Since when did Total Recall become as well-regarded as Predator?
That’s right. Never.
Let’s clear the air once and for all. Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is NOT a classic of the genre. With the release and subsequent criticism of Len Wiseman’s remake alongside this blu-ray re-release, the so-called Mind-Bending Edition, it is becoming all too clear that people are mistaking it as such. They are wrong. Total Recall is total “Ahnold” Schwarzenegger over-the-top fun; it’s a goofy mind-trip full of cartoon violence and one-liners that induce more eye-rolls than laughs.
It is definitely not a classic, though.
The Martian-twisted script, written by Alien scribes Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, turns the Philip K. Dick short story on its ear and presents our hero, Doug Quaid (Schwarzenegger), a construction worker (‘Ahnold’ with a jackhammer? Hilarious!) who is haunted by dreams of Mars, as a super spy in the quest to provide a breathable atmosphere to the Martian landscape. Desiring to live his dream, he visits Rekall and gets a new life. But is it reality? A young Sharon Stone stars as his wife-for-hire (she’s really in league with the enemy) and Huey Lewis & The News (really Michael Ironside and Michael Champion in not-so-future garb) want him dead.
Perhaps the film’s development is a bit more interesting than the final product. According to Verhoeven, the film had undergone 42 revisions before he was even made aware of the screenplay. The most interesting sounding one (according to this reviewer) is what filmmaker David Cronenberg added: mutants on Mars and Kuato (the belly-attached resistance leader voiced by Marshall Bell), but the film still had no ending. The film itself was filmed mostly in Mexico City – even the Martian landscapes – and was originally given an “X” rating due to its bloodletting.
The “R” approved cut is straight up camp featuring Schwarzenegger in drag and a CGI first: X-rayed skeletons of commuters and their concealed weapons as they walk through a scanner. Back in the day, this was big news. Today? Oh, it still works but the sequence itself is a bit dull and slow. No biggie, though, the three-breasted woman (Lycia Naff) – who flashes her boobs in no less than three scenes – takes its place as an added attraction.
At the time, the visual and practical effects by Rob Bottin were thought of as ground-breaking and, while the miniatures are strong, there’s a limit to their acceptance today. Still, the practical effects are better than most of today’s CGI. Certainly, this film represents the end of an era. Especially with T2 just around the corner. There are a couple of eye-popping practical effects concerning Schwarzenegger’s head. One, in fact, has him shoving a tracking device locater through his nose. Another sees him thrashing about on the Martian landscape gasping for air alongside actress Rachel Ticotin. These animatronics, bordering on claymation-esque at the height of the asphyxiation silliness, are extreme to be sure, but nowhere near believable.
Besides the camp, the most important part of Total Recall is the score. And what a brilliant piece of orchestration it is courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith. Compelling and evocative score, the driving orchestration elevates the experience of the movie and aids Verhoeven’s weaker moments find the depth of the picture and the suspense. Without Goldsmith, Total Recall would be a much weaker affair.
Total Recall has the humor just about right. With Schwarzenegger in the lead, you just can’t present this science fiction material with a straight face. Seriously, he’d been acting for awhile when this was made, but you’d never believe it with this performance. It’s just awful. While Verhoeven would eventually get the B-movie humor right with the more effective Space Troopers, his stab at science fiction mayhem with Total Recall – complete with the decision to fade to white at the end instead to black - is a good start.
MPAA Rating: R.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writer: Ronald Shusett
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger; Rachel Ticotin; Sharon Stone; Ronny Cox; Michael Ironside
Genre: Action | Sci-Fi
Tagline: Get ready for the ride of your life.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Now, this is the plan. Get your ass to Mars."
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: June 1, 1990
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 31, 2012
Synopsis: They stole his mind… now he wants it back! In a futuristic world, construction worker Doug Quaid obsesses about taking a vacation on Mars. His wife objects, so he instead opts to have an artificial memory of a Martian holiday implanted into his mind. The trouble is, during the implant procedure, he suffers a strange reaction. It seems as though he has already been to Mars, but his memories of the journey have been wiped...
Now secret agents and the cohorts of a megalomaniacal industrialist are out to get him. Can Quaid experience total recall, and finally figure out just why everyone is trying to stop him from reaching the red planet?
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - July 31, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; German: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Locked to Region A
If this is a restoration, I don’t think I want to see the original blu-ray release. The Verhoeven-approved transfer – presented in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode – will never satisfy your high definition expectations. Why? Because it 1080p sucks. Seriously, I know the film had a budget but you’d never guess that from the looks of this remastered print. Its black levels are poor; it’s color palette is blindingly soft; all working together to create a loss of fine detail in the photography of Jost Vacano (Robocop). The future has never looked this cheap. To top it off, several scenes appear to be blurry and pale. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack fares better but the energy it supplies to the lifeless print is a waste. No amount of bass-booming sound is going to make this release look pretty.
- Otherwise known as “How NOT to Record a Commentary”, Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger narrate the action and bore you to death with their voices. Occasionally interesting but, truly, it’s a recording only for the strong.
The Mind-Blowing Edition just won’t blow your mind with its supplemental inclusions. I’m not sure what Lionsgate was smoking with this release, but it wasn’t very good. The newly conducted interview with Verhoeven is interesting and probably the only reason you should pick this edition up. In another featurette, several members of the SFX crew discuss the special effects. Imagining Total Recall is a short look at the film’s production. It features interviews of the people responsible for finally bringing the film to theatres. There’s a vintage EPK with era cast & crew interviews, a look at one of the trailers of the film, and – laughably – a restoration comparison.
- Interview with Director Paul Verhoeven (35 min)
- Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall (23 min)
- Imagining Total Recall (31 min)
- Making-of Featurette (8 min)
- Restoration Comparison (5 min)
- Photo Gallery