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The "Predator" Effect

Arnold Schwarzenegger is only the third castmember from the '80s classic "Predator" to run for governor.

12:00 AM, Aug 18, 2003 • By ERIC PFEIFFER
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CRITICS OF Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign argue he doesn't have the experience necessary to govern. California Democratic spokesman Bob Mulholland says his party has "real bullets" that a political neophyte like Schwarzenegger will have trouble dodging. However, what these Democratic strategists fail to realize is that the actor's political tutelage was on display more than 15 years ago while working on the set of the 1987 film "Predator." Schwarzenegger is actually the third gubernatorial candidate to emerge from a group of six elite cinematic mercenaries, unleashing the Predator Effect upon the electorate.

The film's plot unfolds under the auspices of a search and rescue mission in the jungles of Central America. A cabinet minister and his aides have fallen into the hands of brutal Communist guerillas. Schwarzenegger and his team make short work of the enemy camp but the cabinet minister is nowhere to be found. Things go from bad to worse as the commandos realize they are being pursued by a mysterious presence that is systematically hunting and murdering them one at a time.

Before the carnage ensues, we meet Schwarzenegger's team. Standing out from the group is Blain, a fiercely independent Vietnam veteran who carries his own M134/5.56mm minigun. Blain is played by Jesse "ain't got time to bleed" Ventura. While he's one of the earliest victims of the Predator, he was also the first castmember to take a gubernatorial opponent to the mat in real life.

As any movie critic can tell you, an excess of special effects erodes the viewer's suspension of disbelief. Much like trying to carry a minigun (which weighs about 465 pounds, not including ammunition), the burden of reworking the body politic proved too much for Ventura. Still, his influence remains. While Schwarzenegger's "Tonight Show" announcement was a three-year ratings high for Jay Leno, it didn't quite match the numbers of Ventura's 1999 appearance.

The second phase of the Predator Effect emerged last summer when veteran character actor Sonny Landham filed his paperwork to run for the governorship of Kentucky on the GOP ticket. In the film, Landham portrayed "Billy," a Native American who picks up the track of the missing civilians and leads his team to the guerilla camp. Near the film's climax, Billy makes a sacrificial stand against the Predator, allowing his confederates to put some distance between themselves and the beast. However, as a former adult film star and recently released convict, Landham didn't stand much of a chance in rallying the Kentucky conservative base to his campaign.

After meeting with advisers, Landham was informed that the best he could hope for was to "make some noise" in the primary. This June, much like the good soldier Billy, he resigned from the race and threw his support behind Ernie Fletcher.

Predator ends with sole survivor Schwarzenegger facing down the seemingly unstoppable alien menace. Assuming Carl Weathers doesn't make a bid for the Louisiana statehouse, that final scene will be replaying itself in California. No one says it will be easy. Gray Davis is no Bill Paxton (the only actor to fall prey to a Predator, the Terminator, and one of James Cameron's Aliens).

So, how will the Predator Effect play out for Schwarzenegger? As his character, Dutch, advised an ill-fated Communist after impaling him with a knife: "Stick around."

Eric Pfeiffer is a writer in Washington, D.C.