As a forgiving film fan, I was appalled by the recent news that 20th Century Fox was planning on remaking Commando, the 1985 action flick that became Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first star vehicle after The Terminator the previous year. Hollywood’s fascination with remakes is too well-known, but surely someone could have drawn a line with Commando.
The film has Schwarzenegger as – what else? – a one-man wrecking crew named John Matrix determined to rescue his daughter after she’s kidnapped by a South American dictator and his band of goons (the leader of which is one of Matrix’s old war buddies). Unsurprisingly, Matrix wins, having relentlessly slaughtered well over a hundred bad guys in the process and delivered the first of many hilarious quips in Schwarzenegger’s film career.
If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been done a million times since. That’s why a Commando remake – no matter how much of a “real-world spin” Fox promises to give it – makes no sense. Just make another movie about one determined, skillful man who has to rescue a family member from a bunch of silly thugs. (As a matter of fact, Fox did just that two years ago with Liam Neeson in Taken.)
A Commando remake would likely earn demerits for mucking with the over-the-top action violence, eminently quotable lines and unnecessary homoerotic tension between Matrix and the villainous Bennett (who, through actor Vernon Wells, comes off as an Australian Freddie Mercury on steroids). It would also miss out on one of the most goofy, enjoyable turns by composer James Horner.
Film score fans are often divided on Horner; in spite of his high points (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Titanic), he’s seen by some as overly simplistic and at times outright plagiaristic. But there’s no precedent for the Commando score, which runs on a pulsating synthesizer rhythm and is embellished with steel drums and saxophones. It’s exactly the kind of over-the-top audio experience you’d expect from as ridiculous a film as this one, and it has a strange sort of staying power.
Indeed, when Commando finally got a release from Varese Sarabande in 2003, it sold out of its pressing rather swiftly. Copies on the secondary market can fetch for well over $100, and one can only hope that someday Varese might repress it for fans who missed out the first time around.
But Varese’s CD doesn’t tell the whole aural story of the film. Commando is one of those ’80s action flicks with a cheesy inspirational end title theme – in this case, it’s the rocking “We Fight for Love” by beloved Duran Duran offshoot The Power Station. This recording is notable within the band’s own history; original vocalist Robert Palmer split off from the group before the group ever conducted a real tour, and vocalist Michael Des Barres was quickly hired to fill in for him, taking them through the tour, Live Aid and an episode of Miami Vice. His only studio collaboration with the band was this song, and it too went unreleased until 2005, when EMI commemorated the 20th anniversary of the original Power Station LP by releasing a bonus-laden CD/DVD version in 2005. The Commando tune, now named by the film’s tagline (“Someday, Somehow, Someone’s Gotta Pay”), was one of the most welcome additions to the package.
James Horner – Commando: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande VCL 1103 1026, 2003)
- Prologue/Main Title (3:58)
- Ambush and Kidnapping (2:35)
- Captured (2:14)
- Surprise (8:19)
- Sully Runs (4:34)
- Moving Jenny (3:44)
- Matrix Breaks In (3:29)
- Infiltration, Showdown and Finale (14:33)
The Power Station, The Power Station: 20th Anniversary Edition (EMI 7243 5 70874 0 7 (U.K.)/Capitol 7243 8 66315 0 3 (U.S.), 2005)
Disc 1: Original LP and extra tracks
- Some Like It Hot
- Lonely Tonight
- Get It On (Bang a Gong)
- Go to Zero
- Harvest for the World
- Still in Your Heart
- Someday, Somehow, Someone’s Gotta Pay *
- The Heat is On (7″ B-side – Parlophone R-6091, 1985)
- Communication (Special Club Mix) (12″ A-side – Parlophone R-6114, 1985)
- Get It On (Bang a Gong) (45 Mix) (7″ A-side – Parlophone R-6096, 1985)
- Some Like It Hot and the Heat is On (12″ A-side – Parlophone 12R-6091, 1985)
- Communication (7″ Remix) (7″ A-side – Parlophone R-6114, 1985)
- Some Like It Hot (7″ Edit) (7″ A-side – Parlophone R-6091, 1985)
Tracks 1-8 released as The Power Station 33 1/3 (Parlophone EJ 240297 (U.K.), 1985)
Track 9 previously unreleased
Disc 2: DVD
- The Power Station MTV Special (includes videos for “Some Like It Hot,” “Get It On” and “Communication”
- Some Like It Hot (Live on Saturday Night Live, 1985)