The Terminator (1984)

terminator_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Rick Rossovich, Bess Motta, Earl Boen

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: Super high. Can’t wait to see it again.

fourstar


Everyone already knows that James Cameron’s second feature The Terminator is an incredible, groundbreaking film. Even if you don’t like it (for shame!), you still have to give it credit for the undying fan support it has garnered over the years; as Elvis would say, “50,000,000 fans can’t be wrong.” I’ve seen this film and its sequel more times than I could possibly count, yet it remains a perennial favorite.

This time around I noticed a few things I never had before. The most notable thing is that the film is almost purely visual during its first half. Hell, even a good portion of the second half is largely driven by pure action and carnage too, but its the first half that I want to focus on. The film begins with a quick scene of the future war. These scenes have always had a deep effect on me; I remember being absolutely riveted to them as a child. This ultimate manifestation of the post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged city ignites the fires of imagination, and even though we have little context for what’s happening on-screen, we cannot deny the power of the imagery being used. I mean, who saw this as a kid and didn’t remember the tank treads crushing human skulls?

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White Dog (1982)

whitedog_1Starring Kristy McNichol, Paul Winfield, Burl Ives, Jameson Parker, Parley Baer

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Very high.

fourstar


Racism is a learned behavior, but the interesting thing about the racism presented in White Dog is that dogs don’t see color lines. Late one night on a dark road, Julie (Kristy McNichol) hits a white dog with her car and takes it in. She falls in love with it, but soon she learns that the seemingly sweet dog is actually a “white dog,” trained specifically to attack black people. Fuller explored different aspects of racism throughout his career, and in White Dog, Fuller distills racism down to its core, vicious elements. There is no thought or human element involved in the dog’s decisions, he represents racism itself manifested as man’s best friend. But dogs are known for their capacity to learn, so the main drive of White Dog is whether or not this dog can be re-trained to accept black people as non-threatening.

If the core idea of White Dog seems somewhat outlandish and exaggerated, it is. Fuller uses melodrama and symbolism to skillfully tell his story, eliciting deep moments of thought and visceral response amidst what could also be described as a slasher film with a racist dog as the slasher. This bouillabaisse will definitely turn some people off, but for those willing to brave its depths, White Dog proves itself to be highly cinematic and deeply affecting. Fuller was always interested in pushing boundaries and confronting the audience with the harsh realities of the world that surrounded them, and the extreme moments of melodrama work perfectly to convey the stark themes of White Dog.

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