Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger: Sales Manual…

I only bought this book because it was on sale at Tesco’s for eight pounds. To be honest, I was going to buy it at nine pounds, I only found out about the additional savings at the till. Co-written with author Peter Petre Total Recall is, at 624 pages (I do not include the index in the page count), a longish read, but not too difficult to plough through if you concentrate. I read the book in roughly eight hours and I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

I have to say right off, that I did find the book interesting, but, not overly entertaining. The main reason for this was the inclusion of Arnie‘s terms in office as the Governor of California. I cannot and will not go on record as to whether he was a good or bad Governor, mainly because I do not know. I did live in the state while he served and therefore I do not feel qualified to have an opinion.

Of course the other reason behind the lack of opinion is quite simple, I don’t care. Politics is not my speciality and never will be. I will say that, as a rule, I do not support the Republican party and never have; the only Republican I ever supported whole heartedly was, like Arnie, a Hollywood product by the name of Ronald Reagan and that was because he helped to raise the pay of poorly paid military for two years straight. For that act alone, he will always be ranked by me as one of the greats.

But back to Arnie; most people are aware that he started as a body builder. They also know that he dreamed of coming to America so he could be a World Champion body builder and become a movie star. Everyone also knows that he was the Governor of California for a while.

What a lot of people may not have realized is that Arnold Schwarzenegger (I know I was not aware of it) is a top salesman. If he had not decided at an early age that he was somehow special, he could have wound up as a top sales rep at any big company.

But he seemed to figure out pretty early on that the product he wanted to sell was himself, Schwarzenegger on the hoof as it were. The fact that the only avenue available him was the, then, relatively unknown and unrecognised sport of body building did not stop him from going all out to reach his goal.

As his successes grew and word spread about this young giant of a man he started on the road that would ultimately result in him conquering the body building world, the box office and the citizens of California.

But this book is not about that; not really. It is another sales tool; nothing more, nothing less. It another way for him to sell product Schwarzenegger, a publicity lever to make sure that his name is “out there” before his next two films are released.

For a book titled Total Recall Arnold recalls, in the grand scheme of things, very little. He offers little tit-bits of information about some films he worked on, but not a lot. About Conan the Barbarian, his break-out film, he mentions Mako (who appeared 153 films and television shows by the time he died in 2006) not once.

What he prefers to discuss at great length are his humble beginnings, his business acumen, his marriage to Maria Shriver, and his time in the gubernatorial office in Sacramento California. Add in a few statements here and there about his competition in the world of body building and one tiny section dealing with his illegitimate son and there you have it.

Most autobiographies contain a huge amount of humility. Most, actors especially, spend an almost inordinate amount of time thanking all those folks who helped them to get where they are. Arnold does this, but not a lot and not too profusely.

The message that Arnie wants to convey is the he is responsible for his success. Not an agent or a manager or the director who took a chance on him or even his wife. Arnold Schwarzenegger stands “a man above other men,” one who should have a plaque on his chest stating, “How great I art.”

I am sure that there are other people in the entertainment business, or just in the public eye, who have egos that match Arnold’s but not many. And I’m sure that most would have hired a ghost writer to help them tone that massive ego down. Unfortunately that did not happen in this particular recounting of the “great one’s” life.

Has the reading of this ego massaging trip down memory lane put me off Arnold? No, it did not. It did lift the veil a little as to who the man actually is and what he deems important. Two very telling incidents in the book show just exactly how the man thinks.

One deals with the issue of the “first” predator in the 1987 film of the same name. Action man Jean-Claude Van Damme who was just starting in his career has stated publicly in the past that the first costume for the creature was unsafe. It had no manoeuvrability; it was cumbersome, heavy and unwieldy. Van Damme, quite rightfully, brought this up to the director repeatedly. When the director refused to get the problem sorted, Van Damme walked and his replacement was badly injured.

Not one word of this was recounted in Arnold’s telling of the filming except to state that Van Damme was a complainer. Complainer he might have been, but considering what eventually happened to his replacement and the “re-design” of the predator outfit, not without cause. Yet the episode is handled in one sentence; a sentence that implies that Van Damme was a whiner who did not want to do the job.

During the chapters dealing with his marriage to Maria, he comes right out and complains about things she did or believed. It’s obvious that this section was written while his powers of recall were in negative mode.

As in the episode of the predator costume, Arnold has no time for anything that does not glorify Arnold. He is the product on sale here, not anyone else. His goal is to show why he is so great and why he will continue to be great.

The book may please the odd rabid fan, but only just. This is not an anecdotal recital of interesting facts and fascinating stories. If it’s a gossipy, fun romp down memory lane you wanted; you’ll be disappointed. If it’s a chance to hear how highly Arnie thinks of himself, you’ve come to the right place.

I would not want to be on the other side of the look…

Predator (1987): Get to the Chopper

Cover of "Predator [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Predator [Blu-ray]
What does Arnold Schwarzenegger, an ex 70’s porn star and Jean-Claude Van Damme have in common? Well if you read the title of my review you’ll know the answer already, the film Predator.

Way back in 1987 20th Century Fox gave the green light to a science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was to centre around a group of elite special forces who go into Central America to rescue a cabinet minister who has been captured by guerilla forces. Heading up this elite group is Major ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Schwarzenegger) who is not keen on the mission until his old pal Dillon (Carl Weathers) explains the urgency of the situation.

Dutch agrees and his team plus Dillon head for the country where the diplomat is being held hostage. Once they arrive, the team find evidence that someone else has been there before them and that this  ‘other’ team was murdered and hung like animals ready to be butchered. As they head out toward the rebel camp, Dutch’s men are becoming increasingly aware that something is not right.

Arriving at the rebel camp in time to see one of the hostages being executed, Dutch’s team over-run the camp and kill all the rebels but one. Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) is taken prisoner at Dillon’s insistence and Dutch calls for extraction from the camp only to be told the area is “too hot” and that they need to move to a safer area.

Dutch who has now realised that Dillon lied to him about the real purpose of the mission puts him in charge of the prisoner. The men re-group and head for the new extraction point, all while they are being observed from a distance via thermal imaging.

Sonny Landham as Billy.

Billy (Sonny Landham) takes point and he becomes increasingly aware that something is not right about the area and that they are not alone in the jungle. While Billy looks for this other inhabitant of the jungle Anna attempts to escape and two of Dutch’s men are killed by an invisible creature. This signifies the shift of focus of the film and it soon becomes a cat and mouse battle between Dutch’s men and the mysterious creature who is killing them off.

This film grossed over 98 million dollars on its theatrical release. It has continued to do well in the home entertainment market. It has spawned a franchise of sequels and prequels that have all done well at the box office.

The film was originally written for Sylvester Stallone, but after Fox got hold of the script and put Joel Silver in charge of production, the rest is history. This film was the first I’d ever seen that shifted genre a third of the way into the film. With Arnie fresh off of Commando and with an initial ‘special forces” set up, it looked to be a sort of Commando II.

Wrong.

Predator is a film that scored quite a few first’s and is well-known for a number of things. Firstly Jean-Claude Van Damme had originally been hired to portray the creature. Unfortunately the original predator suit (pre Stan Winston) was uncomfortable, clumsy and according to Van Damme, not safe to use. He quit after two days and in the interim, according to Van Damme, the guy the studio hired after he quit was injured in the ‘original suit.’

Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator
Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once Stan ‘the man’ Winstone redesigned the suit, the late Kevin Peter Hall (May 9, 1955 – April 10, 1991) donned it and despite the fact that he could not see during the one-to-one fights with Arnie did not experience any problems. Incidentally Hall played one of the helicopter pilots at the end of the film, effectively rescuing Arnie from the destruction that Hall himself, as the creature, had caused.

The film marked the screen debut of Jesse Ventura and Shane Black. Ventura would go on to become Governor of Minnesota and Black has just finished the screenplay for Iron Man 3 and is working on Lethal Weapon 5.

The minigun, which had been purposely purchased for use in the film, did not work. More commonly attached to helicopters, the gun was a remnant of the Vietnam war.  It had to be stripped, cleaned and a lot of the parts had to be remade from scratch. Of course further modifications were needed to make the weapon a ‘hand-held’ instead of a mounted gun. The weapon was also powered electrically by battery. The cable ran down Jesse Ventura’s (Blain) leg. It was also modified to use blank rounds and the firing rate had to be slowed down.

Actor Sonny Landham was a porn ‘star’ in the 1970’s and crossed over to mainstream films via a bit part as a cop in The Warriors. A bit of a ‘wild child’ Sonny was well-known for getting into bar fights and having a bit of a temper. The studio brass hired a bodyguard for the set of Predator to protect the cast from Sonny during filming.

It was this film that has Arnie shouting that oft-repeated and mimicked line, “Get to the Choppah!”  If you can’t sound like Arnie when you shout it, you might as well give up. Almost anybody can imitate Arnie when shouting this one.

Just a bit of ‘retro’ reviewing fun and another look at an old favorite film. One that has the distinction of having Jean-Claude Van Damme, a porn star and Arnold Schwarzenegger all together.

Wow.

The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Vent...
The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Ventura, Black, Schwarzenegger, Duke, Weathers, Landham, and Chaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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