Crackling with a staggering originality, The Terminator might not be James Cameron's first movie, but it's the first one he wants to take credit for, and who can blame him? Effectively blending science fiction (he was later forced to acknowledge the influence of Harlan Ellison), action (up next he would write what is considered the best of the Rambo series) and horror (the relentless title character harkens back to Michael Myers in Halloween), the movie continues to dazzle fans, and it launched one of the great Hollywood careers.
Employing established cinematic tricks self-taught through extensive research, enlivened with several Cameron inventions, The Terminator is a triumph of visual storytelling, with both a quality and quantity of big-screen action that belie its modest budget. Underneath is a tight, hyper-intelligent script brimming with quotable lines and character moments that have since become iconic. Countless thoughtful details foreshadow key plot points, but they also parallel certain story elements that really pay off when we watch again... and again....
And we have.
Fox confirmed for us that this is not a new video master, rather an "HD" presentation of a pre-existing transfer of the film. It is still old-school MPEG-2, neither of the preferred modern AVC or VC-1 formats. (In point of fact, the disc is marked "2006" and attributed to Sony, who controlled the MGM catalog for several years before Fox reclaimed it.)
Grain, dirt and ringing are surprisingly modest within the 1.85:1 frame, and the video here fares quite well with all of the atmospheric smoke utilized by the director. Well-lit scenes in particular are rather sharp and nuanced. The picture displays frequent strobing issues, and blacks are harsh and lifeless in the ubiquitous nighttime shots, but this is an undeniable step up from DVD.
Be warned that the disc defaults to Dolby Digital, so be sure to switch over to the Uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 track, reading as 48kHz. The remix itself is a wonderful reimagining of the 1984 audio (the original mono, preserved on DVD with its many differences, is long gone) with very active rears, notably the helicopters above Los Angeles but also the Future War, now on a par sonically with the mega-budgeted T2. Directionality is outstanding in the many shootouts and more, with well-executed multichannel phasing.
All of the extras here have debuted previously, and all are in standard definition. "Terminator: A Retrospective" dates all the way back to 1992 and the old LIVE Home Video label (20-and-a-half minutes), largely a candid sit-down between Jim Cameron and star Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects & Music" (13 minutes) from 2001 is a curious juxtaposition but an interesting one.
There are also seven "Terminated Scenes," some quite brief, some only slight extensions of existing sequences, but not included here is Cameron's deleted scene commentary, although it like other absent bonuses were already released on other MGM Home Entertainment discs. The single disc comes packaged in a lovely little 24-page, hardbound book, new for this edition.
That book is really the only fresh carrot. If you just want to pick up the movie on Blu-ray, there is a much less expensive, older edition available here on Amazon. Then again, if you're a collector and just can't get enough Arnie, especially in light of recent events, this handsome tome will certainly class up your shelf.
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