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I’ve been a big fan of THE TERMINATOR ($20), ever since the first time I saw it. My admiration for this particular film has compelled me to own each and ever edition of the movie released on disc in hopes of finding the definitive home video version- one containing the absolute finest presentation. Of course, owing to the fact that THE TERMINATOR is a relatively low budget movie, finding its holy grail in terms of audio and video presentations has been exceedingly difficult. However, it appears that my endless quest may have come to an end with MGM Home Entertainment’s super DVD release of THE TERMINATOR.


Stepping back from the presentation for a moment let me say this; I think THE TERMINATOR is a great science fiction/action movie. In fact, I am willing to say that, in my opinion, THE TERMINATOR is far better movie than its big budget sequel, that cost more than ten times as much. Like the title character, the film has a driven, single-minded quality that does not allow it to deviate from its sole purpose- to thoroughly entertaining its audience in a tight, economic fashion. Director/co-writer James Cameron maintains the film’s focus throughout- telling his story in a rapid-fire fashion that maintains the excitement and tension without a single unnecessary frame of film.

For the most part, THE TERMINATOR is an out and out action movie wrapped in the veneer of science fiction cinema. The plot of THE TERMINATOR concerns a cyborg from the future, called a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), which has traveled back in time to kill a woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Following the Terminator into the past is a resistance fighter named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), whose purpose is to prevent the cyborg from killing Sarah Connor- because it is she who will eventually give birth to humankind’s only hope for survival. Utilizing its present day setting, THE TERMINATOR has very few science fiction trappings, other than the unstoppable killing machine itself and a few shots that depict a post apocalyptic future. Without this unnecessary baggage, THE TERMINATOR moves smoothly from one high adrenaline action set piece to the next. The film also boasts completely believable performances from its three primary character, all of whom give the story all the credibility it needs. Although Hamilton and Biehn carry most of the movie, it is Schwarzenegger performance as the emotionless automaton that no one has ever forgotten. Heck, Schwarzenegger’s entire film career was pretty much made by his performance in THE TERMINATOR. The film also features fine supporting performances from Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Rick Rossovich, Bess Motta, Earl Boen and genre cinema favorite Dick Miller.

MGM Home Entertainment has made THE TERMINATOR available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. MGM has done a great job with the transfer and this is the absolute best that THE TERMINATOR has ever looked in the home venue. Certainly there is no denying that THE TERMINATOR is a low budget film from the mid-eighties, but the transfer does minimize many of the limitations that were so apparent in previous transfers. For the most part, the transfer provides a crisp and very well defined image. Daylight shots filmed under optimum conditions look stunningly good, although darker sequences that employed low lighting appear softer and less detailed. Colors are strongly saturated and flesh tones appear convincingly natural. Intense warm hues and the trademark James Cameron blues are reproduced without any chromatic distortion or bleeding. Blacks are very solid, although shadow detail can be wanting in places due to the film stocks used and limited light sources. Very few blemishes appear on the print element used for the transfer and noticeable film grain has been greatly reduced from previous video incarnations of THE TERMINATOR. Clean dual layer authoring completely disguises all traces of digital compression artifacts.

For this release THE TERMINATOR has been given a newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack. In comparison to the original monaural soundtrack, viewing THE TERMINATOR with the 5.1 channel mix almost makes the experience like watching a brand new movie. The new mix is far more involving and really pulls the viewer into the movie- something that flat monaural could never do. Directional effects are well placed and never sound overtly artificial, which is sometimes the case with older monaural movies mixed into the surround format. Channel separation is quite good and sound effects pan around left to right and front to back in a reasonably convincing manner. There are some frequency limitations in the original recordings that date some aspects of the sound. However, the bass channel has been pumped up to give full authority to the gunshots and explosions. Dialogue is always completely understandable, although at times some of the voices sound a bit thin. The original monaural English soundtrack is also present on the DVD, as are French and Spanish 5.1 EX tracks. Subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish.

3D animation and sound enhance the DVD's stylishly designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some solid supplements. Side one of the disc offers DVD-ROM features that include the film’s screenplay, which can be accessed in interactive fashion. Flipping over this rare DVD-14 disc, one finds the bulk of the supplements on the single layer side. The highlight of side two is the hour-long Other Voices documentary that combines new and old interview footage to give one a thorough look at the making of THE TERMINATOR. Night quite as insightful is the featurette Terminator: A Retrospective. Running under twenty minutes, the featurette is comprised of T2 era interview footage featuring James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Seven deleted scenes with optional director commentary are also present on the DVD. None of the scenes really add to the film itself and were obviously removed to enhance pacing. The DVD also includes an extensive array of still images, which have been broken down into five sub sections. There is a lot of great material amongst the stills and is worth going through them frame by frame. Three theatrical trailers and two TV spots close out the supplements.

THE TERMINATOR is a science fiction/action classic that belongs in every DVD collection. MGM Home Entertainment has certainly produced a DVD edition completely worthy of the film. The movie looks and sounds great, and with the addition of the supplements, this is an absolutely must own disc.


The Terminator (Special Edition)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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