Musings About Music In Film

31 Days: The Terminator

The-Terminator-7290_1 While the series has now veered into parody and is seen as mainly science fiction, The Terminator is as much a horror as SF, with Arnold Schwarzeneggar's unstoppable cyborg a stalking slasher that deserves to stand next to Jason, Freddy et al as much as C-3PO. Behind the terminator's incessant drive is Brad Fiedel's mechanical score, which like the character drapes an omnipresent shadow over the entire film. What first comes to mind is the terminator's ostinato, a pounding anvilesque percussion movement that quantifies the constant threat of the character and his constant cycling programming. Alongside this is a foreboding and malevolent synth line that signifies his arrival, and the subsequent chaos and death that follows.

Fiedel's score is bleak and unremitting, whether it's scoring the gleaming urban sprawl of 1980's LA or the its 2029 equivalent, a blackened post-nuclear landscape littered with skulls and patrolling hunter-killer droids furthering man's extinction. But through Sarah Connor Fiedel introduces hope, with organic and serene lines that reflect her kind - and human - nature. This is expanded with her relationship with Kyle Reese, and the love theme that follows which breaks up the mechanical monotony to become the main theme for the film, musically and metaphorically. The film ends on a dark and aggressive rendition of that melody foretelling the coming storm, but the scenes preceding are of pure horror, with Fiedel's synths slashing and stabbing both wildly and clinically, as the pair are chased by the terminator who, like George Romero's zombies, is a symbol of inevitability, of fate. And it's up to us whether or not we accept that fate.

The Terminator was originally released on vinyl at the time of release, with one side being portions of Fiedel's score and the other the songs featured in the film. A later CD release purported to be the complete score but was nowhere near, however Milan Records will be issuing it as part of their "Nicolas Winding Refn presents" series. One can only hope this will finally correct the errors of the past. -CB