Last night I headed down to The Egyptian theater to check out the American Cinematheque hosted 30th Anniversary screening of The Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, and Gale Anne Hurd in attendance. Sadly when I arrived at the theater Schwarzenegger had cancelled due to illness (more on this later), but that did little to diminish my excitement.
I’ve been to The Egyptian plenty of times but, with this particular screening having sold out almost instantaneously, I can without a doubt say that I have never seen a line outside the theater like I did last night. And I can definitely say that everyone got their money’s worth despite the last minute lineup change. Hit the jump for more details on The Terminator 30th Anniversary screening with James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd.
Things kicked off with a taped introduction from Schwarzenegger, who filmed himself just a few hours before the screening began. At home, in bed with the flu (and holding his iPhone vertically) he apologized for missing the screening and, to be honest, I’m kind of glad he did. I wouldn’t want people coming down with what he had, the dude looked miserable.
After a Blu-ray contest that featured some impressive Schwarzenegger imitations (one guy even had a T-101 prosthetic face with a glowing eye) we saw 35MM trailers for Red Heat, Conan the Barbarian, Predator and Commando. And then… I saw The Terminator on the big screen for the very first time.
I was way too young to catch this movie in theaters when it first came out in 1984 (I was barely even allowed to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day when it hit in 1991). My first exposure to it was actually watching it on VHS in anticipation of T2‘s release and my estimation of the film then, as a child, was naturally low when compared to the big budget wizardry of T2. I didn’t care about low budgets and lean narratives, I wanted to see that f*cking melting dude wreak havoc.
Things are different now. I’m fairly sure at this point I love both of Cameron’s Terminator films equally, but for much different reasons. While T2 is polished, kinetic yet sprawling, and breaks new ground technically, the 1984 film has a clarity of purpose that is undeniable. Last night, watching it on that giant screen, I got as close as I ever will to getting inside the mind of someone watching this movie for the first time in 1984. And it was astounding. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to walk into a film like The Terminator unspoiled today. Sure there are a few seams showing where the film’s reach exceeds its $5.6 Million budget, but it’s all the more charming for it.
The Q&A, moderated by Geoff Boucher, touched on Cameron and Hurd’s entire careers but always came back to their first partnering on this film. The hurdles they overcame to get it made were staggering, from the fact that it was passed on at least 99 times to the small budget. Orion, who released the film originally, wouldn’t even show the movie to critics because they thought it was so bad any advance exposure would surely kill the film (they also thought that audiences would reject it so thoroughly that it wouldn’t play for a second weekend). From Hemdale financier John Daly requesting a story meeting three days before shooting (which Gale Anne Hurd promptly walked out of) to Mike Medavoy‘s attempts to cast O.J. Simpson in the titular role – it’s a miracle this thing happened at all.
After last night, I’m more happy than ever that it did. The Terminator is available on Blu-ray now from MGM & Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. It features a 2013 transfer which is well worth the upgrade from the 2006 version.