Robo-Boogie: The Terminator and Class of 1999
The Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, Texas just finished another stellar film series with a Killer Robots theme. It was aptly called Robo-Boogie and it was hosted and curated by the super nice (biased because every time he comes into Vulcan Video he’s all manners) Zane Gordon-Bouzard. Zane treated audiences with five double bills all playing on separate days. I could only attend one however due to work, so I had to make it count. I chose the final day of the series which had two of my favorite Robot films maybe ever. The Terminator and Class of 1999, back-to-back and in 35MM. After a great intro from Zane we were off and running. Both prints looked incredible and the audience was very respectful through both films.
The connective synthetic tissue of these two awesome rides is simply this: driven robots are built to crush, kill and destroy puny humans in their path. Kill the youth to be precise, even if that youngin’ hasn’t been conceived yet. Children are bad!! Kill all troublemakers!! Well, maybe not that extreme, but close enough. Both films have robots (Yeah, I know, The Terminator is more of a cyborg, calm down) with no problems at all getting the job done no matter what fleshbag is in their destructive path.
In the case of The Terminator, a machine is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Doing so will prevent her son, the brilliant resistance leader John Connor from ever being born. A resistance fighter named Kyle Reese is set back in time as well, only his mission is to protect Sarah at all costs. Having seen this film a million times on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray, I can safely say without hesitation that this film is perfect. Sporting a lean run time zero fat, The Terminator knows exactly what it needs to achieve at all times. Not a frame is wasted and the budget on the film was spent to perfection. In a sea of great ideas one of the greatest choices in this film was the hiring of Brad Fiedel for the score. His use of electronic instruments drives the artificial nature of the piece home without losing the melody and grace that makes a great score memorable. I also have to give a shoutout to the buddy cop dynamic between actors Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen. You feel the years of backstory between them in a few simple exchanges. Both actors are right in the pocket, bouncing off one another splendidly. The killer robot played by Arnie is always going to stand the test of time because of the execution. Relentless, physically intimidating and often times funny as Hell, Arnie and Cameron created something that will stay in our hearts forever. The Terminator aged well ladies and gents and it’s reach and influence can be seen in many a film.
Speaking of influence, our second feature was Director Mark L. Lester’s Class of 1999. Having already given us the definitive troubled teen film years earlier with Class of 1984, Lester’s amplified version is so radical in it’s thinking that it’s hard to deny how special it truly is. With a very Escape from New York style of opener, we learn thatviolent teens basically rule the United States with rampant drug and gang activity. In order to fight the problem, robot teachers are placed in a volatile Seattle High School in an effort to quell the madness. Like Arnold in The Terminator before them, these teachers are infiltration units meant to pass 100% as human. Of course things go to shit when they robots start reacting on their own terms taking things way too far and turning on their masters. It builds to this amazing show down at the High School that somewhat mirrors the finale of Class of 1984 only this time we are rooting for the punk like students instead of wishing them a speedy death. I mean, how can you hate a film that has Pam Grier as a robot chemistry teacher with a flamethrower arm? Wonderful John P. Ryan, may he rest in peace, is on fire in this film. He commits to the crazy in such stunning fashion that his robot teacher stands out above the rest. Just wait until you see the spanking scene, your mind will leak out of your nostrils it’s so funny. Class of 1999 is gnarly trash cinema with a low key exploitation slant. It’s a stand out in the Robot genre and can’t be missed.
Even though these were two films I grew up on, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to see them in 35MM with an great crowd. Robo-Boogie was a damn good time at the movies and I hope Alamo brings it back soon. I’m sure there are a ton of metallic menaces in the world of cinema that are computing ways to exterminate their makers for not running this planet the correct way.