The Original Commando Script Included A Lot Less Carnage

When you reflect on the most successful action stars of the 1980s, there's no getting around the influence of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian bodybuilder turned actor turned politician has played a whole slew of iconic movie characters that utilize his massive, intimidating stature, both for action and comedy. Throughout all of the various characters he's tackled, the template for Schwarzenegger's movie star persona can be traced back to his early role in "Commando."

The brutal simplicity of "Commando," in my eyes, cements the film as an essential action film of its decade. It's the machismo '80s action flick boiled down to its bare essentials. The excess display of a muscle-bound action hero who spouts off ridiculous one-liners in the midst of racking up a significant body count is what makes "Commando" a highly entertaining entry within Schwarzenegger's filmography.

It's important to note, just one year earlier, Schwarzenegger terrified movie audiences as "The Terminator," a relentless killing machine who only has one objective and wastes no time trying to carry out his deadly mission from the future. But retired commando task force leader John Matrix is no robot. He's a human instrument of brute force whose swift and calculated path of destruction to rescue his daughter (Alyssa Milano) from a psychotic ex-partner (Vernon Wells) is just as deadly. However, the film's finale, in which Matrix wipes out an entire island full of disposable soldiers with anything he could get his hands on, almost didn't pack quite so heavy of a punch.

The Matrix executions (see what we did there?)

In Empire's oral history on the making of "Commando," screenwriter Steven de Souza recounted how the film nearly didn't feature its massive body count:

"In the script, there was some plausibility. The dictator is living on a private island, so there were maybe a dozen security guards. But during the shoot, Mark, the director, saw a sneak preview of Rambo [First Blood Part 2] and realised how many people get killed in that. He said, 'We've got to have a bigger dick than Rambo. We've got to slay more people.' And suddenly there were 150 extras getting killed. It got out of control."

It's one thing to have Schwarzenegger going in guns blazing, literally and figuratively. But once he starts grabbing whatever tools he finds lying around, whether it be a machete, an axe, or a rotating saw blade, the lunacy of "Commando" ends things in a spectacularly violent fashion. I'd even go so far to say that it outshines "Rambo: First Blood Part II," especially since the heartbreaking reality of its titular character results in a significantly lesser film that doesn't seem to be aware of its own contradictions. Meanwhile, the humorous slant of "Commando" constantly puts Schwarzenegger through one joyously ridiculous scenario after the other, where you can't help but laugh as he swings through Sherman Oak Galleria like Tarzan. It doesn't get much better than the hotel fight with Cooke (Bill Duke), which leads into another room where a couple is shooting a porno, making for a quick background gag that infuses the scene with an extra bit of comedy.

A boat chase? In this economy?

In case the film's violent finale wasn't enough, De Souza apparently had something a little more bombastic idea in mind:

"The movie was supposed to end with Bennett fleeing in a speedboat and Matrix chasing him in another boat. They'd land on this island where the Marines do their training, and fight with knives on the beach, with barbed wire everywhere, landmines going off and Naval gunnery ships firing artillery shells at them. It would have been crazy, like 'Saving Private Ryan.' Unfortunately, we spent all our money killing 150 people, so we had to shoot the scene in a basement instead."

The more intimate confrontation between Matrix and Bennett in the basement may have led to one of the film's greatest one-liners: "Let off some steam, Bennett." But I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't have loved to have seen them go through with that ending. Although, after you put so much of the budget towards Schwarzenegger slaughtering over 150 soldiers, the chance for that kind of action-packed finale was a pipe dream that only someone like Bennett could hope for.