VHS Revival ranks the iconic quips that defined 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 2,000, Arnie would burst to fame in bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. With his docile accent, he hardly seemed like a superstar in the making, but next to his musclebound co-stars the cocksure kid from Thal shone brightest. 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 1980’s he had become a sci-fi icon, landing starring roles in money-spinning blockbusters such as Predator, The Running Man and Total Recall.
In spite of his artistic shortcomings, Arnold would exhibit an almost intangible charisma, one punctuated by the kind of cheap puns that would become his trademark. In the first of a two part series, VHS Revival gives you 10 of his very best.
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 by a typically magnetic 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 physique was still more impressive than most movie stars flexing their pecs on planet Hollywood.
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, 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 line, but one indicative of the fact that our perennial hero can get away with spouting any old garbage and still raise a smile.
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, this far future adventure is very much entrenched in the clunky glitz of the 1980’s. 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 material’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 network propaganda that tried to finish him, Richards fulfils 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. Unfortunately for him, this time 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 his image adorns. At the risk of becoming an Arnie clone, you could say that this particular pun adds some extra fizz.
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, the film 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 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, we are supposed to take this seriously, triggering the kind of accidental charm that only Arnie’s frame can muster. Oh, and who can forget that rather disturbing moment when his face is superimposed onto the head of a newborn.
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.
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 campy tone, but the fourth instalment 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. Even with the master of inane one-liners at their disposal, the dialogue 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 like ‘Stay cool, bird boy’ most certainly were not, while the lazy and contemptible ‘Let’s kick some ice!’ barely made 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.
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, featuring the kind of haphazard editing and fails in continuity that complement his accidental talents quite wonderfully. It’s 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 that 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. However, after some grossly inept stealth skills and an improbable battle with a platoon of mall cops who were presumably attending a nearby security seminar, Matrix quickly reneges on his promise, 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!”
Is this Eastern time?
Character: Jericho Cane
Movie: End of Days (1999)
By the time the millennium was upon us, Arnie’s one-liners were beginning to wear a little thin. After more than a decade of the same cornball formula, it wasn’t really surprising that his time as Hollywood’s marquee attraction was coming to an end. The ’80’s were well and truly over, and his ’90’s escapades as a family-friendly douchebag had long outstayed their welcome.
After sewing various political seeds, Arnie would return to the action movie fray in the mid-90s with varying degrees of success, and in 1999 he would try his luck with supernatural thriller End of Days. Starring alongside Gabriel Byrne, Arnie plays Jericho Cane, a drunken ex-cop tasked with stopping Satan from finding a bride in New York City.
Although the movie would rake in a whopping $212,000,000 at the box office, it is as ridiculous as it sounds. With a convoluted plot that makes very little sense, the movie cheapens itself with bog standard twists and the kind of ludicrous dialogue that even Arnie fails to carry. Perhaps the most preposterous of all is a scene in which Cane contemplates the Earth’s destruction, building to the kind of quip that leaves you shaking your head with derision.
“So, the Prince of Darkness wants to conquer the Earth, but has to wait until an hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve? Is this Eastern time?'”
Arnold, if you were anyone else in the world you would have been out of a job a long time ago.
Consider that a divorce!
Character: Doug Quaid
Move: Total Recall (1990)
Now we’re talking!
This is Arnie at his absolute pinnacle, an unlikely showman in the prime of his career firing off droll one-liners like an Uzi magazine. Based on Phillip K. Dick’s dystopian short We Can Remember it for you Wholesale, Total Recall was the project of Paul Verhoeven, a highly intelligent director who strayed from the avante-garde to breathe new life into the mainstream action genre, blessing us with satirical sci-fi extravaganzas such as Robocop and Starship Troopers.
Like those movies, Total Recall is an ultra-violent action thrill ride which expanded on Dick’s central concept of implanted memories to include intergalactic espionage and political conflict. Doug Quaid is an everyman with a mundane existence. His one shining light is the impossibly beautiful Lori (Sharon Stone), a seemingly dutiful wife who does everything in her power to prevent her husband from pursuing his dream of going to the violent red planet he seems so hopelessly drawn to.
Of course, all is not as it seems, and when Quaid visits Rekall, a memory implant company who offer customers the vacation of a lifetime without ever leaving their headquarters, our hero’s brain is disturbed and his entire world begins to unravel in a cataclysm of murder and deceit. Central to those delusions is Lori, who tries to murder him when he discovers the truth about her – that she is a stranger hired by an agency to keep tabs on him.
After Quaid gets the drop on Lori, she attempts to manipulate his fabricated emotions, reminding him that the two of them are married before drawing an Uzi on her unsuspecting beau. Quaid is onto her scam however, and after putting a bullet in the bitch’s head he utters his immortal repost, using the kind of endearingly goofy monotone which made Arnie a superstar the world over.
I’m the party pooper!
Character: Detective John Kimble
Movie: Kindergarten Cop (1990)
With studios looking for increasingly wacky ways to appease his insistence on more family-friendly roles, Arnie would star in some quite ludicrous hokum during the early ’90’s, teaming up with mismatched twin Danny Devito and even taking on the task of becoming the world’s first pregnant male in 1994‘s syrupy goofest Junior.
Kindergarten Cop was yet another of those zany endeavours, a movie which lampooned Arnie’s universally accepted masculinity in a way that promised zingers by the bucketload. In the movie, Arnie plays Detective John Kimble, a bumbling man-mountain who agrees to go undercover in a local pre-school as he looks to locate a criminal’s ex-wife, a woman he believes holds the key to putting him behind bars.
Inevitably, our lovable goof falls for the woman in question, and even becomes a father figure to her soon-to-be-kidnapped son. Inevitably, it turns out that the movie’s crooks are nothing compared to the gaggle of minors who set about running Kimble ragged, pushing Arnie’s sub-par acting skills to the limit in the pursuit of comedy, but as is typically the case with cinema’s most lovable megastar, we find ourselves laughing at him, not with him, which as far as I can gather is exactly the director’s intention.
Earlier in the movie, we are treated to a classic Arnie line that is more akin to our expectations. Raiding a joint full of street punks, Kimble is challenged by a typically hackneyed gang member looking for answers. Who is this giant lump crashing their illegal soiree? He is ‘the party pooper’, of course, a fact emphasized by a shotgun blast in a moment of pure McBain revelry.
Let off some steam, Bennett!
Character: John Matrix
Movie: Commando (1985)
Not even The Terminator could boast two entries on our list of Arnie’s top ten quips, which in itself it a testament to the lovable goofiness of homoerotic musclehead John Matrix, an ex-commando who comes out of retirement to save his daughter from the clutches of S&M icon Bennett. Much has been made of the supposed gay subtext prevalent in Mark L. Lester’s hypermasculine romp, and although those involved were quick refute those suppositions, they undoubtedly gave the movie an extra dimension, lending it the kind of cult status most can only dream of.
This is undoubtedly Arnie’s most accomplished performance as the bumbling clown we all know and love, and there are so many iconic lines in Commando it is hard to choose a favourite, but this is the one that fans invariably reference, perhaps because it serves as our hero’s parting words to his unlikely admirer.
After subjecting his watching daughter to a bloody battle of flaming incinerators and raging volts of electricity, Matrix decides to all but confirm Jenny’s future life in a psychiatric hospital by tearing a length of piping off the wall and using it to impale his camp nemesis, making the kind of phallic statement that borders on pseudo-masturbation.
As steam plumes from the hole in Bennett’s stomach, our stone cold killer offers his perverse lament before giving his daughter the thumbs up.
Oh, daddy, I knew you’d kill him in the end!
Hasta La Vista, Baby!
Character: Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator
Movie: Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Okay, so ‘I’ll be back’ is perhaps more iconic, a trademark line that would be used on several occasions after its debut in The Terminator, but at the time of T2’s release, Hasta La Vista, Baby was perhaps even more widely quoted, quickly becoming ingrained in modern culture as the most expensive movie of its time took the cinematic world by storm.
James Cameron would deliver a cinematic masterstroke with Judgement Day, allowing Arnold the role of protagonist in the form of a reprogrammed terminator sent back in time to protect a young John Connor, a boy who would one day grow to save the human race from Annihilation. When this version of the T-800 arrived in 1991, it was in many ways similar to its darker predecessor, a machine with cold and ruthless tendencies in its relentless quest to fulfil its objective.
There was a major difference between the two, however. Arnie’s second incarnation of the T-800 was programmed with the ability to learn and adapt in a way that allowed it to understand the human condition and ultimately empathise. In an ironic twist, a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) would become a father figure to his cyborg protector, helping him to understand what makes us human. He also helped with his lingo, which was understandably on the robotic side.
Hasta La Vista, baby! was described as a cool thing to say to somebody when your intention is to dis them, and although the T-800’s initial recital of the phrase was utterly devoid of feeling, that would change when the machine would ultimately rise from the dead to put an end to Robert Patrick’s sadistic T-1000.
In spite of the multitude of crappy lines that Schwarzenegger has been forced to deliver throughout an exhaustive mainstream career, with the right material and guidance there is simply no one better, and it is moments like this that make him the most iconic action hero there ever was.