VHS Revival ranks the iconic quips that helped define the career of Hollywood’s most unlikely megastar.
When it comes iconic figures, there are none more recognisable than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Born to stringent communist parents in a small town with a population of just over 2,000, Arnie would burst to fame in bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. With his docile accent, Arnold hardly seemed like a superstar in the making, but next to his musclebound co-stars the cocksure kid from Thal shone brightest. In spite of his oppressed upbringing Arnold was frank, confident, quick-witted and erudite – all of the qualities required to succeed as a likeable mainstream presence.
James Cameron was one of the first to see Schwarzenegger’s potential, casting him as relentless cyborg assassin The Terminator, and by the end of the 1980s he had become a sci-fi icon, landing starring roles in money-spinning blockbusters such as Predator, The Running Man and Total Recall. The fact that he could play a likeable Russian in 1988’s Cold War action comedy Red Heat spoke volumes about his growing popularity with American audiences.
Watching him act, you would be forgiven for thinking there was more than a little good fortune involved, but you don’t become a global megastar through sheer dumb luck. In spite of his artistic shortcomings, Arnold would exhibit an almost intangible charisma throughout his expansive career, one that would see his stock rise exponentially as he learned to market himself both onscreen and off, consistently evolving his persona with a mainstream diversity that will likely never be replicated.
In the first of a two part series, VHS Revival looks at some of those iconic quips that would help catapult Arnie to superstardom.
10. You’re luggage!
Character: U.S. Marshall John ‘The Eraser’ Kruger
Movie: Eraser (1996)
After a series of family-orientated roles designed to further endear him to the American public, Arnie laid the groundwork for a political career by going back to his roots and reminding everyone that he could still kick ass with the best of them. This time he would play a government assassin whose job it was to protect his country and ensure that U.S. citizens could sleep well at night. Coincidence? I think not!
Helped in large part by a typically magnetic performance by James Caan as a long-time friend-turned-traitor, Eraser was something akin to the action thrill-rides of old, and while almost fifty, Arnie’s ageing figure was still more impressive than most other movie stars flexing their pecs on the Hollywood action scene.
Perhaps the most memorable, although severely dated set-piece occurs in a CGI laden national zoo, where a gun-toting Kruger finds himself face to face with a crocodile. Disposing of the giant reptile, Arnie once again saves the girl – this time played by a typically bland Vanessa Williams – and although dead and unable to understand language, our hero and his writers felt that a trademark Arnie pun was required as a lament for our deceased croc. Certainly not his best, but one that is indicative of the fact that our perennial hero can get away with spouting any old garbage and still raise a smile.
9. Well, that hit the spot!
Character: Ben Richards
Movie: The Running Man (1987)
In my opinion, no movie sums up the VHS era quite like The Running Man, a loose adaptation of Stephen King’s dystopian allegory, which although set in the then far future of 2019 is very much entrenched in the clunky glitz of the 1980s. Unlike the hard-hitting novel which shares its title, the movie is closer to a Nintendo video game of the same era, while its characters are steroid-pumped gimmicks reminiscent of the spandex garbed warriors of American Pro Wrestling.
While being a typical Arnie Action vehicle, the movie does maintain some of its source materiel’s dissident charm, and although lines like ‘He had to split,’ and ‘Give you a lift?’ dominate much of its running time, our chosen quip works as a droll attack on the insidious nature of corporate advertising, and the negative impact it has on the story’s society as a whole. Unlike some of the gags on this list, it is actually pretty smart – at least in relative terms.
After escaping the clutches of The Running Man’s stalkers and the propaganda set-up that tried to finish him, Richards fulfills the promise he made to TV slimeball Killian by returning to the set and locking him in the mach speed roller coaster used to send contestants to their doom. This time, however, there is no safety net awaiting the subject’s arrival, and Killian is sent crashing through a billboard to his death, one which features the very coca-cola ad he stars in, while Richards’ recital of the line adds that extra fizz .
8. I’m all woman!
Character: Dr. Alex Hesse
Movie: Junior (1994)
Perhaps the very pinnacle of Arnie’s silly period, Junior is the story of Alex Hesse, an innovative doctor who decides to become the first man to bear a child. Not only is the idea preposterous, it is also downright weird, and although it reunites Arnie with Twins co-star and comic icon Danny DeVito, it is an often saccharine affair of vomit-inducing sentimentality.
Okay, so the movie has its moments, and the sight of Arnie walking around in a dowdy pink dress and wig is a sight to behold, as is a scene in which our father-to-be gets maternal lessons at a woman’s retreat while mawkish pop music plays with our heartstrings. Incredibly, this is a scene which we are supposed to take seriously, triggering that accidental charm that only Arnie’s awkward frame can muster. Oh, and who can forget that rather disturbing moment when Arnie’s face is superimposed onto the head of a newborn.
Disturbing! But who else could pull off such schmaltz without breaking a sweat?
Arnie is a bumbling goofball at the best of times, and in a movie with such a humourless screenplay, his presence is the one saving grace, turning the most predictable line imaginable into pure Arnie gold.
7. What Killed the Dinosaurs? The Ice Age!
Character: Mr Freeze
Movie: Batman and Robin (1997)
Is Joel Schumacher’s franchise killing Batman and Robin as bad as folklore suggests? In retrospect I would have to say No – it is much worse. Batman Forever set the ridiculous campy tone, but the fourth installment in the original series fell down the rabbit hole and crash landed in a whole other dimension, one of Disney on Ice style set pieces, flaccid, cornball jokes and George Clooney. When you compare Mr Schumacher’s version of Bane to the one portrayed by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises, you realise just how misjudged his vision was.
In all fairness, Schwarzenegger was inspired casting for a movie with such a silly formula, and his star turn as the larger-than-life ‘Freeze’ is perhaps the one shining light in a muddled mess of a movie that is almost unbearable at times. Even so, with the master of inane one-liners at their disposal, the dialogue – as with every other aspect of the movie – smacks of overkill, and Arnie’s overabundance of trademark material mars what could have been a role for the ages.
If lines such as ‘cool party!’ were mildly funny, then others such as ‘Stay cool, bird boy’ most certainly were not, while the lazy and contemptible ‘Let’s kick some ice!’ barely makes any sense. And that pun about the dinosaurs? I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it, but our favourite buffoon looked funny saying it, and for sheer silliness it makes our list at number 7.
6. Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last? I lied!
Character: John Matrix
Movie: Commando (1985)
To be honest, I could quite easily have complied a list of the Top 10 Commando Quips, and in the end I had to restrain myself, finally settling on two entries in the spirit of fairness. Commando sums up our subject’s inane charm more than any other Arnie vehicle, with the kind of haphazard editing and fails in continuity which seem to complement his accidental talents quite wonderfully. It is safe to say that Commando and Schwarzenegger go hand in docile hand.
It always amazed me how a man of such ignorance could rise to the very top of the United States army, particularly with the kind of distinctive Eastern drawl which screams ‘Commie’. His decision to rob a weapons store, jump two hundred feet into a puddle, and fly a hostage in a stolen plane across a no-fly zone are also rather dubious considering his daughter’s life is at stake.
One character who sees the more serious side of Matrix is Bennett cohort Sully, a cute little shit who charms Matrix to such a degree that he promises to kill him last. After some grossly inept stealth skills and a quite improbable battle with an entire platoon of mall cops who were presumably attending a nearby security seminar, Matrix quickly reneges on his promise however, dropping his enemy over a cliff and even taking a moment to peer over and watch his demise.
“Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?”
“That’s right, Matrix. You did!”