Arnold Schwarzenegger Had A Brutal Idea For Commando That Didn't Make The Final Cut

Mark L. Lester's ultra-violent 1985 actioner "Commando" is entertainingly ridiculous and ridiculously entertaining. Few films of the era reflect on the ultra-violent military fantasies of Reagan's America better than "Commando," an irony to be sure, as it stars a massive Austrian actor. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a former Special Forces Colonel named John Matrix (I know, I know) who is attempting to live a quiet life with his sweet daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). When Jenny is kidnapped by a vengeful villain played by Dan Hedaya, it gives John the moral license to murder about a thousand people in a violent quest to rescue her. John Matrix shoots, explodes, cuts, stabs, and buzzsaw-frisbees his way through Hedaya's minions without a scratch, a military superman with untouchable skill and an unslaked bloodlust. 

The violence in "Commando" is horrifying and spectacular. Looking over the film's parental advisory on IMDb may sell the film better than any conventional advertisement. "Arnold throws saw blades at two soldiers. One gets the blade embedded in his chest and the other gets scalped." Keen. "A man takes 10 bullets to his chest in front of his house." Wow. "A woman blows up a car with a bazooka." I'm there.

"Commando" was written by star screenwriter Steve E. de Souza, the writer of hits like "48 Hrs.," "The Running Man," "Die Hard 2," "Hudson Hawk," "Street Fighter" (which he directed), and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life." The man knows bold, big-budget schlocky action better than anyone in Hollywood. 

For all the violence in "Commando," though, Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested a twisted moment of gore that was one toke over the line for director Lester. In 2016, Empire published an oral history of "Commando," and both the writer and the director recalled the moment with clarity. 

I'm going to beat you with your own severed arm

It's worth noting that "Commando" is also replete with action movie "zingers" and one-liners that were never not corny. "I like you. I'm going to kill you last," comes from "Commando," as does a wonderful wielding of the phrase "F*** you." By Steven E. de Souza's description of the excised scene, it was actually meant to be a reference to a supposed real-life war story. Naturally, the scene would end with a zinger of its own. The writer recalled: 

"There's one great one-liner that didn't make it into the movie. [...] Arnold and I had both heard this World War I story about a French officer who's having his arm cut off — next to him is a guy with a bullet in his foot who's moaning and screaming, so the officer picks up his freshly amputated arm and slaps this guy in the face with it. So Arnold, while they were shooting the scene where he cuts off the guy's arm with an axe, suggested that he should slap him with it and say, 'Quit whining!'"

One can count on one, uh, hand, how many movies feature scenes of people being beaten by their own severed limbs. Katie Rife, writing for the AV Club, once published an article about that unique action. "Commando" was nearly another one, but it seems that director Mark L. Lester became squeamish. He was okay with the explosions, gunfire, and flying rotary blades, but beating a man with his own severed limb was one toke over the line. 

One severed limb too far

Ultimately, Lester put the kibosh on the idea. The director said:

"It was discussed on set, but we all said, 'That's crazy. You're a commando: why would you do that?” In hindsight, it probably would have worked." 
Given the extremity of the film, probably. 

Schwarzenegger's co-star Vernon Wells, who played the character Bennett, recalls the raucous tone of the "Commando" set, pointing out that he was injured a lot ... and that he didn't mind. He was eager to do dangerous things for the sake of the movie, and he enjoyed kicking the ass of one of cinema's best-known badasses. Wells went on record with his enthusiasm, saying: 

"The mano-a-mano fight between Arnold and I was brutal; people were waiting to see which of us went to hospital first. He chipped a bone in his shoulder, I dislocated my elbow. But I was so hyped to be in the movie, they could have asked me to jump off the Empire State Building and I probably would have. Making 'Commando' was better than anything you could have smoked. 'Broken arm? Who gives a s***? Put a Band-Aid on it and I'll go fight the bugger!' All I'd like to say is that I'm one of the few people who has kicked the Governor of California's butt and got away with it."

The politics of "Commando" are, of course, incredibly dated, but the action is so spectacular and the characters so over-the-top, that it remains brutally watchable to this day. It was likely the devil-may-care attitudes of its actors, writer, and (mostly) director that kept it as wild as it was. As old testosterone-soaked cineastes may be tempted to say, they don't make 'em like this anymore. 




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