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Commando Solidifies Schwarzenegger as a Marquee Star


Prior to his turn at blasting bad guys to smithereens in Commando, Arnold Schwarzenegger was something of a character actor. (Albeit one who specialized in muscled warriors and killer robots.) But by 1985, the success of The Terminator and the Conan films had allowed the concept of Arnold as a marquee name to creep into the public consciousness. If Conan was the first salvo in the onslaught of “Ah-nuld”, Commando was the two-ton warhead that cemented Schwarzenegger’s status as arguably the world’s top action hero.

Arnold first saw his last name plastered across movie posters with The Terminator. Commando continued this trend, with “Schwarzenegger” in big block letters over the title, loudly proclaiming that this movie would take no prisoners. Future Arnold actioners would need little more than his last name to open to huge worldwide box office returns. Commando established another tenet in the Arnold action canon — over the top violence coupled with humor. Whether tossing henchmen off of cliffs, or impaling top bad guy Bennett (Vernon Wells) with a pipe, Arnold was always ready with a quip. (“Let off some steam, Bennett!”) Future Arnold explode-o-thons would occasionally push the comedy too far ( Last Action Hero , anyone? Anyone?), but this formula proved effective in everything from Red Heat to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines .

Commando also cemented Arnold’s popularity with kids by inspiring a short-lived toyline; the trend of spinning off kid-friendly toys from one of Arnold’s R-rated films had been established with Conan the Barbarian . This time, Arnold’s John Matrix led a team of tough special forces agents with names like Blaster and Chopper against the evil agents of F.E.A.R. (Similarities to G.I. Joe were entirely purposeful.) Arnold would continue to be a draw in toy aisles for years to come, no matter what age group his new movie was targeted to.

Over-the-top action, one-note villains, deadpan quips… could Commando be the ultimate “Ah-nuld” film?

For a complete schedule of Commando on AMC, click here. And to see more or Arnold’s signature catchphrases, check out this gallery.

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