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Rewatching The Terminator last night I was reminded that it came out in 1984. I was vividly aware in 1984 that the calendar had flipped to his dystopia year. Orwell’s 1984 is an important novel for me for a stack of reasons: not only is it great, not only is it famous, not only will people actually remember it, and at least partly understand it, but it’s special for me since it is the last novel I taught in a formal academic setting: the New School, NYC, 1972ish: a dozen years before the calendar year. But: there was no reason in 1984, none that I saw, for me to connect the James Cameron / Arnold Schwarzenegger flick with the Orwell classic. I also love the flick. Not only is is it great, not only is it famous, not only will people actually remember it, and at least partly understand it, but it just tickle-tickle-tickles me. I’ve read the Orwell maybe three times; I’ve seen Arnold pose his bulk as the Terminator at least a dozen times more.
Now: there are 80 titles in my NetFlix DVD Queue. There’s another 40-odd in my NetFlix stream-it List. My queue is backed up by another eighty or one hundred titles I’ll add as the queue dwindles: likewise there’s a few dozen alternates waiting in a text file, ready and waiting to swell the List back up. I repeat: Jan and I started watching movies together six years ago. At first our purpose was for me to show her my classics, movies I regarded as great: also, movies important personally to me: sometimes they were one and the same: La Strada, Wild Strawberries, Roshomon. The types of movie have also swollen the list: documentaries, histories, not to mention nature, science … I’m 76 & 3/4, I’m losing my eyesight, my hearing is shot: so, you’d think I should be getting on with the titles I don’t know: or just giving up: well, I do, I see lots of new titles, add lots of new types. But last night, just as I was deciding which new ‘un I’d try, the Stream salesbot shoved The Terminator under my nose. Irresistible! Ah. I’d watch just a bit of it: tease-tease-tease myself for a few minutes. Not a chance. I devoured it. I swallowed Linda Hamilton whole.
I loved this viewing as much as any previous. Arnold is absolutely fabulous. Biehl could be better, but that’s the way it is: live with it.
I adored everything without reservation until: Reese obeys Sarah Connor’s exhortation to obey the cops! Wimp! Pussies! NO! The cops are morons: cops in horror movies, scifi movies are always morons. Reese has to save Sarah in order to same human kind. The audience comes to understand that, but the cops never will: they think they‘re the saviors! Reese goes to dodge the cops as well as the Terminator to save Sarah: she says, No, obey the cops: “They’ll kill you!” Reese is a soldier: mankind’s last chance: he must not obey the wusses.
On the other hand, if Reese didn’t obey Sarah, then we wouldn’t have such a vivid illustration of how wrong the cops are about everything: the cops and their social shrink “expert”: the moron above morons in a hierarchy of morons. The black cop, the coffee drinker, the likable moron, assures Sarah she’ll be safe: there, among the cops, the morons. He says “I got thirty cops in this building!” Here’s Arnold: I’ll be back.” A minute later, he’s back. And there’s thirty cop corpses in that building.
That reminds me: one of the infinitude of things that made the sequels to this great flick garbage is turdy young John Connor keeps telling Arnold’s reformed Terminator not to hurt anybody! So Arnold destroys LA, destroys the cop-mobiles, but leaves the cops with things no worse than embarrassment. No: it was right when the thirty cops in the cop building all die: of stupidity, of arrogance.
Quick reminder: I’ve known the basic story of the Terminator since the seventh grade, maybe the sixth: 1950 or so: EC comix. Kid invents a time machine to go back to the time just before he was born, catch his father meeting his mother, and wail some sense into him, not to abandon them. But of course he meets a woman, falls in love, then gets whisked back to the present: mystery, paradox: kid is his own father.
The Terminator takes that basic sf paradox and mixes it, very well, with savior myths, magical mother myths … magical Madonna, magical son, savior theme … So well done.
Jeez, I haven’t seen an EC comic since 1951!
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