(1987) *** R
107 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: John McTiernan. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura.

/content/films/3055/1.jpgArnold Schwarzengger scored a sizeable hit with Predator. As the cigar-chomping Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer, the Austrian Oak again shows off his biceps in a high-testosterone action pic laden with gunfire and explosions—in other words, an '80s action picture (produced—but of course—by Joel Silver). Written simply but effectively by Jim Thomas & John Thomas, the alien-themed Predator also launched a lurching franchise, though neither Schwarzenegger nor revered action director John McTiernan (Die Hard) ever returned to it.

As an actor, Arnold showed more confidence than ever before in the role of the skeptical head of a U.S. Army Special Forces unit. A general (R.G. Armstrong) orders Dutch and his team to accompany Dutch's old Army buddy George Dillon (Carl Weathers), now CIA, into Val Verde on a mission of rescue. Something is rotten in the state of Val Verde (the same made-up country from Commando): Dutch learns not only that he's been misled, but that a third party presents a mortal alien menace.

The predator of the title (7'2" actor Kevin Peter Hall) is a dreadlocked alien with oral pincers and a bad-ass laser gun. This green-blooded sport hunter also likes a good challenge, setting the stage for a showdown with Dutch. First, the alien must pick off most of Dutch's team, one by one, in a jungle described by Jesse Ventura's Blain as making "Cambodia look like Kansas...You lose it here, you're in a world of hurt." As such, it's a variation of sorts on The Most Dangerous Game, with an extra dose of macho ball-busting from a team made up by Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, and Shane Black, the enfant terrible author of Lethal Weapon (reportedly, Black was positioned as a studio spy to keep an eye on as-yet-untested director McTiernan).

It's a gruesome, traditionally manly action pic with jungle traps and iconic tough-as-nails dialogue. "If it bleeds, we can kill it," intones Arnie. Not to be outdone, Ventura snarls, "I ain't got time to bleed." Suffice it to say, a lot of bleeding ensues. Hall gets significant support from a costume modelled on a Stan Winston creature design, and the Oscar-nominated but twenty-year-old special effects likewise hold up well, especially the predator's memorable heat-seeking P.O.V. McTiernan wrings maximum tension from the material (getting extra juice from Alan Silvestri's score) and makes good use of locations in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, and Chiapas, Mexico.

Under scrutiny, Predator quickly reveals itself to be a dumber version of the Alien franchise, but this initial picture works anyway, as an atmospheric exercise in pure, primal action with a science-fiction-y twist.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 4/15/2008

Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment

Supplanting Fox's nearly bare-bones Blu-Ray of Predator (one of the earliest Blu-Rays for the market), the new Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition launches with a "Predators Trailer" (1:54, HD) that explains the timing to anyone slow on the uptake. Predator still looks its best in hi-def, so fans of the film may not be able to resist picking up this oft-reissued title yet again. It's in the film's nature to look a bit soft and grainy, and the print betrays a bit of extra dirt, but the the transfer is film-like and free of digital artifacting; certainly, it gives a sharper impression than any DVD edition; and the Lossless Master Audio surround soundtrack gives its all to the source's somewhat murky audio.

Included in this Blu-ray special edition are commentary by director John McTiernan and text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfeld.

The new featurette "Predator: Evolution of a Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection" (11:13, HD) sits down with producer John Davis, Predators producer Robert Rodriguez and Predators director Nimrod Antal to hear their 2010 thoughts on the 1987 film and its upcoming sequel.

"If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator" (28:47, SD) efficiently breezes through all aspects of development, production, and the film's release, using set footage and interviews (some vintage, some retrospective) with McTiernan, Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Shane Black, Sonny Landham, screenwriters John & Jim Thomas, Davis, director of photography Donald McAlpine, production designer John Vallone, stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Craig R. Baxley, visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek, assistant director Beau Marks, creature creator Stan Winston, and Kevin Peter Hall.

The Inside the Predator section includes the featurettes "Classified Action" (5:21, SD) with Black, Weathers, Duke, Baxley discussing the shooting of major action sequences (which we also see from behind the camera); "The Unseen Arnold" (4:42, SD) with Landham, Duke, McTiernan, Black, Marks, Davis, Weathers and Schwarzenegger himself (vintage) discussing the film's star; "Old Painless" (3:30, SD) with Black, Weathers, Duke and Ventura talking artillery; "The Life Inside: A Tribute to Kevin Peter Hall" (4:26) with testimonials from Winston, Davis, McTiernan, Weathers, and Duke, as well as a few words from the late actor himself; "Camouflage" (4:54, SD) with makeup artist Scott Eddo, Chaves, and Black discussing the film's makeup demands (and Schwarzenegger kidding around while getting his makeup touched up); "Welcome to the Jungle" (2:40, SD) with McTiernan, McAlpine, and Vallone discussing shooting on location; and "Character Design" (4:41, SD) with McTiernan, Vallone, Duke, Black, Chaves, and Eddo discussing character acoutrements.

Special Effects (SD) comprises three "'Red Suit' Special Effects" clips (raw footage of the red-suited Predator needed to create effects shots against the green jungle background) and two "Camouflage Tests."

Short Takes include "John McTiernan on Learning Film" (3:05, SD); "Jesse's Ultimate Goal" (2:18, SD) with Ventura (vintage), Black, McTiernan and Weathers discussing Ventura's surprising post-Predator career; Winston's confession "Stan Winston: Practical Joker" (3:02, SD); and "Don't Drink the Water" (1:58, SD) with Black, Duke, and Weathers discussing Montezuma's Revenge.

Also on hand: the Deleted Scenes & Outtakes "Fleeing the Predator" (1:43, SD), "Chameleon" (:28, SD), "Building a Trap" (2:12, SD) and "Sliding Downhill" (:56, SD); "Theatrical Trailers" for Predator (2:11, HD) and Predator 2 (1:36, SD); a Photo Gallery (HD), and the text-based dossier Predator Profile (HD).

Last up is the new "Predators Sneak Peek" (1:44, HD), which serves up quick clips and Rodriguez as a spokesman.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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