It wasn’t the best day for a film fest. July 13th was the hottest day of the year so far, thirty two degrees and you could feel every one of them. But this was no ordinary marathon; this was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie marathon. The Austrian Oak eats thirty two degrees for breakfast, sprinkled on his bowl of Green Berets.
If you’re like me, there’s a good chance Arnold was your first movie idol. Born in 1980, I was in my early teens by the time the Austrian Oak was at the top of his Hollywood game. Late night Saturday television had his greatest hits in constant rotation, testosterone fuelled adventures that were never short of explosions, one liners, boobs and biceps. It was cinematic nectar to any twelve year old boy. The critics baulked at the man’s implausible indestructibility; Arnold couldn’t be beaten so what was the point of his antics? But it was the opposite end of the feasibility spectrum they sold me on the Austrian.
The Oak pops in for a beer and a stogie
Schwarzenegger was an unlikely movie star. He had no formal training, his accent was pure east European villain, and his unpronounceable surname would never fit on cinema marquees. Despite this he fought from his underdog position to become the world’s biggest movie star. His attack on Tinsel Town was two pronged. Firstly, no one before had displayed a physique anywhere near as impressive as Arnolds; all other action stars now looked slovenly by comparison. Secondly, Arnold had charisma in spades. It was as much his veracious personality as his looks that nabbed the sixth of his seven Mr Olympia titles in 1975 for Pumping Iron (1975). So not only was he the best movie action star the world had ever seen, he was a real life inspiration to, taking the odds by the scruff of the nutsack and hurling them off a cliff. He certainly inspired me to pick up the weights, take better care of my physical health and strive for a hardwork ethic.
Commando...it will make a man of you
So what better way to pay tribute to the sixty six year old action icon than by taking on five of his most manly movies. Planning would be key for our ninth movie marathon. We had to factor in half-hour sun, cigar and fresh air breaks just so we wouldn’t miss out on what would probably be the only decent weekend of the summer. With copious amounts of alcohol on hand we also undertook the infamous Arnie Drinking Game; Arnie says a one liner or kills someone, 1 finger of drink, Arnie shows a bicep, 2 fingers of drink, there’s an explosion, 2 fingers of drink, multiple Arnie’s (ie. he, his clone, hologram, TV picture or mirror image are on screen at the same time), a shot for everyone, Arnie says "I’ll be back”, Jagerbombs all round. These being the rules it wasn’t the best idea to start proceedings with the world record breaking carnage fest Commando (1985).
Pumping some iron to get in the mood
Chronological order was a marathon rule as always though so we threw ourselves headlong into one of the Oaks most full-on man movies. Mark Lester’s film is still a blast twenty eight years after it kicked down the doors of theatres. Its cliche but true; they really don’t make films like this anymore. The Expendables (2010) is a girlie-man movie by comparison. The climatic John Matrix island shit-storm nearly leaves us with alcohol poisoning. Only Vernon Wells’ hilarious homoerotic Bennett sees us safely across the finish line. As one marathoner comments, all that's missing is a pair of arse-less leather chaps. A half hour sunbreak later we’re straight into Raw Deal (1986). What would have been a fairly bland entry in the Arnie canon is saved by an oddly amusing script, "When was the last time you had a good piss?”, and some superb villainous casting. Robert Davi was a one of the best verbal sparring partners Arnold ever had, the smartass quips flying back and forth, while Sam Wanamaker hams up a storm as the pigheaded mob boss. Chuck in some classic Arnie moments (taking out a gravel-pit of bad guys with a Cadillac, a shit load of guns and a copy of the Rolling Stones greatest hits). We even have our first "Multiple Arnie” as the Oak admires himself in the mirror at the end of the obligatory tooling up montage. Double vodka shots for everyone.
Giving it the running man...Arnold is not impressed
We shoot forward to 2017 next for Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man (1987). It’s now only four years away, but no sign of Climbing For Dollars replacing The X-Factor yet, mores the pity. A world away from the original Stephen King novella, Glaser’s movie plays more like an Arnold wrestling pay-per-view with the Oak taking on an ever more colourful cast of characters. The sight of leading lady Maria Conchita Alonso in a low-cut lycra jumpsuit finally gives the lads something to drown out the female bare-bodied Arnold cooing. Three films in, we also start to notice a whole host of other Arnie-isms that could have been added to our drinking game; bad eighties suits, a character sporting a dodgy moustache, Arnold smoking a cigar, a fist pumping rock song to close out a film, a cameo from Arnold’s longtime body double and stuntman Sven-Ole Thorsen. But as pitch perfect villain Richard Dawson goes for a rocket ride we’re already starting to feel the hum of an Arnie inspired booze buzz. Perhaps we’re better off not expanding the game just yet.
We still don't know what a god-damn sexual Tyrannosaurus is.
Our fourth film is top contender for best Arnold movie of all time, Predator (1987). Director John McTiernan assembled the greatest onscreen group of hardasses ever, with Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura returning for their second outing of the day, before dispatching them via a villain that finally made Arnold look small. The village assault scene is the pinnacle of action movie scenes, replete with carnage and one liners "Stick around”, "I ain’t got time to bleed”, and Ventura somehow wielding "Ol’ Painless”, a minigun usually bolted to the side of an attack helicopter that fires more ammo per minute than Jesse could ever hope to carry. The movies second half moves into the best sci-fi horror territory since Alien (1979). The marathoners munch nervously on Austrian smoked cheese and Wurst as the Predator reveals its toothed vaginal food-hole and Arnie goes for a mudpack. No one beats Arnold though and we retreat to the garden for a post movie victory cigar and fond re-enactment of the film’s many killer lines, "Get to da choppa!”.
Our last stand, for The Last Stand
Half cut and slightly sunburnt we close the day with Arnold’s long awaited return to top-billing, The Last Stand (2013). It was inevitable but we all remark how old the Oak is looking. There are no bicep shots this time round. The script is littered with nods towards the big man’s encroaching age, sage advice about "moving out to LA” and creaky bones. Wisely director Kim Ji-Woon surrounded Arnie with some solid supporting players, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman, and didn’t get Arnold doing anything that a still-in-shape sixty six year old might not be able to get away with. Whether it’ll go down as an Arnold classic is debatable but its far from a failed movie. And for those of us that use to cram four classic Arnold films on to one long play VHS it’s a treat to see that there’s still life left in the man from Thal.
A quick post movie Google search revealed that Schwarzenegger has just signed up for Terminator 5 (TBA). Its news that still gets the movie jucies going. Before his silver screen return Arnold turned his attention to politics, hoping to conquer it just as he did the sports, movie and real-estate worlds. But in so doing he also opened himself to sleazy mud-slinging, as his political competitors tried to dig up as much dirt as possible. And like anyone, mistakes had been made in his past, the most damaging being his sometime wandering hands. But as one friend of the Oak commented, as a bodybuilder Arnold grew up with people proding and groping him whenever they felt like it. And California didn't seem to mind, a State that Arnold rescued from the brink of financial disaster during his time as Governor. So, still inspired, we end the day with a raise of our Austrian beer bottles and a last swig in honour of the man who still owns action cinema. Like a half ton bench press for the big man, our ninth movie marathon had been a breeze.