Terminus (1987)


France/West Germany. 1987.


Director – Pierre William Glenn, Screenplay – Pierre William Glenn & Patrice Duvic, Based on an Original Screenplay by Alain Gillot, Additional Dialogue – Wallace Potts, Producer – Anne Francois, Photography – Jean-Claude Vicquery, Music – David Cunningham, Digital Images – Thomson Digital Images (Supervisor – Laurie Delsalle), Robots – Freddie & Jacques Gastineau, Production Design – Alain Challier. Production Company – CAT Productions/Le Films du Cheval de Fer/CBL Films/Films A2/Intral Groupe


Johnny Hallyday (Stump), Louise Vincent (Voice of Monster), Karen Allen (Gus), Jurgen Prochnow (Sir/The Doctor/Truck Driver), Gabriel Damon (Mati), Julie Glenn (Princess)


A woman truck driver Gus is engaged in a mysterious game, driving a hi-tech truck known as the Ferro-Glider, which has an in-built AI known as Monster, in a long-distance chase with armoured vehicles. If she can reach a place known as End of the Line, she will win her weight in gold. At End of the Line, the game is closely monitored by its designer, the child genius Mati, an artificial creation of The Doctor who is working for Sir who plans to take over the world with artificial people. Gus is then captured and fatally tortured. Before she dies, she gives the Ferro-Glider’s access codes to her cellmate, the former soldier Stump, so-named for his metal hand. Stump continues the game, joined by the young slave child Princess. Gradually, Stump discovers that Princess is Mati’s sister and that Mati is attempting to reunite with her as a means of outwitting Sir.

This French-German production is one of the strangest oddities to emerge from the cycle of films inspired by Mad Max 2 (1981). It reminds of Quintet (1979) and The Salute of the Jugger/The Blood of Heroes (1989), which were both, like this, set around futuristic games. All three films deliberately leave detail about the rules of their game and the future surroundings unexplained. In all cases, it results in a film of fascinating texture and equally frustrating enigma. Terminus is certainly the vaguest of the three. Everything from the details of its plot to its future scenario to its almost overabundant accumulation of science-fiction tropes – from genetically-engineered superkids to AIs to fragmented post-holocaust societies, fascist government troops and megalomaniacs desiring to take over the world – seems to have been written with a wilful vagueness. The result is perhaps a more colourfully interesting film than it is ever an involving one.

It is more interesting to just sit and watch the weirdly colourful background detail than to try and make sense of Terminus. The background is fascinatingly bizarre – extras will have one side of their face painted blue, the other black or a painted strip shaved through the middle of their hair. There are some fabulous props and sets – the AI known as Monster is fascinatingly designed as a framework encasing a mouth painted in grey facepaint, has odd suckers attached and an inner glow of varying colours that comes as though lit by hot coals. The most bizarre aspect is Jurgen Prochnow who plays three characters throughout – a truck driver; the mad scientist decked out in business suit, gold-rim glasses, white facepaint and black lip-liner; and most hilariously of all – the point where the film’s excess scenography reaches the heights of camp – the character of Sir as a drag queen garbed in luxuriant silk dressing gowns and a flaming red wig.

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