Arnold Schwarzenegger's career in the 1980s ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. That makes the former governor of California the perfect subject for this month's Time Warp Drive-In.
Schwarzenegger, a former professional bodybuilder whose first screen appearance was in the documentary Pumping Iron, starred in two perfect movies in the Reagan era. One of them is Conan The Barbarian, and I will accept no disagreement on that point. The second one is James Cameron's breakthrough picture (if you don't count Piranha II: The Spawning) The Terminator. Not much I can say about The Terminator that hasn't already been said a thousand times. If you've never seen it, yes, it is every bit as good as you've heard, and watching it in a drive-in is pretty much the ideal setting. And if you want a master class in how to cut a trailer, take a look at this one. They don't make 'em like this any more.
Next up is a film that epitomizes the rut he fell into in the late ’80s. Where The Terminator was violent, it was also one of the smartest science fiction scripts ever filmed. Predator is all about bulging biceps and firearms. And yet, Ahnold carries it effortlessly. To see what happens when he's not the lead, check out this year's flaccid Predator remake.
Two years later, Paul Verhoeven was using Ahnold's public image as a tough guy to sell his over-the-top, borderline satirical take on Philip K. Dick's Total Recall. And yet, amidst all the weirdness, Schwarzenegger still carries the film! Just witness the horror show of the Ahnold-less remake. This is why, despite the fact that he is almost singlehandedly responsible for the introduction of the Hummer into civilian life, I can't hate the guy. He's got chops.
Finally, a Stephen King adaptation that was set in the then-far-away future of 2017, The Running Man. Schwarzenegger is, predictably, great in this, but not for the usual reasons. He's kinda clueless as the now all-too-real satire swirls around him, but playing the material completely straight is absolutely the right move here, especially since he's playing off of a gloriously over-the-top Richard Dawson. Did I mention this movie essentially predicted the plague of reality TV, but somehow didn't go far enough to see that the dystopia that blighted entertainment genre would create when we essentially elected Richard Dawson's character president?
Time Warp Drive-In starts at dusk on Saturday, November 10 at the Malco Summer Drive-In.