VHS Revival ranks the iconic quips that helped define the career of Hollywood’s most unlikely megastar.
When it comes to 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 conclusion of our two part series, VHS Revival looks at some of those iconic quips that would help catapult Arnie to superstardom.
5. Is this Eastern time?
Character: Jericho Cane
Movie: End of Days (1999)
By the time the millennium was upon us, Arnie’s trademark one-liners were beginning to wear a little thin. After more than a decade of the same old cornball formula, it wasn’t really surprising that his time as Hollywood’s marquee attraction was coming to an end. The 80s were well and truly over, and his 90s escapades as a family-friendly douchebag had long-since 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 as Jericho Cane, a drunken ex-cop tasked with stopping Satan from finding a bride in New York City.
Jericho Cane? Really? Lord have mercy!
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 which makes very little sense, while cheapening itself with bog standard twists and the kind of ludicrous dialogue that even Arnie fails to carry. Perhaps the most preposterous of all those lines is one in which our hero contemplates the Earth’s destruction, building up to the kind of quip which 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 anybody else in the world, you would have been out of a job a long time ago.
4. 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 vehicle 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 only shining light is an impossibly beautiful wife named Lori (Sharon Stone), who does everything in her power to prevent her husband from pursuing his dream of going to the violent red planet which 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, and not the woman who he pledged to spend the rest of his life with.
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.
3. I’m the party pooper!
Character: Detective John Kimble
Movie:Kindergarten Cop (1990)
With studios looking for increasingly wacky ways to appease Arnie’s insistence on more family-friendly roles, Arnie would star in some quite ludicrous hokum during the early 90s, teaming up with mismatched twin Danny Di Vito 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 bucket load. In the movie, Arnie plays Detective John Kimble, a bumbling man-mountain who reluctantly 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 young son, who inevitably becomes the subject of a kidnapping. Of course, the criminals are nothing compared to the gaggle of minors who set about running him ragged, pushing his sub-par acting skills to the absolute 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 which is something more akin to our expectations. Raiding a joint full of street punks, Kimble is challenged by a typically hackneyed gang member. Who is this giant lump crashing their illegal soiree? He is ‘the party pooper’, of course, a fact that is emphasized with a shotgun blast in a moment of pure McBain revelry.
2. 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 ex-commando John Matrix, who comes out of retirement to save his daughter from the clutches of S&M icon Bennett, a former comrade who oozes sexual tension as the two are reunited in a muscular battle of sweat and steam.
Much has been made of the supposed gay subtext prevalent in Mark L. Lester’s hypermasculine romp, and although those involved were quick to deny anything of the sort, its perceived notions – accurate or not – undoubtedly gave the movie an extra dimension which saw it achieve cult status with fans of the genre and beyond.
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 boiler room wall and using it to impale his camp nemesis with the kind of phallic statement which borders on pseudo-masturbation. As steam plumes from the hole in Bennett’s stomach for some reason, our stone cold killer offers his perverse lament before giving his poor daughter the thumbs up, and you have to believe that her returning smile is painted on from fear of becoming her father’s next victim.
1. 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 line that would be used by Arnie on several occasions after it was first uttered in a scene from The Terminator back in 1984, 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 much darker predecessor, a machine with cold and ruthless tendencies in its relentless pursuit to fulfill 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 why murder is wrong and why people cry. He also helped him 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 which make him without question the most iconic action hero there ever was.