Terminator (1984)

Terminator (1984), directed by James Cameron.

I didn't notice it in the theater, but whenever I watch this on home video, in that slow-motion scene where the Terminator locates Sarah Connor in the Tech Noir club, my eyes are irresistibly drawn to a young woman dancing in the background. She has a red skirt and striped top. Who is that?

It's hard to "see" a film you've seen so many times before, but this one never fails to please. And, with time and sequels, we can get new perspectives. This time I noticed how much the machines are already taking over, and how the street people living on garbage are the pioneers of the post-apocalyptic future. The lovers are caught up in a blue-collar adventure: they aren't scientists or special agents, just a soldier and a waitress.

Even given the traditional "they always jump one more time" motif of thrillers and horror films, Cameron really delivers action value here, which makes perfect sense given the nature of the cyborg menace. The driving sequences are still wonderfully exciting. The locations of the next film are sunnier and more upscale: malls and clean freeways. This is darker, grittier.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is obviously well-suited to the role, humorless but they still get humor out of the character, better here than when they start to yuck it up in the sequels.

I really admire Michael Biehn's intensity, his full-on survival mode.

Linda Hamilton (big hair!) does not have cover-girl beauty but is awfully appealing. She's lonely and low-maintenance. Does that make her seem more accessible to an ordinary guy? She knows a woman's job is to relieve her man's suffering, and knows just when to do it. (She's harder in the sequel).

Simple but effective score. The effects haven't always worn well, but true SF fans don't judge a film by the effects.

Available on Blu-ray, pretty grungy looking. I sort of remember all of 1984 looking like that.