further adds to the adrenaline rush that propels the film forward and keeps viewers glued to the screen to the very last frame.

The video transfer of "The Terminator" on this DVD is nothing short of a revelation, especially in comparison to previous releases of the film. Completely cleaned up and color corrected, the film has a fresh look and richness that has never been seen before. The film has originally been shot on cheap film stock and all the more surprising is the lack of grain in the transfer. I had the chance to see a direct comparison of the film before and after its restoration some time ago, and the results were stunning to say the very least. I am glad to say that these improvements have made it to this DVD without the slightest detractors. This is "The Terminator" the way you always dreamed of seeing it. The transfer is very clean and without blemishes and also very stable, resulting in a clean and clear reproduction of the film. With a spectacular level of detail and beautiful colors, the DVD will give you the chance to notice details and hues that you have never seen before. With deep blacks and well-defined shadows, the transfer has good visual depth that perfectly matches the ominous, dark nature of the film itself. There is no edge-enhancement evident in the presentation, resulting in a very pleasant-looking presentation that never appears overly sharpened, yet always rich in definition. The compression of the material has also been done very carefully, and no distracting compression artifacts are evident in the presentation anywhere.

The disc features a newly re-mixed 5.1 channel Dolby Digital EX audio track, which presents itself as very aggressive, active and dynamic throughout. Unlike many other remixes, this one seems to have been done from scratch, placing every single effect and element anew in the surround field. The frequency response has been improved, now offering dramatically rich basses as well as clear high ends that are free of distortion and sibilance. Considering that costing $6 million to produce, "The Terminator" was a on a modest budget fur such an effects-laden film, the sonic presentation we get here is quite impressive. With very aggressive use of the surround channels, the mix also makes good use of the rear center channel that is part of the EX encoding and there are a few occasions where it is used to very good effect. Dialogue also has a nice bass roll-off that takes away some of the harsh edges found in previous versions, giving them a much more natural-sounding quality – although given the technical limitations of the source material it would be wrong to expect miracles. For completeness sake and for purists, the original mono track is also supplied on the disc, but its limitations quickly become evident in the shadow of the massive remix.

On the flip side of this DVD-14, which features a dual-layer DVD on one side to hold the film itself, and a single-layer DVD on the other side for the extras, you will find the thrilling supplements of this release. First off there are seven deleted scenes, which can be viewed either with their original sound or with an optional commentary by director James Cameron. Cameron’s comments are valuable and offer additional insight into the placement, and structure of these scenes, as well as why he decided not to use them in the final film. The deleted scenes are all presented in anamorphic widescreen and are in surprisingly good shape.

Two documentaries are also part of this release, spearheaded by the brand new "Other Voices" documentary. Featuring extensive newly recorded cast and crew interviews, as well as photos and footage from the production of the movie, this documentary offers valuable insight into the making of the film. From the initial idea and concept, to shopping the script all the way to its final production, many aspects of the production are covered, including recollections how the casting of the film came together. The documentary has been very well written and edited together, making it an exciting look behind the scenes.

The second is a featurette called "The Terminator: A Retrospective." In 1991 Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron sat down and discussed their memories of the film and the conversation has been video taped and edited together for this featurette, spiced up with elements from other interviews and footage from the film as they go along. The featurette contains some interesting moments but is mostly a promo piece with a lot of fluff – albeit an entertaining one.

The disc also contains the movie’s teaser trailer, its theatrical trailer and a foreign trailer, all of them in anamorphic widescreen, and two television spots.

An extensive gallery of photos and artwork around the film has also been added to the release. Check out some pre-production sketches, behind the scenes photos from the model shoot, Stan Winston’s models, the publicity materials and other pictures.

Last but not least, the DVD also contains the complete treatment that James Cameron wrote to pitch the film to studios. Although text supplements are always somewhat tedious, the font is large and legible, making it a pleasant experience. I was amazed by how closely this first outline actually resembles the final film, including complete shot sequences that were realized without changes from the first treatment.

MGM Home Entertainment is serving up a great Special Edition for "The Terminator" with this release. The presentation has the same flair as the "Terminator 2" disc thanks to the menus that stay well within the same theme, and the contents are also very well prepared and presented. If anything, the only thing really missing from this disc is a commentary track, but fortunately the documentaries help paint a good picture of the production nonetheless. The restoration of the film helps remove some of the age and limitations of the original movie, turning it into an action powerhouse that is virtually without flaws. Go, get this disc!

This title is scheduled for release on 10/2/2001
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August 23, 2001

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