The Schwarzenegger Collection (DVD)

A four-film box set starring action maestro Schwarzenegger — more recently better known as California's "Governator", but once superbly described by Clive James as "a condom full of walnuts". I love that description, and I'll admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Ahnuhld. Yes, I know he can't really act (although he seems to have learned quite a bit during his political career). But he was always game to try anything, and he did work with some decent directors who managed to overlook his (many) faults and actually get the occasional almost-decent performance from the big lug. This set contains four films from the 1980s, fairly early in his on-screen career — after he'd done the two Conan films, and as his star was on the ascent thanks to The Terminator. We'll deal with the four in chronological order ...

Red Sonja (1985; UK cert 15; 85 minutes)
The lamest movie in this set. A swords-and-sandals epic along the lines of the Conan films that made Arnie's name, it co-stars another plank of wood in Brigitte Nielsen — who later went on to marry Sly Stallone. She plays the Sonja of the title, who is seeking revenge after the evil queen Gedren (Sandhal Bergman) slaughters her family and has her raped. She teams up with Arnie, an annoying little boy and his put-upon valet to destroy a talisman that the queen has stolen. The films looks like it had a budget of £3.99, the dialogue is shocking, the plot incoherent and let's not even mention the acting, shall we? A new Redd Sonja film, starring the luscious Rose McGowan, is being produced by Robert Rodriguez. It couldn't be worse than this one. Extras Just the theatrical trailer.

Raw Deal (1986; UK cert 18; 101 minutes)
Ah, now we're talking — a much better effort all round, although still far from perfect. Arnie plays a former FBI agent turned small-town sheriff who goes undercover as a Chicago mobster to help a former colleague (McGavin). Tons of decent, quite bloody action, even if the plot gets a little (well, a lot) muddled at times. And Arnie seems a lot less stiff playing a guy who is playing someone else. Extras Just the theatrical trailer.

Red Heat (1988; UK cert 18; 100 minutes)
Arnie tries out his Russian accent ... which, er, doesn't really work that well. Never mind, it's still a decent action/cop-buddy/comedy-thriller. The big fella plays tough Soviet detective Ivan Danko, who is sent to Chicago to collect a Russian gangster. He's teamed up with slobby, not-quite-by-the-book Chicago cop Art Ridzik (Belushi) and hilarity ensues. And plenty of gunfights, and bloodshed, and fisfights, and broken bones. Jim and Arnie actually do have some chemistry, and when you throw the always-great Peter Boyle (and "Larry" fishburne as a hardnosed cop who hates Belushi) into the mix, you have a very watchable moofie. Extras Three featurettes — I'm Not Russian, Stuntman For All Seasons and East Meets West — and the theatrical trailer.

Total Recall (1990; UK cert 18; 108 minutes)
Here we have the best of the box, and certainly my favourite of the bunch. Actually, to put it bluntly, it's a corker. A clever, multilayered story based on a Philip K Dick short story, Verhoeven was at the top of his game here. Yes, it's full of the usual action and stunts and gunfights and violence and special effects, but it's also a change of pace for Schwarzenegger because this time he's playing a confused innocent caught up by circumstances beyond his control, rather than the protagonist. Doug Quaid (Arnie) is a construction worker who dreams of another life on Mars. Is it just a dream, or has he really visited the red planet? A trip to Rekall — a company that impants fake memories of exotic offworld holidays — eventually leads to Quaid travelling to Mars for real, to learn the truth about his past and his identity. Total Recall has quite a complicated plot, but it's handled well and the movie toys with the audience's concepts of dream and reality. A smart, energetic film that will go down as a true science fiction classic. Extras Three featurettes — Imagining Total Recall, Making of Total Recall and Vision of Mars —  storyboard comparisons, the trailer and a few TV commercials.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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