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After the superb R1 edition of the second Terminator film I anxiously awaited the release of this, the original Terminator. This is just one of those classic films that everybody has seen, quoted from and owned in one form or another over the years. My old VHS copy had long since gone the way of the dinosaurs, so I decided it was time to get the definitive version on DVD.

I actually managed to pick this up on R4 DVD a couple of weeks before it came out in the UK, which was a nice surprise. The disc is also packaged in an amaray case, rather than the cardboard one used on the R2 release, another bonus as far as I’m concerned.

Terminator, The
The film tells the story of an apocalyptic war between the human race and the machines we created. Sometime in the late 1990s a computerized strategic defense network, called ‘Skynet’, is trusted to control the American nuclear arsenal. Unfortunately, at least for the human race, Skynet becomes self-aware and decides to eradicate all human life on the planet. To this end it begins a global nuclear war, a war that results in the total annihilation of two thirds of the global population. From the ashes of the nuclear fire rises the first of the machines, built in automated factories for one purpose – to hunt down and eliminate the remaining humans. The newest of these machines are the Terminators, infiltration units that are part man and part machine. These unstoppable cyborgs are able to blend in seamlessly with other humans; they feel no pity or remorse and will not stop until they have accomplished their mission.

All is not lost for the human race however. One man, John Connor, emerges as leader of the future resistance. Under his guidance the human race is able to organize, to fight back at the machines and ultimately to defeat them. Skynet realizes that it has all but lost the war, and that killing Connor now would have little or no bearing on the outcome. In order to succeed it must eradicate all trace of John Connor’s existence. To this end Skynet sends a Terminator back through time to the year 1984, in an attempt to kill John’s mother, Sarah, before John himself has even been conceived. The resistance learns of the plan and sends a lone soldier back to protect Sarah from the Terminator. What follows is a race against time to see which of the time travelers reaches her first, with nothing less than the future of the human race hanging in the balance.

Terminator, The
The Terminator is presented in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. Considering the age of the film the image quality is excellent throughout. It’s not in the league of T2, nor could you expect it to be, but it is a great transfer nonetheless. If you have been watching on VHS the difference will blow you away. The image is slightly grainy throughout, but as I’ve already said the fact that this film is almost two decades old now makes this understandable. Special effects obviously look very dated, as do the 80s hairstyles and the like, but the filmmakers did a good job with the budget available.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very good. Obviously the original feature wasn’t shot with this type of audio in mind, but the mix is suitably pleasing to the ear. Surrounds are used to good effect, and the dialogue is always clear. The omission of the original audio track could be a minor irritation for those purists out there, but the 5.1 mix really does sound great apart from the lack of some of the original foley.

Terminator, The
Extra features are plentiful, although not in the same league as T2. The material that is on offer is of a high standard and features several documentaries, interviews with Arnie and James Cameron, a stills gallery, trailers, TV spots, the original screenplay and deleted scenes. Some of these scenes are great; I especially like the one that shows the aftermath of the climactic battle in the factory and it sets us up nicely for Terminator 2. The disc also features DVD Rom content. As with the T2 disc the menus are all animated and look excellent.

The Terminator is a classic film that deserves to be part of anyone’s collection. It has a good storyline, features some solid performances and has great special effects (if you consider the age of the film). Arnie is perfectly cast as the Terminator, especially as he doesn’t say much (usually a bonus as far as his acting is concerned). This double disc set offers almost everything a devoted fan could ask for (except a commentary track) and comes highly recommended.