Filmsite Movie Review
The Terminator (1984)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Terminator's Deadly Search for Sarah Connor:

The Terminator pulled up to a phone booth, and yanked the bearded caller Morris (John E. Bristol) away from the phone, who was outraged and vainly complained: "Hey man, you got a serious attitude problem." He scanned three 'Sarah Connor' names with his finger - and stopped on the first name.

A close-up of the station wagon's front wheel appeared as he pulled up in front of a suburban home - ominously crushing a child's plastic blue toy truck. He stepped out of the car, strode to the front door (marked with the number 14239 - a mismatch to the phone book entries!), and knocked on the door. After the female occupant identified herself as Sarah Connor (Marianne Muellerleile) behind her front door only held by a weak security chain, he broke through the door, aimed his .45 handgun at her forehead (with the red dot targeting her) as she staggered back, and fired multiple shots.

During Sarah's work break, Nancy alerted Sarah to a TV news report playing on a portable TV in the workers' employee lounge - a remarkable coincidence - "Sarah Connor, thirty-five, mother of two, brutally shot to death in her home this afternoon." Nancy prophetically joked: "You're dead, honey."

Reese's Future-Flashback to 2029:

That evening at a construction site with heavy drilling machinery moving in the darkness, Reese sat in a nearby vehicle and experienced a flash-forward to the year 2029. He remembered steel treads of a Skynet mobile killing-ground unit with search-lights emitting laser blasts, and crunching human skulls into the dirt. Reese imagined himself as one of the combatants, crawling in the trenches through the dirt, wreckage and bones. He was fighting against the machines as part of a resistance movement engaged in a nightmarish war. Reese watched as one of the metallic ground units and its flying aerial counter-part swept through the landscape, firing at the rebels. He successfully tossed a satchel-charge or explosive under the path of its front treads, but his young female partner was not as lucky - she was obliterated by the swiveling head of the unit that shot a power-bolt at her - leaving only a few fragments of her as remains. After the ground unit was blown up, Reese ran to a modified Chevy vehicle - a Resistance personnel carrier, that had a swiveling machine-gun turret on top. As the car surged from the aerial unit that was in pursuit, it was struck by another blinding bolt of light and the car flipped. Wounded and bleeding, Reese was pinned in the burning wreckage.

He suddenly awoke from the horrifying dream, to hear a radio advertisement for Bob's Stereo shop at 2500 Sepulveda Blvd. He slowly pulled away from the work site in a stolen vehicle, a dark-colored Ford sedan.

Sarah's Ordinary Life:

Sarah Connor was an independent woman who shared a crowded, rental apartment with her friend Ginger Ventura (Bess Motta), who had a sex-obsessed boyfriend named Matt Buchanan (Rick Rossovich). When Sarah (wearing a Flintstones T-shirt) answered the phone in their living room while Ginger was blow-drying her hair and listening to headphones, Matt seductively spoke dirty to her, thinking she was Ginger - it would not be the only time in the film that a phone conversation was wrongly deceptive!:

(voice-over and in-person) First, I'm gonna rip the buttons off your blouse one by one, and then run my tongue down your neck to your bare, gleaming breasts. And then slowly, slowly pull your jeans off, inch by inch...And lick your belly in circles, further and further down, and then pull your panties off with my teeth.

When Sarah giggled in amusement, Matt apologized for thinking she was Ginger, and for being so forward with her, but he repeated the same fantasy when his girlfriend took the phone.

Shortly later, the two were ready to hit the town that Friday evening, as Sarah chuckled about their sexy appearance in the mirror: "Better than mortal man deserves." As Sarah looked around for her pet green iguana Pugsley, Ginger played back phone messages on their answering machine - including one from her mother, and a second call from Sarah's date Stan Morsky who cancelled his date at the last minute - cowardly delivered remotely. Sarah laughed it off: "I'll live. I'll break his kneecaps. Well, Pugsley still loves me, don't you, baby?" Sarah was forced to change her plans to a dateless dinner and a movie. Ominous music played as she nervously entered the apartment's underground parking garage. From the shadows, Reese watched as she rode off on her moped, and drove after her.

A Police Investigation Into Two-Identically-Named Murder Victims:

In a police station, homicide police officer Lt. Ed Traxler (Paul Winfield) with detective Hal Vukovich (Lance Henriksen) were investigating a series of execution-style murders of two females named Sarah Connor - it was a strange coincidence that there were two identically-named victims [Note: Presumably, the Terminator had brutally shot and killed another 'Sarah Connor" female, off-screen, in Santa Monica]:

Hal: "Dead girl.... Sarah Ann Connor, secretary, 35, shot six times at less than ten feet. Large caliber weapon." [Note: Chronologically, this was the second murder victim, in a Santa Monica apartment]
Hal: "Dead girl Two, sent over from the Valley division this afternoon....(Sarah Louise Connor)...[Note: This was the first murder victim, in a Valley suburban home!]
Ed: "A one-day pattern killer."
Hal: "I hate the weird ones."

[Contradictory Continuity Problem: The earlier TV broadcast about the first killing was in a different order - "Sarah Connor, thirty-five, mother of two, brutally shot to death in her home this afternoon." Or were both women 35 years of age with two children??]

At 9:40 pm, the two officers were asked by a press reporter (Webster Williams) about why the two killings were in the same order as the listings in the phone book. Without answering, in an inner office, Traxler pondered whether the serial killer would be called "The Phone Book Killer." Phone calls to Sarah's apartment - she was presumed to be the third potentially next victim - went unanswered or ended up on the phone machine. Ginger - still wearing her personal headphones - and her boyfriend Matt were in the back bedroom making love.

In a pizza restaurant after attending a Friday night movie, Sarah heard the late evening's 11 o'clock TV news broadcast about the second of two execution-style murders of another female named Sarah Ann Connor in Santa Monica:

Police have announced the name of the victim in the second of two execution-style murders which took place today. Incredibly, the names of the two victims are virtually identical. Two hours ago, 35 year-old Sarah Ann Connor was pronounced dead at the scene in her Santa Monica apartment. Sarah Louise Connor was slain by a lone gunman earlier today in her home. Now, police are refusing to speculate on the apparent similarity between these shooting deaths and no other connection between the two victims has been established as of yet.

Sarah rushed to the restaurant's phone area and grabbed the phone directory - and after realizing she was the third Sarah Connor listed, she feared and suspected she was the next victim.

The Tech-Noir Nightclub/Bar:

Sarah fled outside to the Tech-Noir bar/night-club a block away, noticing that she was being followed by a sinister-looking figure in a long coat (Reese). The Tech-Noir, a grimy dance nightclub on Pico Boulevard, required a cover charge of $4.50.

[Note: The production company of co-writers James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd was named Tech-Noir - a reference to a stylistic hybrid of futuristic science-fiction and film noir.]

Loud rock music was playing "Photoplay" - performed by Tryanglz.

You're on the cover of every magazine
You show your private life behind the silver screen
I'm your find, I'm the moving target
On the town, it's hit and run
As the shutter falls, you come undone

Caught in a photoplay
Living a masquerade
Flash in the night

Technicolor dreams have faded overnight
When someone's in the red, it turns to black and white
Where's the truth and true confessions
When they're made from fantasy?
Now you're exposed to the third degree, oh

In the back of the club, Sarah phoned the Los Angeles Police Department emergency line, but received a recording - another technological frustration - and she hung up. In front of Sarah's apartment building, a police cruiser was parked, but it sped off when a radio female dispatcher announced: "211 in progress at Bob's Liquor, corner of 3rd and Cameron."

The Deadly Apartment Assault on Matt and Ginger:

The murderous Terminator came into view and glanced at the apartment's directory display. Inside the apartment, Ginger (with her Walkman earphones listening to a loud recording of "Intimacy" performed by Linn Van Hek) was in the kitchen apres-sex to grab milk, bread, peanut butter and celery sticks, and other sandwich ingredients. The Terminator slid open the balcony's glass door of the bedroom where Matt was sleeping - who was awakened when a shadow passed over him. Although he defended himself by swinging a large brass lamp at the android, he was tossed through the glass door and then against a full-length wall mirror. Deafened by her blaring headphones, Ginger was oblivious to the attack, until she was walking back through the hallway and Matt's bloodied body burst through the wall. As she turned, the Terminator aimed his .45 (with the red laser dot) at Ginger and shot her in the back. He finished her off and emptied his gun with a flurry of more blasts as she crawled across the floor.

When the phone rang and the answering machine was activated, the Terminator was alerted that Sarah was still alive when he heard her frantic voice leaving a message - and she revealed her location at the TechNoir on Pico Boulevard:

Ginger, this is Sarah! Pick up if you're there! I'm at this place on Pico Boulevard called TechNoir. I'm really scared. I think that there's somebody's after me. Uh, I hope that you play this back soon. I need you and Matt to come and pick me up as soon as possible. The police keep transferring me around. I'm gonna give 'em another try. The number here is 555-9175. Call me, kiddo. I need your help.

The Terminator found and took Sarah's address book and her university student photo ID with him to help in his search.

The Tech-Noir Assault and Escape:

Meanwhile, Sarah called the police and was able to speak to Lt. Traxler - she told him she feared she was being pursued. He cautioned her to remain there in the public place to be safe ("...stay visible. Don't go outside or even to the restroom") and await police protection. She sat down - and listened to "Burnin' in the Third Degree" performed by Tryanglz, as both Reese and the Terminator converged there. As the android entered, he ignored the cover charge of the cashier-ticket taker (Barbara Powers) and broke the wrist of the bouncer who attempted to stop him. Entering the club, the Terminator scanned through the crowd of jostling dancers as he slowly moved through, attempting to locate Sarah.

When the Terminator recognized Sarah, he approached her table and drew his .45 laser-guided weapon. Reese whipped open his trenchcoat and protectively fired with his sawed-off shotgun - and saved defenseless Sarah from being killed. The android was blown backwards by the force of the gunfire, but was only temporarily stunned. He rose to his feet and began firing on the stampeding patrons with his Uzi, as pandemonium, dead bodies and shattered glass were left in the wake of the dueling time-travelers from the future. He ruthlessly and indiscriminately fired on any moving target, as he stood in front of the blinding TECH-NOIR sign. From behind, Reese blasted the Terminator a second time as he was loading his ammo clip and was threateningly standing point-blank above Sarah with a clear shot. The android was propelled backwards, and crashed through furniture and the front plate glass window into the street.

Reese convinced Sarah that he was there to protect her, and he grabbed her by the arm and offered her life:

Come with me if you want to live. Come on.

When Sarah saw the indestructible Terminator rising unsteadily to his feet from the sidewalk, she realized that the killing machine would relentlessly pursue her and kill her if she didn't accept the help of her unknown protector. Reese and Sarah raced through an outside alley to his stolen vehicle, followed by the Terminator who was running at an inhuman super-speed after them. An infra-red POV image of the Terminator's view was projected - with recalculating columns of numbers and addresses, a directional compass, and a bulls-eye target positioned over them. When the fleeing pair reached his car, Reese opened the passenger door as a shield, dropped to the ground, and fired into the gas tank of a car further back in the row just before Terminator reached it, to set off a fireball. Although the other car exploded and a raging wall of fire mushroomed up, the Terminator lunged for their car through the flames and landed on their car's hood, as Reese jammed their car in reverse.

The android punched his fist through the windshield on the passenger side, and reached forward with his lacerated fingers to try and strangle Sarah. When the car skidded and slid sideways into a parked car, the Terminator was thrown off onto the pavement. With tires screeching, Reese took off. An arriving police car witnessed the crash, and the officer radioed in the incident as a hit-and-run accident - fearing unnecessarily for the life of the injured Terminator:

This is 1L-19. I got a hit-and-run felony. Suspect vehicle: late model gray Ford headed westbound on 7th. He's really moving, punching lights all the way. I'm gonna need an ambulance at 7th and Broadway right now.

The police vehicle conveniently provided the indomitable android with a vehicle to hijack, to continue the pursuit, after he killed the officer by flinging him against the car. While driving, he also imitated or simulated the dead officer's voice to respond to radio reports. A status update located the suspect's car at National. He gave his position as "westbound on Olympic approaching Overland." [Note: This was a little unlikely, since the car would have to be leaving Century City, and the Tech-Noir club was in Santa Monica on Pico Blvd., much further to the west, but that was where the chase started.]

Reese's Description of The Objective of His Mission:

As Reese escaped with Sarah and careened through the streets of downtown LA - dodging other traffic, he asked: "Are you injured? Are you shot?" - but Sarah was fearful and reluctant to respond. He grabbed at her to restrain her with a seatbelt and lock her door, and he yelled emphatic orders: "Do exactly as I say! Exactly! Don't move unless I say. Don't make a sound unless I say. Do you understand? DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" She begged: "Please don't hurt me!"

[Note: The quest for Sarah Connor by both individuals was for entirely different reasons:

  • the Terminator was there to eliminate Sarah, the mother of future unborn son and Resistance leader John Connor
  • Reese's mission was to rescue and protect Connor's mother - and inadvertently to father a child, John Connor, who would grow up and in the future lead the rebellion against the human-made machines]

Reese informed Sarah that the Terminator was an assassin - a Model 101 android (or cyborg) created by Cyberdyne Systems - a metal skeleton surrounded by living tissue. It had specifically targeted her, and Reese had come back from 45 years into the future to protect her - as they drove and evaded a police chase by police cruisers, he explained the reality of their formidable enemy and his sole purpose was to insure that she survived:

I'm here to help you. I'm Reese, Sergeant TechCom DN38416, assigned to protect you. You've been targeted for termination...It's very important that you live....(The Terminator) He's not a man - a machine. A Terminator. Cyberdyne Systems Model 101...Not a robot. A cyborg. A cybernetic organism...The Terminator's an infiltration unit. Part man, part machine. Underneath, it's a hyper-alloy combat chassis - microprocessor-controlled, fully armored. Very tough. But outside, it's living human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair, blood, grown for the cyborgs...The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy. But these are new, they look human. Sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.

When he claimed he was from the future, she doubted his veracity and tried to escape but he grabbed her. She sunk her teeth into his hand, drawing blood, but he still wouldn't release her. He calmly didn't react, but grimly and coldly told her: "Cyborgs don't feel pain. I do. Don't do that again." He tried to impress upon her that he wasn't exaggerating:

Listen! And understand! That Terminator is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever! Until you are dead!

They ditched the gray Ford (with a shattered windshield) in a parking garage at "4th and Beaudry." Listening on the radio, the Terminator swerved his cruiser around to pursue in that direction. Undetected behind parked cars in the garage, Reese and Sarah selected another car to steal (a Cadillac) - as they both crouched down in the front seat to avoid detection, she asked : "Why me? Why does it want me?" Reese further explained what he knew about the grim future, and the AI computer Skynet (defense network computers) responsible for the nuclear holocaust:

There was a nuclear war. A few years from now, all this, this whole place, everything -- it's gone. Just gone. There were survivors. Here, there. Nobody even knew who started it. It was the machines, Sarah....Defense network computers. New, powerful, hooked into everything. Trusted to run it all. They say it got smart -- a new order of intelligence. Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond -- extermination.

[Note: Big government and big business had partnered to create the defensive network of computers known as Skynet, that led inversely to nuclear annihilation. There were obvious references to 1983's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (colloquially known as "Star Wars") that was announced and proposed by President Ronald Reagan - a sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system to prevent war.]

With the butt of his loaded shotgun, Reese smashed the ignition assembly of the car in order to hot-wire it. Reese then explained how he had not experienced the war:

I grew up after it (the war) in the ruins, starving, hiding from HKs...Hunter-Killers. Patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal." He showed his forearm with a laser-scanned, burned-in brand: "This is burned in by a laser scanner."

He continued with a description of one brave Resistance fighter-leader, John Connor, Sarah's future unborn son, who helped humans to barely survive and defend themselves against the machines:

Some of us were kept alive, to work, loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever. But there was one man who taught us to fight, to storm the wire of the camps, to smash those metal motherf--kers into junk. He turned it around. He brought us back from the brink. His name is Connor - John Connor. Your son, Sarah. Your unborn son.

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