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The Terminator
Album Cover Art
1991 Cinemaster
1994/1995 Edel
Album 2 Cover Art
2016 Milan
Album 3 Cover Art
Composed, Performed, and Produced by:
Brad Fiedel
Labels Icon
(July 1st, 1991)


Milan Records
(April 8th, 2016)
Availability Icon
Both the 1991 and 1994/1995 albums were regular U.S. releases, but they went badly out of print and eventually fetched prices of over $50 a piece. The 2016 Milan re-issue is a regular commercial product on CD and vinyl.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on either the 2016 Milan or 1994/1995 Edel albums if you seek a comprehensive survey of Brad Fiedel's raw, synthetic score or, conversely, on the original 1991 score and song combination product if you seek all five major songs heard prominently in the narrative and cleverly reflecting upon it.

Avoid it... on any album if you are only casually interested in the effective, but now badly dated music for this film, because there still exists no truly satisfying, comprehensive soundtrack album for this film.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 10/9/09, REVISED 7/3/17
The Terminator: (Brad Fiedel) Whether writer and director James Cameron's 1984 story of The Terminator was original or not, it persists as one of the most compelling science fiction concepts ever told. After the computers of the world turn against humanity and nearly eliminate their creators in the late 1990's, surviving rebels start to successfully fight back against the machines. In an effort to alter the past to preserve their power in the future, the mechanized villains send a cyborg killer called a terminator back to 1984 to eliminate the mother of the rebel leader before he is conceived. The humans send back a lone protector as well, and the chase is on. The bulk of its running time set in contemporary times, The Terminator is a suspenseful thriller with protagonists and antagonists so clearly defined that it was guaranteed to hold audience interest. Still, the production had to overcome several hurdles, the most intriguing of which a lawsuit (settled by Cameron) from writer Harlan Ellison, who claimed that Cameron took significant inspiration from two of his episodes of "The Outer Limits." Also problematic was a budget of only $6.5 million and several hiccups in the casting process. Ultimately, however, with bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger given 16 quickly famous lines and about 30 people to graphically execute on screen, Cameron's production went on to $38 million in immediate grosses and $78 million overall worldwide. Along with a project he had been working on simultaneously (Aliens), this success gave him the fiscal latitude to shoot a sequel to The Terminator six years later. The concept would be extended to four films and a television series within 25 years. So much of the original film became influential in pop culture (it is indeed saturated with the pop sensibilities of the early 1980's) that it's sometimes easy to overlook the fact that The Terminator is, simply put, suspenseful storytelling at its best. Almost all of the production values of the film were based on visions beyond their time, and if there was a weakness in any part of the package, the remaining elements often more than compensated.

One element typically not questioned but still divisive is Brad Fiedel's score for The Terminator, arguably the most beleaguered legacy of the film outside of a fanbase loyal to synthetic scores of the era. The film's sound was never superb in its original version, not mixed into stereo until video releases long after the fact. The score's monotone and raw rendering was therefore simplistic in many ways when it was first heard, but few argue that it didn't succeed in its original context. Fiedel's career in Hollywood was rather sparse and, in its highlights, tied directly to his collaboration with Cameron. A keyboardist for the group Hall and Oates, he initially provided inexpensive electronic music for a variety of trashy films in the 1970's. He eventually tackled the orchestral sound for 1988's The Accused, but even by Cameron's 1994 blockbuster True Lies, Fiedel had not convinced many film score collectors that he possessed any significant ability to handle that level of scoring. He eventually retired from writing music for television and films in the late 1990's, weary of the studio system and its politics. His scores for the first two Terminator films remain his most lasting impact on the industry, the title theme largely defining his career. As to be expected in any low budget production for a man in his early 30's attempting to make a living in the scoring business, the music for The Terminator is distinctly cheap in its tone and depth. Creativity substituted for the modern libraries of sounds associated with similar film scores two decades later. Fiedel not only recorded unconventional sound effects for musical manipulation, including the hitting of a microphone with a cast iron skillet to produce one of the score's most memorable rhythmic tones, but he also used the sounds of his own screams for the choral effects heard most notably at the climax of the film. The keyboarded motifs, electric violin, and early sequencer effects in The Terminator are truly dated in their sound; Fiedel didn't have the resources of Jerry Goldsmith and other mainstream pioneers of electronic film scores during the 80's. But like the many song placements in the film, Fiedel's score represents 1984 as well as every other aspect of the film, and if you accept it in that context, then you understand its merit.

Complexity in structure was not really a necessity for The Terminator, for the villains and heroes are so easily distinguishable. The mechanized embodiment of the terror is also a convenient excuse for a sparse electronic score that rarely attempts any meaningful depth in the soundscape. The suspense cues require little more than ambient droning to suggest the inevitable, and Fiedel's quite loops here are thus effective. More grating is his explicit chasing material, which tends to ramble obnoxiously in an extremely constricted series of jabs and blasts. Synthetic orchestra hits were acceptable at the time, but they do acutely cheapen the proceedings. The drum pad hits are a little easier to handle in retrospect, and Fiedel's imitations of wailing sirens and screeching tires basically function in "Garage Chase" and "Tunnel Chase." Several coherent musical identities used consistently by Fiedel cause The Terminator to be more satisfactory in terms of its application than his sequel score in 1991. The title theme speaks for itself, a harmonically romantic piece of pretty simplicity that represents the developing bond between the targeted Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese, her protector. The title sequences use this theme over the score's various rhythmic devices and droning sound effects. Its keyboarding is a bit more raw here than it would be in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the only real comparative asset of the second score. The theme is translated to piano for the actual love scene between Conner and Reese, reprised in somber, deceptively redemptive fashion in "Death by Fire." Long fragments of this theme are bittersweet in their piano performances in "Sarah's Destiny" at the conclusion of the picture. The very basic counterpoint in this theme's love scene performance is slightly irritating in its volume. The terminator itself is represented by a rhythmic series of thumps that differs in its construct throughout this score and the sequel. In the title sequences, the machine's rhythm consists of three sets of pairs on key followed by a short pair of bridge notes; this motif would be shortened by one note for the sequel, interestingly. In the actual underscore of The Terminator, however, Fiedel cuts this motif back to a more simplistic, four linear notes that function like the relentless heartbeat of the machine.

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.08 Stars
***** 88 5 Stars
**** 83 4 Stars
*** 103 3 Stars
** 84 2 Stars
* 70 1 Stars
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Terminator 2016 Release
Strephon Alkhalikoi - November 6, 2016, at 6:49 a.m.
1 comment  (640 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1991 Cinemaster Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 34:42
• 1. The Terminator Theme (4:18)
• 2. Terminator Arrival (2:28)
• 3. Tunnel Chase (2:45)
• 4. Love Scene (1:09)
• 5. Future Remembered (2:24)
• 6. Factory Chase (3:50)
• 7. You Can't Do That - performed by Tahnee Cain and Tryanglz (3:23)
• 8. Burnin' in the Third Degree - performed by Tahnee Cain and Tryanglz (3:29)
• 9. Pictures of You - performed by Jay Fergusson and 16mm (3:54)
• 10. Photoplay - performed by Tahnee Cain and Tryanglz (3:30)
• 11. Intimacy - performed by Linn Van Hek (3:34)
1994/1995 Edel Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 71:03
2016 Milan Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 68:31

Notes Icon
Only the 1994/1995 and 2016 albums include extra information about the score and film. Alternate pressings of the 1994/1995 album use "Definitive Edition" and "Definite Edition" on the front cover.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Terminator are Copyright © 1991, 1994, 1995, 2016, Cinemaster, Edel/Cinerama, Milan Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/9/09 and last updated 7/3/17.
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